Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Womb Care and Your Newborn

“Womb Care”- Responding to Baby’s Needs:

There are many theories of parenting out there, many books with different suggestions and philosophies, and a never-ending supply of opinions from well-meaning friends and family. These are the recommendations of your doula. :)

Your baby has spent 9 months growing in your belly. Baby has enjoyed the constant warmth of the womb, has been lulled to sleep by the sound of your heartbeat, comforted by the familiar smells of mommy, and fed by a constant supply of nourishment through the umbilical cord. Baby has never known hunger or cold, the stress of being alone, has never been without the sound of mom’s breathing or beating heart. The transition from the womb to earth-side can be tumultuous for baby. In my experience, “womb care”, can make this transition more smooth and gentle on baby. I define womb care as meeting the needs of your baby as quickly and completely as possible and surrounding baby with conditions as close to those he experienced in the womb as possible during the early months of life. I personally recommend womb care for at least 6-9 months.

Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. And by breastfeeding your baby, you are providing a closeness and bonding for you and your baby that cannot be achieved through bottle feeding. Your newborn needs to eat at least every 2-3 hours. If your newborn sleeps longer, wake him up, as baby can become weak quickly. Pay attention to baby’s hunger cues. These will include smacking or licking lips, rooting, putting fists and hands to the mouth, fidgeting or squirming. Crying and turning head from side to side is a late hunger cue. Keeping baby close can help you quickly learn to recognize baby’s signals that he’s ready to eat. By feeding at the first sign of hunger, breastfeeding is much easier and smoother for mom and baby.

When breastfeeding, it is sometimes difficult to determine if baby is getting enough milk. The first week of life, baby should have 5-6 sopping wet diapers a day. After about the fourth day after birth, baby should have passed all the meconium (first stool) and should have 4-5 yellow, loose, mustard-looking stools. After a feeding, mom’s breast should feel softer and less full. Feeding on demand is the best way to ensure plenty of milk. As adults, don't we eat when we're hungry? Don't we also just want an occasional snack at times? This is also perfectly normal for our babies. And since mom’s milk supply is dependent on the demand placed by baby, supplementing with formula bottles can be devastating to the milk supply, as well as risk nipple confusion with baby.

Once your baby has established a good weight gain pattern, usually after at least 3-4 weeks, and as long as baby continues to make plenty wet and dirty diapers, you can stop waking baby at night to eat, and let him set his own pattern. *Sleep training programs are shown to be detrimental to both the development of the baby and mom’s milk supply.

A great source of information for breastfeeding moms is www.kellymom.com.

Baby wearing is a great way to meet the needs of your baby of closeness and security. Baby will love to be snuggled on you where he is warm, comforted, and can have easy access to the breast when hungry. Studies show that babies who are worn regularly by their mothers cry significantly less. Worn babies also spend more time in a “quiet state of alertness”, which is necessary for learning to occur. There are a number of safe carriers out there (as well some that should be avoided) and I can make a few recommendations if you like.

C0-sleeping is also a safe and nurturing choice for baby. While this is not for every family, I recommend at least rooming-in with your baby for at least the first few months of life. I encourage research on co-sleeping to determine if it is right for your family, and so each couple can know how to do it safely. There is a right and wrong way to co-sleep, but generally, when done correctly, it is shown to reduce the risk of SIDS as well as increase the amount of sleep mom gets and the number of feedings baby gets.

Responding quickly to baby’s cries is crucial. Allowing baby to “cry it out” is NOT beneficial and can be very detrimental to your baby. You cannot spoil your newborn. Babies do not have the capacity to ‘manipulate’ their parents until closer to a year. They communicate their needs through crying and as parents we should not ignore that. Parents build confidence and trust in their baby when they quickly meet baby’s needs. This in turn will translate into a toddler with good self-esteem and independence. Sometimes baby needs to suckle even when he’s just been fed. This is normal. Sometimes baby just needs to be held, even when he’s changed, fed, and swaddled. This is also normal. Like adults, babies have emotional needs as well as physical needs. Your baby will cry less and be happier when you quickly respond to him, whether that be for a physical need or an emotional one, like the need to be snuggled or comforted at the breast.

So that's my philosophy in a nutshell. We have done this with all 4 of our kids. My older 3 are all independent, emotionally healthy kids ready to take on the world, and I know the baby will be too one day. Many blessings and peaceful parenting!

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