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Essential ‘New Mom’ Survival Guide

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You can’t take care of that little one if you’re not taking care of yourself. Before the baby arrives, be sure to ask yourself a few important questions. These answers will help you set personal goals for feeling happy and healthy, says Shelly Slocum, Los Angeles-based childbirth educator, certified doula, and mom.

Start with these: How often do you need/want to socialize with friends? How much quiet time do you need in one day? When do you want to start exercising again? While answering these questions might seem daunting, they will help in the long run.

How to Spot Signs of Post-Partum Depression

“Post-partum depression can happen any time during your baby’s first year of life,” says Slocum. Signs include, but are not limited to: feeling disconnected or uninterested in your baby and yourself; feeling isolated and alone; a loss of interest in normal activities; mood swings marked by exaggerated highs and lows; feelings of doubt, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, outbursts of anger; and an inability to sleep. Everyone’s entitled to a bad day, but if these feelings persist over time, give your doctor or midwife a call. That’s what they are there for.

How to Clip Tiny Toenails and Fingernails

Baby hands and feet are small — very, very small. Combine that with the fact that newborns have a high startle reflex, and you have your nail clipping work cut out for you. The best method is to wait until the baby is asleep. Swaddle him, but leave one arm (or foot) out at a time for clipping. Some moms prefer peeling the nails off rather than bringing a sharp object into the mix. Whatever the case, you’ll notice that their nails might need clipping right away, as babies’ nails grow while they are in the womb.

How to Freeze and Store Breast Milk

After talking to your mom friends about storing breast milk, you might think that you need a degree in chemistry to figure this stuff out. But it’s really all pretty simple, especially if you seek the help of a lactation consultant.

“After pumping/expressing the milk into a nursing plastic bag or bottle, you can store it for four to 10 hours at room temperature, for eight days in the refrigerator and in the freezer for six to 12 months,” says Slocum. “Some moms believe in the 777 rule, where breast milk can stay at room temperature for seven hours, in a fridge for seven days, and in the freezer for seven months.”

How Long Should a New Baby Sleep?

If you’re used to getting six to eight hours of sleep a night, know from the beginning that you probably won’t be getting them in one long chunk but rather sporadically throughout the day.

“Every three months after the baby is born, there will be a shift in sleep, up until 18 months. That’s a year and a half of your child changing their sleep patterns. Some babies sleep really easily, others don’t. Some people sleep train, others sleep with their children,” says Slocum. “There is no right way to do it, but making sure you are getting the correct amount of hours you need can really help you feel more present and at peace. This may mean that you nap when the baby naps in the morning and are still in your PJs until 1 p.m.” And that’s OK.

How to Take an Infant’s Temperature

Your baby’s first cold is stressful in and of itself, but what about taking his temperature for the first time? Know that any temperature of 100.4 degrees F and higher in a young baby is considered to be a fever and you should call the pediatrician.

You can take your baby’s temperature rectally, under the armpit or even with a thermometer that measures temperature with the push of a button to the forehead.

“The most accurate way to take your baby’s temperature when they are little is rectally, by putting the baby on its back, holding the baby steady, and maybe even putting petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer,” says Slocum. “Once it beeps, then you know the temperature has been found.” Armpit thermometers can often give lower readings and are not recommended for babies under 3 months. The same goes for temporal thermometers.

How Long Does Bleeding Last Post-Partum?

“One of the brilliant ways your body communicates to you that you are still in labor (and healing) from pregnancy in the first six weeks post-partum is that the mom will have bleeding called lochia (similar to a period),” says Slocum.

It’s really individual, but on average after a vaginal birth a woman bleeds for two weeks, then is spotting from weeks three to four, and weeks five to six are coming back into normal discharge.

After a cesarean birth, a mother bleeds two weeks longer. So she will bleed the first four weeks and then spot weeks five and six, and return to normal discharge in weeks seven and eight.

“By the way, moms, if your bleeding slows down and then you go out for a long walk or to the grocery store the next day and your bleeding is heavier after that, it’s your body’s way of asking you to relax,” says Slocum.

How to Give a Baby a Bath

This might seem like a no-brainer, but washing a newborn baby in a tiny tub might be harder than you think, especially when you have to contend with things like healing umbilical cord stumps.

“You should give your baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off,” says Slocum. “To do a bath, just fill a sink or a tiny baby bath with about 3 inches of lukewarm water, and set your baby inside and put a washcloth in the water, and then gently use a wet rag to wipe baby off.”

How to Change a Diaper

If you’ve never changed a diaper, you’re in for a few surprises. Namely wet ones, because if you’re not fast enough, you might get peed on — or even worse, pooped on. Here’s Slocum’s advice for getting through the process unscathed.

“To change a diaper, place the baby on his back and undo the diaper at top. You can use wipes of your choice to wipe off the baby until the bottom is clean. If you have a boy who likes to pee the minute the diaper is off, you may want to hold the top of the diaper on the baby with one hand while you get out the other diaper and then put the other diaper under the baby’s bottom, keeping your hand holding on the top of the other diaper.”

Always keep supplies within arm’s reach, because there’s nothing worse than being caught off guard. Don’t forget the diaper rash cream for redness or the talcum powder to ward off wetness. Trust us, you’ll be changing diapers with your eyes closed in no time.

How to Treat Baby Acne and Cradle Cap

Baby acne and cradle cap — while unsightly, they are totally harmless and par for the course. You might want to pick at it but resist the urge. Picking at baby acne could cause scarring, and scratching off the cradle cap won’t keep it from coming back.

“If you have any questions, it’s always best to ask your pediatrician,” says Slocum. “I’ve heard of mothers treating cradle cap by covering the baby’s head in olive oil and using their fingernails to scrape off the skin or even using a toothbrush to get the cradle cap off.” But you never want to do anything that could irritate your baby’s skin or make the situation worse. “You can treat baby acne by keeping the area dry, using a mild lotion, changing your diet if you are nursing (maybe you are eating too many acid-filled foods), and by even getting a prescription from your doctor,” she says.

How to Handle Guests Who Want to Meet the Baby

It’s really important, to be honest and let visitors know what you expect of them. “Give them an out time, for example, ‘We’d love for you to come and meet the new baby. How about you come from 5-5:45,'” says Slocum. “That way, they won’t overstay their welcome, which can happen so easily, but the new mom really needs to have quiet and space around her, so she can be there for the baby and take care of herself. There isn’t much room for more.”

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