Newborn Survival Guide

Newborn Survival Guide: Making it through those first few weeks with your new bundle of joy!

Baby Oliver has arrived! I wrote this post a few weeks before he was born, so we’ll see how good my advice is now! 🙂 

With our baby due very soon, I’m starting to prep myself for those first few weeks with a new baby. When Jack was born, my mom was with us for about a week and a half. Then, he was admitted to the hospital for eight days with RSV. Needless to say, I’m hoping that those first few weeks are a little different (well, in regards to my baby being sick. I won’t mind help from my mom 😉

I think a lot of people get really worried about caring for a newborn – which is understandable. They are so tiny and do need a lot of attention. However, it’s also such a special time. I love newborns (and well, every other stage), and I really am looking forward to bonding with my sweet new baby.

I know I’ve only had one baby, and that people with more children may have different/more advice, but I feel like going through that stage once gives you a little bit of room to share your advice. I thought I’d share my best tips, tricks, and advice for surviving that newborn stage. I might be back to update this in a few months after I’ve gone through the experience again!

Calming a Crying Baby

Babies cry – and oft times, you will have no idea why. It is totally normal to feel at a loss when you can’t figure out why your baby is having a hard time. Sometimes I think it can only be explained with missing the womb!

There are different tips and tricks for calming a crying baby though. First off, you want to try and identify the issue – change their diaper, make sure they aren’t too hot or too cold, feed them, hold them…try everything you can think of!

That doesn’t work? Here are a few other tips:

  • Swaddling – not all babies like to be swaddled, but the majority that I’ve met do. We love adin and anais swaddling blankets, though receiving blankets work well. The Woombie is quite possibly the most amazing invention EVER.
  • Move their legs back and forth – this is something a nurse would often do when Jack was in the hospital. It helped move the gas through his body, and he almost always calmed down when we would do this. If they have excessive gas, gripe water or baby probiotics can be helpful. They worked wonders with O.
  • Bounce them
  • Turn on white noise (the DOHM was heaven sent with Jack.)
  • Swinging – either in your arms or in a baby swing. I’ve heard rave reviews about this bouncer.
  • Sucking – nursing, using a bottle, or a pacifier (trust me, you want a Wubbanub.)
  • Shhh-ing – it is amazing how well this works!
  • Burp them

If your baby seems especially fussy after eating, you can try giving them gas drops. Many babies also suffer from acid reflux – Jack did for a long time – and that can be treated with medication. If you suspect acid reflux in your infant, talk with your doctor. Common signs of acid reflux is projectile spit up and arching their back when crying. Our doctor recommended using a Rock and Play sleeper for sleep.

Sometimes babies will cry if they are being understimulated or overstimulated. It’s a balancing act, I know, but make sure your baby isn’t be overwhelmed with too much going on around them…but on the flip side, make sure they aren’t being ignored!

Just remember – if your baby won’t stop crying, and you start to get frustrated, it is 100% okay to put them down in their crib while you recompose yourself.

Feeding

I think that at one point or another, every parent will ask themselves, “Is my newborn getting enough to eat?” Rest assured, newborns have very small stomachs, and it actually doesn’t take much to fill them up – even if it seems like they nurse or drink a bottle FOREVER (when Jack was a newborn, he probably nursed for 30-40 minutes on each side!) Chances are, your baby is getting enough. The best way to tell if they aren’t eating enough is if, by day five, they are having at least five wet diapers a day. If you are ever worried, you can always see if you can get a weight check at your doctor or even a local WIC office to make sure your baby is gaining enough. The Hatch Baby scale is awesome for keeping track of Oliver’s weight and intake.

I believe that with newborns, it’s good to feed them on demand. I’ll talk more about getting your baby on a schedule later on in this post, but in general, when they are so new…just feed them when they want to be fed. You may feel like you are constantly feeding them – and you probably are! But it’s important to listen to their needs. Don’t try and force them to go three hours without eating. They may even want to eat 30 minutes after you last fed them, or have lots of little cluster feedings. This is totally normally.

The choice to breastfeed or formula feed is up to you. I do think that breastfeeding is a great option if you are able to do it but don’t feel guilty if you can’t, for whatever reason. The most important thing is that you make sure your baby is happy, healthy, and growing.

Free Breastfeeding Reference Guides:
I’ve put together two breastfeeding reference guides that I think are pretty helpful – one is on proper breastmilk storage guidlines and one is on power pumping (a great way to increase supply). Sign up below to get them straight to your email (as well as to learn a few breastfeeding secrets!)

More posts on breastfeeding:

Freezer Meals and Stocking Up

If you have time (or more, energy) before the baby comes, consider making freezer meals. Chances are, you won’t really want to make dinner for awhile, and freezer meals can be cheaper and healthier than just ordering out. I wrote this post awhile back with all sorts of ideas for freezer meals. There are some really awesome and detailed freezer meal plans over here with great recipes as well.

Whenever I make freezer meals, I think the best place to get all the ingredients is at a bulk food store like Costco  They often have some of the best deals on meat, produce, dairy, and spices, which are common in many freezer meals. If you are only making one or two meals, you can probably get away with just going to the grocery store, but if you are making a bunch of different ones, this can be the most cost-effective choice.

I also recommend stocking up on other foods so you don’t have to go shopping very much those first few weeks!

Another great idea is to sign up for meals to deals. You can get a free two-week trial (and then it’s $4.95 a month after that.) They create meal plans based off of the deals that week – so you can save money on groceries, and you don’t have to come up with recipes. It’s awesome.

More posts on freezer meals:

What to do With Newborn

I remember before I had Jack I just wondered what I would do all day with him – I never liked babysitting, and the few hours I would do it felt like torture. I was worried I would feel the same!

Well, everyone is different, but I certainly never felt this way about my time with my babies. If anything, I felt the days passed by TOO quickly!

I think that it’s super important to make sure you make sure you don’t stay inside all day. Go on walks. I think sunlight can do everyone some good – just make sure to keep baby nice and bundled.

Most of the days during the newborn period are spent holding them, feeding them, and changing their diapers. It can feel a bit monotonous, but try and enjoy it and recover – labor and delivery is a trying thing! I highly recommend reading up on “The Fourth Trimester.” I know many mothers say that this saved their sanity.

I recently heard about the Cricket Crate, and I think it’s awesome. It’s specifically designed for babies starting at the age one – it can give you things to do with them!

Clipping Nails

You may be surprised to hear that a lot of people get really nervous about clipping their baby’s fingernails. This is totally understandable – I definitely was. The nurse at the hospital recommended that you actually bite them off for the first several months. This may sound weird, but let me tell you – it was a lot easier than using those teeny tiny fingernail clippers! If you don’t want to try that though, using a baby nail file might be the next best choice. It’s important to keep their nails short so they don’t scratch themselves! You can invest in some baby gloves (not very expensive!) as well to help prevent scratching.

Diapering

Welcome to the world of diapering and probably talking/thinking about bowel movements far more than you ever have before. When it comes to baby stool, there’s a wide range of what is normal, and what is not. The first few days, your baby will produce meconium, which is a dark, sticky, tar-like stool. It can be kind of hard to clean up in my experience, but it quickly will change color and form.

Breastfed babies tend to have a yellow stool that may seem a bit seedy – and it typically doesn’t smell until you introduce solids! If it starts to turn green. It can be normal to have up to eight poopy diapers a day with a breastfed baby. If the stool is more green than yellow, it’s possible that your baby is getting too much foremilk – which has less calories than hind milk. The reason for this is typically if the baby is not eating enough on one side and emptying the breast. You can try and get your baby to get more hind milk by starting out each nursing session on the breast that you ended on the time before.

Formula fed babies have diapers that are usually brownish-yellow, and they have a more pungent smell than breastfed babies. It’s common for them to have less stools than a breastfed baby.

It is not normal for a baby to have blood in their stool. If this happens, consult with your doctor. It is often related to milk intolerance though there could be another cause.

There are many different options for diapering nowadays. We personally used disposable diapers, and that worked out just great for us. It took some trial and error to find the best diapers for Jack – so I don’t recommend buying a ton of one brand at once. However, once you know a brand you like, buying in bulk can save you the most money. Buying diapers are a store like Sam’s Club is usually a pretty safe bet – they have good prices, a variety of brands, and you can get a lot at once!

 

Cloth diapers are really popular now. It’s not something I cared to do, but there are some great options. Amazon is a great place to buy cloth diapers (I hear amazing things about the Thirsty Brand). You’ll definitely want to get a diaper sprayer though!

Umbilical Cord Care

The umbilical cord is obviously cut shortly after birth but the stump usually remains for up to two weeks after birth. It’s important to properly care for this to ensure it falls off normally and to avoid infection. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it dry – the more you can expose it to dry air, the better. Obviously don’t just let your baby sit around naked all day but letting it be exposed every now and then is a good idea. If the diapers you use don’t have an umbilical cord stump cut out, make sure you fold down the top of the diaper so it doesn’t cover it. You should give your baby sponge baths until it falls off as well to prevent it from getting too wet.
  • Keep it clean – if the stump gets sticky or dirty, gently wash it with warm water and a cloth. It used to be recommended that you use rubbing alcohol to help it dry up faster, but this is no longer something you are supposed to do.
  • Don’t try and remove the stump yourself – it will fall off when it’s ready!
  • Watch for infection – most babies will have the stump fall off with no problem. However, make sure you watch for swelling or excessive redness. If there is an infection, it’s something that needs to be checked right away.

Things to do

Chances are you won’t want to do too much right after the baby comes home. There are some women who just want to get back to normal (or have no choice) and just start toting their newborn everywhere. That’s not exactly my style, and I look forward to a less on-the-go lifestyle. Regardless of your feelings, there are a few places you may need to go in the first few weeks.

Doctors visits

During the first two years, your baby will have many doctor’s appointments, even if they are fit as a fiddle! I believe it’s usually a few days after birth, one month, three months, six months, nine months, a year, and 18 months. Some doctors even request a 15 months appointment!

The newborn appointment usually is a weight check, height check, possibly check their bilirubin levels, and if they haven’t had metabolic tests done yet, they will be done at this visit. Doctors offices can be full of germs (especially during the winter) so make sure to keep your baby covered up as much as possible in the waiting room! You can read more about the different appointments throughout your child’s first year over here.

Newborn Pictures

This obviously isn’t a necessity, but if you want to get newborn pictures done, it’s best if they are done within about the first 10 days of birth. You can probably get an appointment pretty quickly at a place like Target or Sears, but if you are planning on hiring an individual, I would reach out to them before your baby is born so they can tentatively put you on their schedule. Newborn photographers know that most babies are not born on their due date, but they will sometimes limit the number of sessions they have tentatively booked during a certain month. For newborn pictures, expect for the session to take a couple of hours and make sure you have plenty of diapers!

Bath Time

Newborn babies don’t really need to be bathed several times a week – once a week is probably sufficient. In fact, bathing too often can cause their delicate skin to dry out!

Until their umbilical cord stump falls off, you should give your baby a sponge bath. Since some babies get a little scared or nervous in a bathtub, this is probably a good way to ease them into baths anyways. After the stump falls off, though, you can give your baby a bath in a special baby tub, the sink, or even just use the bath tub if you are careful. My sister uses an infant bath sponge, which costs about $5, and you just place it on the bath tub. We always loved using this whale infant bath tub.

I think the most important thing is to make sure you never leave your baby unattended, and that the water is a comfortable temperature. It’s better to be too cold than too hot, but it’s good to aim for a luke warm tub. There are lots of different bath thermometers out there, and I recommend getting one if you don’t trust your intuition! We had a little duck that would turn a different color if it was too hot, and I really liked it. Some of them will even tell you the exact temperature!

Do your research on what kind of bath wash and soap you want to use on your baby. We’ve always been big fans of the AVEENO baby line – it seems to work well with children that have sensitive skin, and it’s pretty affordable. They often sell it in bulk at places like Sam’s Club, which is awesome!

If you are finding that your baby is reacting to the soap you are using, you can consider finding a body wash that is unscented.

Sleep

It’s a fact of life – in the first few months of your baby’s life, you probably won’t get all the sleep you want. I sometimes joke that I don’t remember a lot of Jack’s first year, because I was so tired all the time! It’s important to know that even though it seems like you’ll never sleep again – you will. Most babies start to fall into a sleep schedule around three months, though sometimes it takes longer.

Most parents keep their newborn in the room with them for awhile, though some parents choose to put their baby in their own room right away. You can do your own research on what’s best! We had a pack-and-play in our room with a bassinet attachment, and that worked really for us. I’ve heard great things about co-sleepers if you want your baby nearby, but you don’t want to risk rolling over on them! They are pretty inexpensive.

Babies should be put to sleep on their back whenever possible, and you should avoid putting anything like loose blankets around them. We LOVED infant sleep sacks – not only did it keep them warm without the risk of suffocation, but it made nighttime diaper changes even easier.

It’s good to keep air circulating in the room, so try and always have some kind of fan running while the baby is sleeping. This can work as great white noise as well.

Most (but not all) newborns like to be swaddled. If you are having a hard time getting your baby to sleep, try and swaddle them up! If you majorly fail at swaddling like me, definitely look into the SwaddleMe Wraps. LOVE them.

More posts on this topic:

If you get nervous about your baby sleeping, I highly recommend the Owlet Baby Care monitoring system. It continuously monitors their oxygen levels and heart rate while they sleep, and it alerts you if any of the levels get too low. It’s a must-have! I wrote more about it here.

It has alerted us to Oliver’s oxygen levels being too low a few times, and I can’t imagine what would have happened had it not! We actually have found out some underlying health problems we wouldn’t have known about otherwise thanks to the Owlet.

Make sure you check out the Owlet Coupon Code page for all current offers – the only coupon codes will be available here. They also offer refurbished ones for $199.

Schedule

I wouldn’t worry too much about getting your newborn on a schedule immediately – I think newborns kind of are on their own schedule. Try and feed them on demand, rather than forcing them to wait a certain time period between feedings, and if they fall asleep, don’t try and wake them up if it’s inconvenient for you. While I believe schedules are very important, I always don’t think they need to happen right away! Some babies get their nights and days mixed up, though, so that might be something you want to try and work on!

When to Worry

Chances are, your newborn will be perfectly fine – though you’ll probably worry unnecessarily at times! However, there may be times where your newborn is in trouble and you need to worry. I’ve found that listening to your parental intuition is important. Here are a few reasons to worry about your newborn:

  • Temperature over 100 degrees
  • Not eating
  • Not having enough wet or soiled diapers
  • Blood in stool
  • Retractions while breathing
  • Yellowish skin or eyes
  • Congestion that isn’t cleared up by using a nasal aspirator  and saline(don’t use a blue bulb. This nasal aspirator is 10000x times better.)
  • Blood, pus, or swelling around naval
  • A consistent cough, especially if there’s any type of whooping or barking
  • Ear drainage
  • Some rashes
  • No tears while crying
  • Sunken in soft spot
  • Blue lips, fingertips, or nose

What NOT to Worry About

It’s common to be concerned about your newborn – especially if it’s your first baby. While there’s obviously sometimes room for concern (as mentioned above), here are some things you don’t probably need to be concerned about.

  • Cradle Cap – this is dryness/flakiness (sometimes yellow) on a baby’s scalp. It’s kind of gross, but it’s totally normal. Amber from Rickabamboo recently wrote an awesome post about how to get rid of cradle cap naturally. I recommend reading it!
  • Grunting – this can sound somewhat alarming, especially coming from a small baby. However, if there’s no other signs of distress, it’s probably normal.
  • Crossed Eyes – many babies have crossed eyes for awhile. Most of the time it resolves itself within a few months. If it doesn’t, then you can talk to your doctor!
  • Sneezing – unless it’s accompanied by congestion or difficulty breathing, don’t worry! Babies randomly sneeze a lot.
  • Easy startling
  • Losing hair – oft times when a baby is born with hair, they will end up losing it (or at least some of it.) If your baby lays on a certain side of their more often, the hair may be thinner there as well. We love the Tortle newborn hat. It helps prevent flat head syndrome and torticolis.
  • Swollen Genital area – this is totally normal after birth. If the swelling doesn’t go down after awhile, you may want to talk to your physician. But at first? Totally normal.

Newborn Essentials

There are a few things that I think are awesome to have during the newborn period. These might not be everyone’s favorite things, but I found them very useful!

  • Swaddle Blanket – Jack was a huge fan of being swaddled for many months. I already mentioned that I really like the adin and anais brand because they are soft and really big! And as I mentioned earlier, for those of you who can’t swaddle to save your lives, you need the SwaddleMe wraps.
  • Onesies and pants – your baby will probably go through a lot of outfit changes in the beginning, so making sure they are wearing something that is easy to take on and off is important. We found that Carters brand of onesies seemed to be the best quality and the most durable.
  • Moby Wrap (or something similar) – I love babywearing, and it’s something I am really looking forward to with this baby. Babywearing can help free up your hand, and there are so many benefits to it. I have this super easy tutorial for a moby wrap if you want to make your own!
  • Diaper Rash Cream – diaper rash is pretty common, especially when your baby is having a lot of bowel movements. Diaper rash can easily get out of control if you aren’t vigilant about it, so make sure you put cream or powder on if you notice any redness. Or, even better, let their little bum get some dry air for awhile (beware though – babies are known for going to the bathroom at unfortunate times, such as when their diaper is totally off!)
  • Nasal Aspirator – We LOVE the BabyBubz Booger Remover – it works better than the common blue bulb that most people use (which actually can do more harm than good!) However, that still gets the job done!
  • White Noise – we have a Marpac white noise machine, but there are tons of apps out there that work just as well. Be sure to read why we love white noise (Jack still sleeps with it!)
  • Diapers and Wipes – Pretty self-explanatory. Make sure you stock up in a variety of sizes!

Taking care of yourself

Even though you’ll be caring for a newborn, which takes a lot of work, it’s crucial that you continue to take care of yourself. You may feel too exhausted to do anything for awhile, but taking a little bit of “me” time can do so much for your mental state of mind and your body! Here are a few things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Go on walks –  It isn’t recommended that you exercise heavily for about six weeks after giving birth, but I think that it’s a good idea to go outside every day. Staying inside for days on and end has never really been good for anyone. I think a light walk can make you feel better, plus it’s a good way to get outside with your baby.
  • Accept help – Being a mom doesn’t mean becoming a superhero. Be willing to accept help from others who offer.
  • Eat regularly – Even if you are working toward losing your baby weight, it’s very important that you eat regularly and have balanced, healthy meals. If you are breastfeeding, it’s extremely important that you are eating enough, or else it will negatively impact your breastmilk supply.
  • Drink lots of water – I often think of water as a natural medication – it helps prevent dehydration, aids in weight loss, and it can prevent common problems after giving birth such as headaches. It’s important to stay hydrated while breastfeeding as well!
  • Simplify – Try and make your life as stress-free as possible. I know – easier said than done! You obviously have to get back into the groove of things eventually, but it’s okay to take time to recover. You went through nine long months of pregnancy, and then you gave birth and are taking care of a newborn – it’s okay to need to simplify things. This can be anything from turning off your phone to ordering groceries to be delivered.

More Posts on this Topic: 

The baby blues are common after giving birth – many women experience them. Here’s actually a play by play account about the week after I had Oliver. However, if you find yourself feeling depressed, hopeless, not wanting to take care of your baby, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, get help. There are many resources available to help postpartum women with postpartum depression! However, if you find yourself feeling depressed, hopeless, not wanting to take care of your baby, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, get help. There are many resources available to help postpartum women with postpartum depression!

I have LOVED some of these products that I got for free. You can get them for free, too – just pay shipping. Make sure you use the code C113D4 to get the discount.
Carseat Canopy – we love ours!
Udder Covers – nursing cover
Nursing Pillow
Belly Button Band
Baby Leggings
Nursing Pads
Pregnancy Pillow – with this one, you just get $50 off, but it makes this amazing pillow way more affordable. I still love using it even though Oliver is born!

Sam’s Club provides big savings for growing families, join and get $80 in special savings on baby basics.

This post was sponsored by Sam’s Club, however, the text and opinions are all my own.

Written By
More from Katie

Groupon Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon...
Read More

6 Comments

  • This is where I needed to go a couple of weeks ago! All of what you said are bang on. My two cents, For moms, don't be too worried about the breasfeeding. My wife was SO worried about it but it takes a while for milk to drop. And really, babies don't know how to suckle, so add that to your anticipated frustrations. Supplement feeding by formula. This worked for us and helped me (the dad) to take over so that the mom can actually sleep. We did this after a week of crying constantly at 6:30 pm to 3 A.M interrupted by 10 minutes of sleep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *