1. What you need to buy for your newborn
This may come as a surprise but newborns don’t need as much stuff as you think! As a midwife, I often find new or expectant parents can stress about what they think their baby needs, but providing you have the basic items before birth - such as baby clothes, muslin cloths, blankets, a cot and a car seat – you will be prepared for those amazing first few days with your newborn.
Parents are often also shocked by how frequently their baby needs changing during the early days, so remember to stock up on lots of nappies and baby wipes before the birth too, as your newborn will certainly make their way through them! WaterWipes are a great choice because they contain only two ingredients (99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract). They have also been validated by the Skin Health Alliance as being purer than cotton wool and water, making them ideal for your baby’s delicate skin.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to take it all in, and as a result, key advice or information can get lost. As a new mum, I have outlined the five things all expectant parents should be aware of to ensure they are well prepared for birth, and the postnatal period beyond.
Top Tip: As you buy supplies for your newborn, don’t forget to treat yourself too! Buy your favourite face mask or some super soft socks and comfortable pyjamas for you to snuggle up in once you arrive back home. As cliché as it sounds, a happy mum is a happy baby.
2. The importance of skin to skin contact for both mums and dads
Touch is such an important part of comforting and caring for a newborn. The best form of touch (for both you and your baby) is when your bare skin is in direct contact with your baby’s. This is called skin-to-skin contact and has some wonderful benefits. Physiologically, it is known to help initiate breastfeeding, improve weight gain, reduce stress and cortisol levels, prevent low blood sugar and reduce crying. This is because your nervous systems are communicating closely when you practice skin-to-skin.
Most importantly, it is a fantastic way for new parents to bond with their little one, and as a result I would advise new parents and their families to practice skin-to-skin contact with their baby as early and as often as possible. This includes throughout their first 18 months, particularly during teething, as it is a great way to calm and comfort your baby.
3. The realities of feeding
Whether your breastfeeding or bottle feeding, new parents can find the first feeding experience very daunting. Firstly, try not to feel guilty or disheartened if it does not go as planned, or if your feeding methods adapt or change. Parents can feel a lot of judgement from others for breast or formula feeding but doing the method that works best for you and your baby is the most important thing!
If breastfeeding, always ask for help and support from your health visitor, midwife or GP, as it does not come easy for some mums and at times, it can be painful when the latch is not quite right. For example, it is common for new mums to experience breast engorgement. This is when the breasts become overly full due to lots of milk being produced by your body, as it gets to grips with regulating your supply. As a result, the breasts can feel hard, tight or painful. This is a normal reality of breastfeeding and often subsides once your milk supply has had time to match your newborns feeding routine. If you do experience tightness or pain when breastfeeding, remember to reach out to your maternity team.
Experiencing a blocked milk-duct when breastfeeding is also common, and this may cause a small, tender lump to appear in your breast. If possible, try to relieve this by feeding your baby with their chin pointing towards the lump, to target the blocked duct. Warm flannels, showers and baths, or some gentle breast massage may also help encourage the flow. However, if you experience persistent engorgement or are unable to relieve your blocked milk-duct, please don’t suffer in silence! If you are feeling unwell or have a temperature, contact your midwife, health visitor or a doctor for advice and support to ensure the pain is relieved and an infection or mastitis doesn’t occur.
If bottle feeding, make sure you hold your baby upright and close to you whilst supporting their head, so they can breathe and swallow comfortably. If possible, try to limit the number of different people that feed the baby to ensure you’re both able to thoroughly bond, and your baby has the chance to take in all your facial features and start to recognise your face.
Top Tip: If you can’t get to your antenatal classes right now, it’s a good idea to watch videos online so you can learn about all things feeding, including advice on latching and holding your baby close. Check out the WaterWipes channel for top tips from the professionals!
4. Always trust your instincts and don’t compare yourself to other parents
Having a baby changes your life, and there may be times when you find being a parent challenging, stressful or overwhelming. Every parent feels like this sometimes, so please don’t be hard on yourself or feel guilty about having a difficult day. Talk to your family and friends about how you’re feeling and reach out to a healthcare professional if you need any extra support.
My biggest tip would be to take care when using social media, as whilst it can be a great tool for sharing knowledge and resources, it can also make parents feel judged, and place unnecessary pressure on them to be ‘perfect’. No one is a perfect parent, and always remember that you know your baby and your body best. Trust that you are doing a great job and that your parental instincts are correct!
5. Plan your birth and postnatal period as best you can.
I would encourage parents to plan for both the birth and postnatal period as much as possible. This includes preparing a labour birth plan alongside your maternity team, that is safe, practical and personal to you, as well as preparing mentally. Expectant parents can often forget this part, but ensuring your mind is clear and calm in the weeks leading up to the birth is so important to ensure your body has the opportunity to perform at its best, and support the hormonal composition required for the progression of labour. Hypnobirthing is fantastic for mind management and relaxation ahead of birth, and there are plenty of online courses available.
Try not to worry too much and never feel guilty if you are unable to stick to your birth plan, as having to change it is very common. Your maternity team have your best interests at heart and will help advise you throughout.
Given that the first few weeks back home with your newborn can be slightly overwhelming, I would also advise parents to create a postnatal plan too. This can outline the key dates for your postnatal check-ups with your midwife or health visitor, as well as a rough guide of the family and friends coming to visit. This will help ensure that you’re not overwhelmed or inundated with appointments during the first few weeks, as you want to ensure you have plenty of time to rest and bond with your beautiful newborn. For more post-birth tips, read my article on the fourth trimester or check out my video on the WaterWipes channel.
About the Author
Marie-Louise, the Modern Midwife, is an expert Midwife and author. Alongside her professional interest, Marie-Louise has personal experience of motherhood, and has just given birth to a little girl. She has been regularly documenting her experiences on her Instagram.
WaterWipes are the world’s purest baby wipes, made with 99.9% water and a drop of fruit extract, they are proven to be purer than cotton wool and water. For more information on WaterWipes, please visit the WaterWipes homepage.