After months of living in the snug warmth of your womb, soothed by the rhythm of your heart and breathing, rocked by your movements, it can be a shock for your baby to encounter the brightness, noise and rough textures of the world. Keep her happy by easing her into it gently, especially if she shows signs of growing anxious or irritable. Go through a mental checklist: has she slept well, eaten, passed wind, is her nappy dry and is she not too hot or cold? Then try these steps:
Wrapping baby firmly in a large, thin, soft blanket can remind her of the security of her pre-birth existence – ask your clinic sister or someone else with experience to show you how.
Provide soothing sounds
“Most studies have been using lullabies,” says Durban specialist paediatrician Dr Ridwan Omar. “Such therapy has the advantage of providing developmental stimulation, reduces stress (for mother and baby), promotes bonding with parents, improves the chances of successful breastfeeding, and facilitates communication, and neurological and social development.” White noise, to simulate the sounds in your womb, can also help. Try putting on the fan, download a white noise app (there are a slew online, be sure to read the reviews), or invest in a special white noise machine for babies. Some (like Clicks’ Infantino) switch on when baby cries and even project a “calming light show” while playing soothing melodies and natural sounds. Be sure to keep volume controls low to protect baby’s ears.
Carry her in a sling or carrier
This way she can feel your warmth, heartbeat and breathing, and be rocked by your movements. Slings are made of strong fabric run through rings; carriers are more structured, with support for baby’s chest or back. Get someone practised, like a clinic sister, to show you how, to ensure that baby’s neck and spine are supported, her legs spread are no wider than her pelvis, and her bottom is lower than her knees. “Make sure their necks are supported, their airways are not obstructed in any way, and take caution when bending, to protect your own back!” says Dr Ridwan.
Give her a massage
Ask your clinic sister or pharmacist to recommend a baby oil, then try a little on a small spot of baby’s skin (where she can’t suck it!) and wait a day to see there’s no irritation. Lay her on a soft towel or blanket on the floor. Sit with your legs out in front of you, or with your soles touching, and her inside the “diamond” space between them. Warm a little oil in your hands, and gently massage her abdomen in a clockwise motion. Massage her scalp as though shampooing her, avoiding the soft fontanel. Hold a wrist in one hand, and making a C-shape with your other hand, run it slowly down her arm several times. Repeat for the other arm, and for each leg, running your hand from thigh to foot. Turn her on her tummy and run both hands from the base of her neck to her bottom. Keep strokes gentle but firm.
Check that her nappy is comfortable
Newborn skin is very sensitive, and even if you change her often, she can develop a rash. Use a good nappy cream every time you change her (ask your pharmacist or clinic sister to advise you), to create a protective barrier and soothe skin. If baby still develops a rash, change the cream or the make of nappy – some babies are sensitive to the gels in certain disposables. If you use cloth nappies, change your washing power, as some may cause irritation. If possible, says Dr Ridwan, leave baby without a nappy for five minutes each day in gentle early morning or late afternoon sun to help dry and heal her skin, and to simply enjoy the feeling of freedom.
IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com