8 practical questions, answered by our health visitor

When you have a baby, there is so much to think about, so many practicalities to negotiate. Here, our health visitor answers your questions...

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Some tots don’t enjoy bath time as much as this little one!

1) How often do I need to bathe my newborn?

Q. Bath time is a misery for our newborn and consequently me. How often do I really need to do it?

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A. Newborn babies face so many new experiences in the early days, which initially can be overwhelming and scary for them. It’s understandable that being naked and then dunked in water (even if it’s warm) can cause your baby alarm.

Of course, your little one will learn that bathing is not the end of the world and can be a fun time. But it will take a little time to get that confidence for both of you. In the early days, a quick bath and wrapping in a warm towel for a long cuddle will ease your baby into looking forward to her bath time routine.

Very young babies don’t need a lot of bathing. Twice daily cleaning of your new baby’s
face, neck, hands and nappy area is fine. Using the kitchen sink or a small basin at waist height may be quicker and more convenient, too.

Try planning bath time to coincide with a part of the day when both of you are feeling relaxed, and having someone else around at bath time will help take the stress off you

2) How do I store expressed milk?

Q. I want to store my expressed milk safely, how can I do this?

A. Follow these guidelines to keep your baby healthy:

  • Use a sterile container with a lid to store breast milk.
  • Use a different storage container each time you collect milk, if possible. You can add newly collected milk that has cooled to previously collected milk, on the same day only.
  • Label all stored milk with your name, ‘breast milk’, time and date of collection.
  • Store the milk away from meat, eggs or uncooked foods, in the back of the fridge.
  • If you store breast milk in the fridge at 5-10˚C it will last three days, if the temperature is 0-4˚C it is eight days and in the freezer at -18˚C it will be safe for six months.

3) My baby eats everything – how can I keep things germ free?

Q. My baby is 6 months old and puts everything in his mouth. How can I keep everything germ-free?

A. Your little one has, like all babies, begun to realise that putting things in his mouth is a great way to experience different textures and tastes. But you’re right; you need to make sure that what he puts in his mouth is clean and safe. However, you don’t want to spend all your time worrying.

For things like plates, spoons and bowls, using the hot cycle of a dishwasher is fine now he’s 6 months. When it comes to toys, common sense must prevail. Try and wash toys once a week, and keep some gentle antibacterial wipes handy for items such as soothers and teethers. Washing hands before eating or feeding is a good hygiene habit to get him into, so why not do it together.

4) Whose advice?

Q. I’m a new mum and getting conflicting advice from friends and family. Who should I believe?

A. As a new mum it’s tough learning to trust your own instincts and coming to terms with the responsibility of caring for someone so precious. You’ve got through the first few weeks but there’s still so much to learn.

Everyone means well, and their tips can be useful. So take advice on board, but consult a professional, too, like a health visitor or your GP. We’re trained to give you the facts, not ‘what we did’. Spend a little time considering all the information (books can help, too) and then try what suits you. If someone pushes their opinion on you, you might have to have a polite word. Be firm and say you’re going to get the professionals’ advice.

5) What position is best?

Q. I’ve been told I shouldn’t leave my baby on his back for too long, although I’ve also been told that he should sleep in this position. Why is this?

A. Following the introduction of the Government’s ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign (getting mums to put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the incidence of cot death), babies spend long periods on their backs. This has lead to an increase in babies developing flatter head shapes, called ‘plagiocephaly’. There are no long-term problems with this,
but some families will worry about its unusual appearance.

To reduce the effect of spending too much time on their back, babies also need to spend regular time on their tummies, always with you nearby. When they are very young, rest your little one on your, or your partner’s chest (often a comfy sleep position).

Small changes in position will help to avoid a misshapen head. As he grows, encourage short playtimes on his front and slowly extend these times. Move toys and mobiles around his cot to encourage him to move his head and rest in different positions.

6) Sleep-deprived mum

Q. I love my 6-week old baby, and generally she’s in a good routine, but I’m exhausted! I know all new mums are sleep-deprived, but it feels overwhelming. How can I get back on track?

A. You’re right, this does happen to all new mums. But it’s something you can deal with in a practical way. It’s good to hear your baby is settling into a routine, that’s the first step to arranging your own day and making sure you get rest too. As a new mum, there’s so much for you to do, it can all be too much. Try these simple steps and hopefully you’ll feel the fog lift soon.

Firstly, do one thing at a time, and be realistic. Writing long to-do lists will just stress you out. If you’re really exhausted, make sleep your sole priority for a few days until you’re rested. Ditch the chores! Some days just eating and sleeping will be your greatest achievements. And don’t be proud. If someone offers to help, accept. You’ll be able to return the favour later on.

7) How can I help my baby cope with op?

Q. My 3-month-old baby has to go into hospital for an operation. How can I help him?

A. Babies going into hospital have to get used to being handled by staff, undergoing medical procedures and adapting to different noises and smells. So being there with him will make it easier for you both. Once he’s home, keep visitors to a minimum as both of you will need extra rest, and use a baby carrier so you can have lots of skin-to-skin contact. If his feeding pattern changes for a few days, don’t worry as long as he has plenty of wet nappies. Take care of yourself, too. Ensure you have a support network and chat to your GP and health visitor.

8) How do I get my partner more involved?

Q: Every time our baby cries, my partner hands her to me. How can I get him more involved?

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A: Dads sometimes need a bit more time to learn how to read their baby’s cues and work out what’s needed. Not because they can’t do it, but often babies want their mums, especially in the early days. Try dividing jobs up, so you look after feeding, while Daddy’s in charge of bathtime. Let him learn to find his own way of doing things to help build his confidence, instead of telling him how it ‘should’ be done, and hopefully you’ll find he takes the lead more regularly.

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