New babies can be irresistibly cute, cuddly, and, honestly, a bit weird. They’re producing startling hiccups, gazing at you cross-eyed, pooping in strange colours, and (when they do sleep) snoring like a 78-year-old grandpa – and for most first-time parents, it’s all brand new and completely baffling. Which is why we roped in registered nurse/midwife/baby whisperer, Zoe Wilcox, to give us her top newborn need-to-knows…
It might seem like newborns have it all (tiny freeloaders, sleeping soundly all day, constantly being fed and cuddled – bliss!), but they’re also little characters who love to play their cards close to their chest, and can be hard to read. Luckily for you, midwives have cracked the code to understanding babies. And unlike those cheeky newborns, we don’t gatekeep!
1. Babies have personalities, just like grown-ups.
Granted, they can’t talk, which doesn’t make them fun at parties. But babies do have means of communication, which may take time, observation and lots of trial and error to understand. Remember that no two babies are the same. Each newborn has their own little quirks and routines – it just takes time and lots of patience to figure this out.
2. They get really hungry as they grow.
Growing is hunger-inducing work, which will cause a newborn who was otherwise quiet and well-mannered, to suddenly become ravenous and want to feed ALL. THE. TIME. This is a normal process that coincides with growth periods. It can catch you off guard, but the remedy for comforting your newborn during this time is lots of food, and lots of attention (read: snuggly cuddles).
3. You are their safe space.
Ever heard: “You’re spoiling that baby with cuddles!” That’s a myth. Plain and simple! Newborns have it tough for those first few months of life. They’re pulled from the warm, cosy womb, where they constantly hear the sound of your voice, to a world that’s cold, scary and unfamiliar. The only safe place they know is you. So give all the cuddles, cradle them to sleep, talk to them and provide them with the love they’re craving. It’s not ‘spoiling’ them, it’s instinctive and comforting.
4. Newborn skin is extra special, so take special care.
Newborn skin is brand-spankin new! Which means it may take a little bit of adjusting to the world we live in. The environment is harsh out here, and it can cause common problems like cradle cap, newborn rash, milk spots, dryness or nappy rash. Most of these conditions will heal on their own without intervention, but some cases may require a little extra attention.
Babies are born with a beautiful chalky substance on their skin known as vernix. This protects and nourishes their skin within the womb, and for those first few days after birth. (That’s why we recommend delaying the first bath.) Once this vernix is absorbed into the skin, the skin loses that protection, and becomes exposed to the elements. Using gentle products that are free of nasties is the best course of action.
5. Your baby doesn’t need much. Just you.
I often watch new parents struggle with the ‘responsibility’ of having a baby. I get it! It’s a lot. But there’s something I say to new mums and dads that often makes them feel a little better. Newborns won’t remember much of those first days/weeks/months of life. They won’t remember the sleepless nights, the frantic Google searches, or the breakdowns that stem from that awful feeling of “I don’t know if I’m doing this right”. They won’t remember if they were formula or breast fed. What they know is love. They know safety. They know you did your best. You’re going to make mistakes, that’s a given. But the best part is, they’re learning and growing with you. You’re never alone. You’re doing your best, and that is enough.
Zoe Willcox is a registered nurse/midwife, podcast host, and birth/women's health educator. She’s passionate about helping birthing people to feel empowered and informed, and make the best decisions for them and their families. Catch Zoe (and her helpful, funny, informative content) at @midwifezoe.