The first few hours and days with your newborn have been identified by many professionals as both precious and as a crucial time of laying the foundation for the rest of your relationship. Late nights, soiled diapers, and unforeseen joys may dominate this season of your lives, but managing (and even enjoying!) your time rather than simply surviving is an aspect which many parents may miss. Here are some tips for making your transition into life with your new child ideal:
Take Charge of Your Birth
That’s right: Your birth plans ought to be respected and enforced. Because many parts of the birth process will affect your baby for the postpartum period (and even for life), consider weighing your options and making a birth plan. This is especially essential in the hospital setting, as such routine practices as prophylactic eye ointment and the vitamin K shot may inhibit your bonding. Read up on the Golden Hour following birth in Dr. Michel Odent’s article. Hiring a doula not only increases your comfort, but allows you the ease of consulting someone who has your best interests at heart at any point during labor.
Protect your bonding time
This may seem simple, but simply holding your baby while reading a book or sleeping in a family bed makes for an amount of security which your baby would certainly not have experienced otherwise! Think about it: This is the apex of your giving and baby’s taking. Eventually, contributions will become 50/50 as your child does their share in the home and blesses you with their many talents, and in your old age, you will be the one “taking” as they care for you (and rightly so). Why not enjoy the moments in which you are the absolute center of your child’s attention? You may be the one preparing them for the world, but for now, you are their world!
Finally, enlist friends or a postpartum doula to help with chores and meals to avoid becoming overwhelmed and to maximize time with your spouse, baby, and family.
Consider Attachment Parenting
I would encourage ALL parents to at least try attachment parenting, as both father and mother share equal responsibility and, therefore, reap equal rewards! This is absolutely related to the first point, but is more of a philosophy and lifestyle which ought to be embraced for life. As Dr. Sears states: “The attachment-parented baby learns to trust, and trust fosters healthy independence.”  Read more about attachment parenting here.
This is undoubtedly one of the best ways for optimizing bonding, health, comfort, sleep regularity, digestive health, increased immunity, and (eventually) discipline, among many other things!  Take advantage of this resource.
Over-stimulation: Know Your Baby’s Alert States
Babies are taking in many things for the first time, and although listening to you speak and play is essential for development, down time is necessary, as well. Over-stimulation simply results from babies’ immature nervous systems becoming overwhelmed by multiple stimuli. [1, 2] Eventually, more sounds, sights, textures, and smells will be more manageable, and you will learn what each type of cry means for your baby. Feeding, swaddling, and even baths may be the solution for over-stimulation in your newborn.
Daytime & Nighttime Routines
Expect some adjustment time, as even you and your spouse are learning what it is like to sleep with a newborn. Your baby may benefit from a tranquil environment during the day, which will promote peace during bedtime. A newborn must be expected to have needs at all hours, as they grow hungry frequently and are still learning to self-soothe. Luckily, attachment parenting extends into bedtime, and keeping your baby close to you throughout the day will teach them to trust that their needs will soon be met.
Keeping a bedtime routine (perhaps a warm bath, followed by pajamas, then a song, and then mom reads while breastfeeding) will give your child cues as to what is coming next, adding an extra layer of comfort and reliability.
Newborns do not necessarily sleep through the night, and it is suggested by many that light sleepers are safest when it comes to SIDS.  Ensure that your baby drifts back to sleep quickly by offering breastmilk at the slightest stirring.
“…mother–infant co-sleeping represents the most biologically appropriate sleeping arrangement for humans and is both ancient and ubiquitous simply because breast feeding is not possible, nor as easily managed, without it. The increased sensory contact and proximity between the mother and infant induces potentially beneficial behavioural and physiological changes in the infants.”[5-8]
After the tar-like meconium, your baby’s stool will eventually progress in color and texture. By the end of week 1, stools should be greenish brown. After this, they will become yellowish brown and somewhat resemble mustard in texture. Depending upon your choice of breastmilk or formula, your child’s frequency may range from only one or two to up to twenty stools per day. Breastfed babies in particular should pass stool more frequently. Dehydration is a possibility if this is not the case. Read more about how to assess your baby’s stools here.
Remember that this precious time for discovery belongs to both you and your child. As you get to know your baby’s needs and comforts, indulge them and enjoy the oneness which continues for many months after birth and which may, in many cases, extend into your adult relationship as a result of this foundation.
1. Foundations of Maternal-Newborn and Women’s Health Nursing, pg. 467
2. Roach, J. A. (2003), Newborn Stimulation. AWHONN Lifelines, 7: 530–535. doi:10.1177/1091592303261925
3. The Baby Book, Sears & Sears, pg. 125
4. The Baby Book, Sears & Sears, pg. 12
5. Lozoff B, Brittenham G. Infant care: cache or carry. Journal of Pediatrics 1979; 95: 478–483. 13.
6. McKenna JJ, Volpe LE. Sleeping with baby: an internet-based sampling of parental experiences, choices, perceptions, and interpretations in a Western industrialized context. Infant and Child Development (in press).
7. McKenna JJ, Mosko S. Mother-infant cosleeping: toward a new scientific beginning. In: Byard R, Krous H, eds: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Problems, Puzzles, Possibilities. New York: Arnold Publishing, 2001. pp. 259–272. 1
8. Ball HL. Breastfeeding, bedsharing, and infant sleep. Birth 2003; 30: 181–188.
9. McKenna, J. Experimental studies of infant-parent co-sleeping: mutual physiological and behavioral influences and their relevance to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Early Hum Dev. 1994 Sep 15; 38(3):187–201.