You probably already know that your newborn baby is going to be a floppy beanie baby when he arrives, in need of head and neck support, never to be shaken, and that everyone who touches the little angel should wash her hands first. But there’s plenty of other useful tips for new moms that could make this major life transition a little smoother for you.
Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the choices and “shoulds” coming at you right now, just consider these tips to be back pocket information; try what works for you and ignore the rest.
There are a few things that you are sure to encounter (and that might freak you out), so if you haven’t already, read Terrifying Things Newborn Babies Do That Are Completely Normal to prepare yourself and ease your mind.
Here are 21 newborn tips for new moms that will make life much easier for you and your babe!
Don’t overbuy newborn clothes
Did you know newborn size clothes (and diapers) are for babies weighing 5-8 pounds? The average weight at birth is 7.5 pounds, meaning most babies will be wearing newborn clothes for just a few weeks until they outgrow them.
And don’t forget about the 25% of babies who are born already weighing 8+ pounds, who will fit into newborn clothes for about a week or not at all.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on newborn clothes that never end up being worn, limit yourself to about 6-10 newborn outfits, and keep the tags on in case you end up needing to return them. In the event that you have a small baby that needs more newborn clothes, you can always send Grandma or Dad out to buy more. Or call upon your good old friend Amazon!
Don’t be alarmed when your baby loses weight
Many new moms have panicked upon seeing their new baby’s weight dip down below birthweight in the days after birth. You may jump to the conclusion that you aren’t feeding them properly or they are not healthy.
The truth is, losing weight after birth is normal and expected. The typical weight loss is 5% of birthweight for formula fed babies, and up to 10% of birthweight for breastfed babies. This is not an indication of a problem. Your baby is not used to having to work for their nutrition, and it takes time for them to master the art of sucking, swallowing, and breathing.
Your doctor will look for the baby to regain the lost weight by day 10-14 of life, and many babies will gain it back sooner than that.
Do your homework
First, if you can take any classes (in person or online) about childbirth, infant care, or breastfeeding before the baby comes, you’ll feel much more prepared. A big part of sailing as smoothly through the newborn stage as possible is feeling confident in your maternal abilities.
Even though babies create chaos no matter how ready you think you are, being blindsided by an issue you didn’t even know existed can send you into crisis mode. Avoid that with a little bit of education on the front end.
If your hospital doesn’t offer classes (or you aren’t able to attend them), check out my resource page for recommended online courses for breastfeeding, childbirth, and more.
Delegate someone to read the paperwork
Before you leave the hospital, designate a family member or friend to read over the mountain of paperwork you’ll receive. These aren’t all medical records to file away. There will be important information about breastfeeding, about the baby’s schedule, and about resources available to you.
Some are keepsakes and some are even offers for complimentary, celebratory surf and turf dinner that you won’t even realize was an option until you get home (raises hand…). Your primary focus will be sleeping, recovering, and managing the baby’s routine. You won’t have time or energy to read that stuff, and yet, there could be really helpful and important information in that stack that could be missed.
Talk to a lactation consultant
One of the first and most important things you’ll deal with on this journey is feeding your newborn. Despite what you may hear or read, most first-time breastfeeding moms have issues in the beginning. This is not the time to struggle through it alone. You will be tired, hormonal, and possibly in pain, so you will not be thinking clearly. Support is the key word here. Make sure your hospital provides the services of a lactation consultant, or hire one before the baby arrives.
If you don’t end up needing help, great! But if you do, the help can’t come fast enough in those first days. And remember that there are many ways to feed your baby; your best-laid plans might not work and that’s OK! Be flexible and keep in mind that the goal is a healthy infant.
Write down your questions for the doctor
Your baby will make her first visit to the pediatrician almost immediately after you leave the hospital. As with the above tip, you will likely be in a haze of sleep deprivation and recovery, so take a minute to compile a list of questions now. If you find some of the questions don’t apply to you when the time comes, simply scratch them off the list. But you’ll want to take full advantage of that first visit, and getting all of your questions answered means knowing what to ask.
Some might include: how much should I be feeding my newborn? What should I expect in my baby’s diaper? How should I be caring for the umbilical cord? You might be given these instructions without having to ask, but these healthcare professionals deal with so many patients that they might forget to mention something, assuming everyone already knows the answer.
You don’t really need to bundle baby up
Yes, it’s true that newborns have a harder time regulating their body temperature at first. This is why skin to skin and baby wearing is so great for them- mom’s body temperature helps keep baby’s temp up.
But before you bundle your baby in ten layers of clothes and blankets, consider this. Babies also have difficulty regulating their temperature when they are too WARM. Also, overdressing baby during sleep time increases the risk for SIDS.
A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in the same number of layers that you are wearing, or one more. So if you are just wearing a shirt and pants, your baby can wear a onesie, shirt, and pants. If you are wearing a jacket, put a blanket over the baby when they are in their carseat or stroller.
Don’t be scared to take baby outside
Gone are the days where new moms are told to hole up in their house with their newborns for the first couple months.
Going outside and getting fresh air has proven benefits for moms and babies. It contributes to mother’s mental wellness, and has a calming effect on the baby. Sunlight exposure (in small doses) also provides necessary vitamin D. As soon as you have healed from birth, it’s a good idea to make walks outside with your baby part of your daily routine.
While it’s a great idea to get outside and go for walks, exercise caution when taking your baby to crowded public areas. Since babies have immature immune systems and haven’t yet been vaccinated, you want to limit their exposure to germs. Keeping them contained to a baby carrier helps keeps germy hands from getting too close.
Use THIS to never lose baby socks in the wash
You are familiar with the sock monster that lives in your washing machine and eats half of your socks. But with teeny tiny baby socks, this happens 10 times more! Avoid the problem of baby socks and mittens disappearing in the laundry simply by using these mesh laundry bag.
Whether you go high-tech with an app or keep it old-school with a pen and paper at your bedside table (the fastest way I have found), tracking what time the last feeding was, whether it was the right or left breast, the last time the baby had a pee or poop diaper are not things you’re going to be able to recall from memory. (Spoiler alert: your memory is going to suck for a while.)
Write it down and not only will you be able to see when something happened last, but you’ll be able to see important patterns as the baby develops a routine. These simple notes could provide important health information about your newborn for the doctor as well.
My Oh Baby Pregnancy and Baby Planner has newborn tracking sheets for this exact purpose, along with 50 other pages like checklists, to-do lists, questions to ask providers, and more!
Consider a postpartum doula
A postpartum doula is someone who does a wide range of things, from helping to care for the baby so you can take a nap or get something done, to being an extra set of hands to clean the bottles and do laundry so you can bond with the baby. This person might even come over for the night shift to do all but breastfeed the baby. That way, you can recover and get as much sleep as possible.
Their services cost about $30 an hour, but packages might be available. If you can save in advance and add a postpartum doula to your baby budget, you will be a happier mama for it. Even if this person only comes to help out once a week, it will ease your transition to motherhood.
Use these bags instead of a diaper pail
We got a diaper pail for our first baby, and after a week I was ready to throw it in the trash. I didn’t like the smell in baby’s room, and having to empty it was a horrible chore.
So for the next three babies, we ditched the diaper pail and just started tying poop diapers in these disposable diaper sacks. Then I would throw it in the regular trash that we take out daily. Or if it’s especially stinky (after baby starts solids!) I would just take it directly outside to our garbage bin.
Learn the 5 S’s
It’s true all babies cry, but some cry a LOT more than others. Arm yourself with some tactics to calm a crying baby before you are frustrated with one in the wee hours of the morning.
Dr. Harvey Karp of Happiest Baby came up with the popular “5 S’s” that help soothe babies. In short, they include:
- Swaddle– babies are soothed by the tightness of being swaddled as they were cramped in the womb
- Side/stomach- hold baby on their side or stomach (it is not safe for them to sleep this way)
- Shush- make a shushing noise or use a white noise machine
- Swing- the best motion is small and quick, while making sure the head and neck is supported
- Suck- give the baby a pacifier or breast. Sucking promotes relaxation for babies.
How to shower with a baby
With all of my babes this was the only way for me take a shower when my husband wasn’t around, and it’s really very simple. Set up baby in their bouncy chair right outside the shower. Even better if the chair vibrates or plays music!
This arrangement helps moms because you don’t have to wonder if you are hearing phantom baby cries from the other room. You can peek on them and press the button on their chair if you have to. Babies like it because the sound of the running water is comforting, as is being close to mom. And if they get fussy, you can do peekaboo from the shower curtain or sing them a song.
The best is when the baby falls asleep there and you get to enjoy a long, relaxing shower!
The onesie trick for diaper blowouts
Brace yourself, because it’s going to happen: your baby is going to shoot poop up the top of their diaper and all the way up their back. It is gross and intimidating to clean up when you lack experience with poop-splosions.
You don’t want to pull the messy onesie up over the baby’s head and risk getting poop on their head or in their hair. And the good thing is, you don’t have to! The folds on the shoulders of a onesie make it so the head hole opens wide enough to be pulled down past baby’s shoulders and off their body.
Set up a mobile baby changing station
You’ve probably bought a gorgeous changing table for your baby’s nursery and organized all the changing necessities neatly within it. But honestly, you’ll be changing your baby on the floor of whatever room you happen to be in 90% of the time.
Don’t be fooled by baby product marketing
Did you know companies of soaps, lotions, and detergents take the exact same product, slap the word “baby” on the label, and charge you more for it?
Be sure to check labels and be a discerning buyer instead of just throwing your money at anything marketed to babies. Dreft laundry detergent for example, is more expensive than your average laundry detergent. Not only that, but it is scented, which you want to avoid when washing baby’s clothes. Any brand laundry soap that is “Free and Clear” with no dyes or perfumes will be more affordable and safer for baby’s skin.
Take the guesswork out of swaddling
Swaddling your newborn in the hospital receiving blanket is a fun challenge, but most new parents find it’s a lot harder to get that tight baby burrito than the L&D nurses make it look.
Lucky for us parents, there are plenty of products out there that can swaddle your baby just the way they like it (and some are even impossible for those Houdini babies to break out of!)
For winter babies, I love the fleece velcro swaddle blankets because they are so quick and easy to wrap and baby stays warm and cozy.
When the weather is too warm for fleece, Swaddle UP zippadee style sacks are awesome because baby can have their arms up but still feel wrapped up.
Don’t waste a drop of that liquid gold
If you’re going to breastfeed, you will want the little silicone contraption all nursing moms are raving about, the Haaka.
The Haaka is different than a pump because it uses natural suction and doesn’t force breastmilk out. Instead, it just catches the runoff. Because when you are feeding the baby on one breast, the other breast has a letdown too- that means milk is just dripping into your nursing pad when it could be collected and used later!
As you can see in the photo, the Haaka can collect a substantial amount of breastmilk. And it does it with very little effort on your part. If used frequently, you can build up a freezer stash without even using a conventional pump.
The Haaka is on my list of the only products I needed to breastfeed for a year!
Let baby sleep
You have probably heard that newborn babies need to be fed every 2-3 hours round the clock. What you aren’t always told is when babies can start going longer stretches between feedings at night. And given how exhausted you are during this stage, isn’t this vital information?
The rule of thumb is this: once baby has gotten back to their birthweight (and assuming a full term baby without health concerns) you no longer need to wake the baby up to feed in the night. Many babies will wake on their own every few hours anyway, but often times they develop one longer stretch in the beginning of their night sleep. This is the stretch that will gradually grow longer and longer- and that’s exactly what you want!
For more on newborn sleep, don’t miss this post about what to do when baby has their days and nights mixed up.
Dress baby to make night time changes easier
Here is another tip for the dreaded night time wake ups.
You will want easy access to the diaper area for night time diaper changes. You’ll be half asleep and in the dark, do you really need obstacles between you and the diaper?
I love putting baby to sleep in gowns for this purpose, because you just yank it up, change, and yank it down. Pajamas with zippers are also fairly quick and easy. Button up pajamas are just annoying, especially when you misalign them and have to start over!
This is an exhausting, stressful, but magical time.
Bringing a newborn home for the first time truly is venturing into uncharted territory. There is so much newness on top of all of the physical changes you will be experiencing. The best tip anyone can offer you is to be gentle on yourself and seek out as much support as possible. This can be a really magical time, if you can get into the right mindset.