The fundamentals of food and sleep
Your baby is newly born. Congratulations and welcome... and now what? Yes, you can feel love and panic at the same time. New parents know all about it. But with a little more experience, the anxiety soon passes and turns into a different way of looking at things. And all parents agree that food and sleep become your biggest concerns as soon as your little one is in your arms.
First, keep calm. This extraordinary adventure is worth enjoying. Have you seen that little face?
Second, remember that like every pregnancy, every baby’s different. What worked for your best friend, your mother or even your previous little one, may not work this time round. Tell yourself that you’ll soon find your own techniques when your little one doesn’t eat or sleep. They all end up eating and sleeping in the end.
Have a look at these basic tips that will help with the first stage.
On the importance of food:
- Don’t let them go too long without eating. Before baby was born, they didn’t have to worrying about feeding. Nutrients arrived straight through your umbilical cord. They aren’t used to fasting, so try to avoid stretching things out - their sugar levels may drop too low if they go too long without eating. It’s best for them to feed at least every 3 hours during the day and every 5 hours at night. Remember they don’t have many sugar reserves.
- Are they active? It’s time to eat. Try breastfeeding first. Maternal milk has extraordinary nutritional properties. The World Health Organization recommends that “exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter, infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.” However, while some mums prefer breastfeeding (it’s a great invention) others prefer bottle-feeding (another great invention). Everyone’s different. The key is to have a professional on hand to help and advise you. The main objective is to ensure that your baby is well-fed.
- Set the clock by your feeds. Measure the time between the start of one feed and the start of the next. At first, you’ll feel like all you do is feed and nurse to sleep. But soon you’ll both get used to things. Watch if they’re eating anxiously. They may need feeding a little earlier. When do you stop a feed? Some experts advise feeding for 15 minutes. Others recommend carrying on until the baby has had enough. And remember to burp them when they’ve finished, to get rid of any swallowed air.
On the importance of sleep:
- Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, but don’t expect them to do it all at once. Your baby’s other priority besides eating, is to sleep. Don’t be surprised if they’re flat out for the first few days. They need to recover from birth too. Some experts think babies sleep more easily when they know that their need for food and stimulation is covered. Otherwise they’ll be anxious, which tends to mean tears. You also need to remember that babies need a lot of sleep, in stretches of two to three hours. They will wake up less if they sleep longer at night, but they will wake up nevertheless.
- Where should they sleep? At first, in your arms. You’ll probably co-sleep because your little one will feel safe and fall asleep beside you. Later on you’ll be able to move them into a cot, co-sleep or use a specially adapted bed that hooks onto yours. If baby wakes up and calls for attention, you need to find the best sleep ritual for you both. The aim is to protect their well-being, while also looking after everyone else. It’s important for everyone to agree on sleeping routines. Children teach you that pre-conceived ideas don’t always actually work. You might think it’s bedtime, but baby isn’t sleepy... so they won’t sleep. Play with them for a little while, sing to them, and then try again.
- Should I wake baby up to feed? In just a few weeks, baby will sleep longer at night, and you may wonder whether to wake them up for a feed. Always seek advice and stick to your check-up schedule. It’s important to make sure that new-borns don’t lose too much weight and follow a steady growth rate. Always mention any questions to your medical team.
About you two:
- Babies aren’t robots. They don’t come with instructions and don’t always respond in the same way, even when you do exactly the same thing. You’re getting to know each other, and they’re adapting to their new environment. Big changes often make you feel a bit lost. This little one has just spent nine months inside, comfortable, cocooned, at an ideal temperature, with nothing to worry about except growing. Now they’re in the world, there’s no one better than you and your family to take care of them. You will do your best. Ask for help if you need. You’ll be tired at times, but you’ll soon find the right balance.