Caring for your baby in their first weeks
In the first weeks, you will be learning how to look after your baby. You will start to understand them and learn what is normal and what may be a sign that something is wrong. The most import thing to do in the first weeks is to enjoy your baby.
Spending time with your baby
Spending time with your baby is the best way to make them feel safe and loved.
Keeping your baby warm, fed and safe will be your priority in the first weeks.
Every second that your baby is awake, they are learning from you. Learning about what it feels like to be touched gently, the sound of your voice and your smell.
They are learning what the world is like all the time.
All babies cry, it’s their way of communicating. Usually, you will find the baby’s reason for crying and deal with it. If it is not obvious why your baby is crying, consider possible reasons.
Your baby could be:
- hot, cold or uncomfortable
- feeling tired and unable to sleep
- lonely and wanting company
- bored and wanting to play
Or they might have:
- a wet or dirty nappy
All babies go through a period of what’s known as PURPLE crying.
This usually begins at around two weeks of age and continues until they are about three to four months old. During this time, some babies will cry a lot more and some will not cry so much, but the all go through it.
PURPLE stands for:
- peak of crying – your baby will cry more each week
- unexpected – crying can come and go and you don’t know why
- resists soothing – your baby will not stop crying no matter what you do
- pain-like face – they may look like they are in pain when they are not
- long lasting – crying can last as long as five hours a day or more
- evening – your baby may cry more in the evening
When crying gets too much
Some babies do cry more than others and it’s not clear why. Don’t blame yourself, your partner or the baby if they cry a lot. It can be exhausting, so try to get some rest when you can.
Share soothing your baby with your partner. You could ask a friend or relative to take over for a while occasionally to give you a break.
If there is no one to turn to and you feel your patience is running out, leave your baby in the cot and go into another room for a few minutes. You could listen to some music, take deep breaths or make a cup of tea. If you are very angry or upset, call someone who can help.
If you feel you are having difficulties coping with your baby’s crying, talk to your midwife or health visitor. You can contact Cry-sis on 08451 228 669 and they will put you in contact with other parents who have been in the same situation.
If you have twins or more, the crying can seem relentless. Twinline, Tamba’s helpline, can offer support. You can call them on 0800 138 0509.
Never shake a baby
It doesn’t matter how upset, stressed, tired or angry you feel. You must never grab or shake a baby. This will not stop the crying. It can cause severe injury or even death.
Play gently with your baby and always avoid:
- tossing the baby into the air
- jogging with your baby on your back or shoulders
- bouncing your baby roughly
- swinging your baby by their ankles
- spinning the baby around
Comforting your baby
Holding your baby close and talking to them in a soothing voice or singing softly will reassure them.
Movement often helps to calm down crying. Gently sway or rock your baby or take them for a walk or a ride in a car. Sucking can also be comforting. You can put your baby to your breast or give them a dummy, as long as breastfeeding is well established.
Make sure the dummy is sterilised and don’t dip it in honey or sugar to make your baby suck, they will do this anyway. Using sugar will only encourage a craving for sweet things, which are bad for their teeth.
A warm home
A warm home is important for a child’s health and comfort. The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum household temperature of 20 degrees celsius for children.
Living in cold, damp homes can be damaging to the health and development of children in various ways:
- baby weight gain can be affected, as a baby will need to burn more calories to keep warm
- infants living in cold homes are more likely to be admitted to hospital
- they are more likely to suffer from a variety of respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis
- they are more likely to have more severe colds and flus
Your baby's routine
Babies respond well to routines.
Just before or after the last feed, try bathing your baby before bedtime.
Put the baby to bed at the same time every night. Try putting the baby to bed before they are asleep, so they get used to being in their cot awake.
You will gradually begin to recognise when your baby is ready for sleep and likely to settle.
A baby who wants to sleep is not likely to be disturbed by ordinary household noises, so there is no need to keep your whole house quiet. It will help to get your baby used to sleeping through some noise.
The amount babies sleep, even when they are very small, varies significantly. During the early weeks, some babies sleep for most of the time between feeds. Others will be wide awake.
As they grow older, they develop a pattern of waking and sleeping. All babies are different and their routines change as they grow.
If you want more information on sleeping, talk to your health visitor.