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Bringing Baby Home

September 2011

by melissa helzer, rn and janie hakert, rn

Delivering a healthy, beautiful baby is a wonderful thing. It’s easy to imagine that baby’s first weeks at home are pure bliss. We want to think that new mothers are beautiful and serene; new babies are pink, rosy cheeked and sleeping contently, and new fathers are confident, skilled providers. However, as attention from family and friends fades, parents are left at home with a new baby and hit with a new reality: What have we gotten ourselves into? Although panic will likely set in, there are ways to ease the transition. Here are some tips to help new parents get through the first few weeks. 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If family and friends are willing to help, take them up on their offer. Have them take care of chores such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry so that you have more time to relax and enjoy your new baby. 
  • Lower your expectations. Your top priority should be taking care of yourself and your baby, so don’t worry if a few dishes accumulate in the sink or the carpets don’t get vacuumed everyday. Give yourself permission to set aside as much time as possible for rest and relaxation. If you have a lot to do around the house and your baby is fussy you can place him/her in a backpack or front pack to free up your arms. 

  • Let dad be a can-do dad. New fathers need to feel a sense of empowerment, so parents should take care of their newborn together. Both local hospitals in Billings offer classes just for dads which are taught by men to make new fathers feel more comfortable. They are designed to give dads confidence by providing a social atmosphere and basic childcare skills. 
  • Get out of the house. “Cabin fever” can increase stress levels especially if you have a fussy new baby. Go for a walk or take an exercise class. Enhance your wellbeing with endorphin filled physical activity, but be sure to consult your doctor prior to starting an exercise routine. It also helps to have other new mothers with whom to socialize. Churches or parks are a great place to meet other women who are starting a family. Many communities have mom’s groups, as well, where women meet to talk about their needs and feelings. Although it’s important to take care of yourself and baby, if you have other children, it’s important not to forget about their needs. Older children will have an adjustment period as they get used to their new role as an older brother or sister. Here are some suggestions to help siblings adjust. When the baby comes home, your older children may return to some baby-like behaviors such as setbacks in toilet training, using baby talk, or wanting a pacifier or bottle. They may also test the rules to see if they still apply. Make sure to stand your ground and let them know that behavioral expectations are the same now as they were before the new baby. Assure them of your love, and keep their routines as consistent and predictable as possible. 
  • Involve your other children in age-appropriate baby care. Let them feel like they are helping take care of their little sibling. This will give them a more nurturing attitude. If your other children are too young, provide them with a doll or stuffed animal to hold while you nurture the baby. 
  • Assure your older children that they are still important to you. You can reinforce this by spending private time with them each day while the baby sleeps or while someone else cares for the baby. Perhaps dad can take the children to the park or zoo for some fun family time. 
  • Allow older children to express their feelings. Give siblings your time and attention to talk about the baby and about changes in the family. They may feel ignored or jealous. Don’t shut them out or these feelings may worsen. Your four-legged friends may also have trouble adjusting to the new member of the family. Dogs and cats get used to being the center of attention, so as strange as it may sound, your pet may experience “sibling rivalry.” You can minimize this feeling by working with your pet before you bring baby home. Here are some suggestions. 
  • Continue to address pets’ healthcare needs. Take your pet to the veterinarian for a routine health exam, necessary vaccinations and get them spayed or neutered. 
  • Address behavior problems immediately. Address any pet training or behavior problems by enrolling in an obedience class. 
  • Accustom your pet to baby related noises and smells. For example, turn on the swing and use the rocking chair. Also, have someone take something home with the baby’s scent on it, such as a blanket, before you leave the hospital. 
  • Discourage your pet from jumping or playing near the baby. Put double stick tape on the baby’s crib and changing table to help your pet remember. 

This time of parenthood seems exhausting, but enjoy the peaceful moments. You’ll want them back as the kids start growing out of diapers. Ask for help from family and friends, and spend time together as a couple. Be brave because with a little help and preparation, you’ll can sit back and enjoy this glorious time of your life!

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