Anticipating the arrival and adoption of a newborn brings a myriad of emotions. You are excited and full of joy. But you also likely feel stress, anxiety, and nervousness, especially if this is your first baby. Preparing yourself for the baby’s care can help calm some of your worries and allow you the space to enjoy the experience of infant adoption.
Tips for Essential Baby Care
These essential tips for baby care can help answer some of your most pressing questions, like how to feed the baby, how much an infant sleeps, and which diapers are best for a baby. We’ve organized the tips into four main categories: feeding, sleeping, pooping, and crying, with some miscellaneous information at the end.
It will take some trial and error to discover what works for your infant and what doesn’t when it comes to feeding. And just like many issues involved in raising a child, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it’ll change. Take heart – your baby is more resilient than you think and can usually hang in with you for the trial and error of this — and other parenting challenges.
1. What kind of formula should you use?
If possible, continue using whatever brand of formula the hospital fed your baby. Resist the urge to buy formula until just before discharge time.
Ready-made liquid formula is most accessible and convenient in the first 2-3 months of your baby’s life because it does not require sterilization at home.
For powdered formula, plan to make enough for 24 hours of feeding. Sterilization of the bottles is necessary to avoid exposure to cronobacter, a bacteria that can be present in powdered formula. Boil the water, and while it is still hot, mix in the powdered formula. Then, by testing it on your wrist, adjust the temperature with room temperature sterilized water to your baby’s comfort level.
2. What type of bottle should you use?
The type of bottle and nipple will vary from baby to baby, so you may want to buy one of several different types. Invest in more of that type once you find the best combination for your baby. Consider what kind of bottle and nipple worked well in the hospital and ask for their recommendations.
Babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or other types of prenatal exposure often struggle with the suck/swallow reflex. Choices like Dr. Brown’s bottle or a Playtex Ventaire usually suit those little ones.
You’ll know you’ve found the right bottle if there’s not a lot of milk loss, clicking sounds, or gas, and your baby is gaining weight and thriving.
Remember to regularly sterilize your baby’s bottles by running them through the dishwasher, washing them with hot, soapy water, or using a bottle sterilizer.
3. How often should you feed your baby?
Again, this varies from baby to baby, so don’t sweat it if yours doesn’t fit the mold! On average, newborns will be hungry every 2-3 hours. The time between feedings will gradually increase with your baby’s age, as will the amount of formula you give them at each feeding. Your pediatrician can help guide you as the baby grows.
First 6 Months with a Baby Exposed to Opiates, from CreatingaFamilyEd.org
4. What about spitting up?
It’s tempting to feel freaked out by your baby’s spit-up – especially if it looks like the whole bottle just came back up or if they spit at every feeding. Try not to panic – usually, spitting up decreases as the baby grows and strengthens.
Be sure to burp your baby upright after each feeding. If it feels like a lot of spit-up or too frequent, consider keeping the baby upright briefly before laying them down to sleep.
If your baby continues to gain weight and thrive, they’re likely still getting enough to eat. However, if you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician for their insight and help.
5. When should we introduce solid food?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is six months old to start solid food. There are a few signs that your baby may be ready to try solids, including:
- Your baby watches intently as you bring food from your plate to your mouth.
- They begin raking things toward themselves with their hands.
- Baby is sitting up unassisted.
Pediatricians generally recommend that a baby’s first solid be oatmeal rather than rice cereal, fed from a spoon. Continue to reserve the bottle for formula.
Ah, yes, sleep. That beautiful, elusive time of rest you used to get before you became a parent!
1. What is a typical wake/sleep cycle for babies?
On average, newborns sleep about 16-17 hours daily and wake every 2-3 hours to eat. This schedule changes as they grow, but don’t look for a solid 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep for quite some time. Experts consider a baby that sleeps for 5-6 hours as “sleeping through the night.” We know, the saying “sleeping like a baby” is really a misnomer, isn’t it?
2. How do you help a baby with prenatal exposure sleep better?
Babies impacted by prenatal substance exposure often experience disrupted sleep patterns. They may also be more difficult to soothe. You can help your infant by establishing a regular sleep routine, including a warm bath and swaddling. You can also try white noise in their room, darkened blinds, or baby massage. Minimizing these types of environmental stimulation can go a long way toward calming the baby enough to sleep more restfully.
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3. What should you know about sleep safety?
It would be best if you establish healthy, safe sleep habits early. Always put your baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Their crib should be free of pillows, blankets, bumpers, and stuffed animals.
Your baby should sleep in the room with you but on a different sleep surface. No matter how exhausted you are, experts do not recommend sleeping with your baby in a bed, couch, or other piece of non-baby furniture.
Few topics in parenting get as much airtime as a baby’s pooping habits. If this is your first baby, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable with the detailed conversations you will have around your baby’s diapers. Don’t worry – you’ll get used to it.
1. What’s normal?
Every baby is different, and one may poop once or twice a day, while another fills their diaper every time they get a new, clean one. Generally speaking, a baby’s poop should be very soft, grainy, and likely yellowish in appearance.
2. What’s not normal?
When a baby poops more than ten times a day, or their poop is so watery it soaks through the diaper, they may have diarrhea. Babies can quickly become dehydrated, so it’s best to be evaluated by a pediatrician if they have diarrhea.
On the other end of things (pun fully intended!), if your baby goes without pooping for a day or two or has hard nuggets in their diaper, they may be constipated. This also warrants a check-in with your pediatrician. They may recommend adding a tablespoon of prune juice to every bottle, but only do so with their recommendation.
3. What about diapers, wipes, and rashes?
The type of diaper and brand you use for your newly adopted infant is your preference. When deciding, consider your financial, environmental, and convenience needs. If your baby has sensitive skin, pay attention to the wipes you’re using. There are many options available that are scent and dye-free.
If your baby develops a diaper rash, experts recommend a barrier ointment such as Calmoseptine. If the rash is a very angry red area over the baby’s perineum and sometimes extends onto the thighs with a raised papule appearance, it could be a yeast infection. We recommend you seek your pediatrician’s evaluation and treatment with a prescription cream.
Babies cry to communicate their needs. Learning your baby’s cries and what they need is a process. Give yourself grace while you figure this out – especially if this is your first baby.
1. How do I calm this baby down?
When you are learning your baby’s cries, it might feel like the crying will never stop. It might also make you panicky and anxious if your initial attempts to soothe them don’t work. It’s okay – take some deep breaths and care for yourself between their crying times.
Many babies are soothed by gentle motion, like rocking, swinging, or bouncing. Others will calm their crying when you swaddle them firmly. And others will respond to an ever-evolving combination of these and other techniques. It might feel like you are trying to hit a moving target, but as the baby grows and learns to trust you to meet their needs, patterns develop, and you can respond to them. The cycle of attachment takes time to establish.
If you can get extra help during the time of day that is most stressful, do it. Ask your partner or spouse to tag in while you collect yourself. Your baby will be more likely to calm when you are regulated and calm.
2. What is colic?
Colic consists of very long crying episodes that are usually worse at night. They can be random and not associated with feeding. Keep a journal of what is happening with your baby leading up to these crying jags. Share it with your pediatrician so that they can make an accurate evaluation.
In addition to the soothing strategies mentioned earlier, you can try some combination of the following:
- Giving them baby gas drops
- Placing a heating pad (on low heat) on the baby’s tummy
- Moving baby’s legs in a bicycle rotation
- Wearing the baby close to your body
- Putting baby on their tummy
- Taking them for a car ride
- Offering a pacifier
Other Crucial Tips for Infant Adoption
1. What baby gear do you need?
There are many different baby gear options, like swings, bassinets, car seats, and bouncing/rocking chairs. Do your research and consider things like affordability, consumer reviews, space at home, and so on before you purchase. Read the directions for assembly, keep up with recalls, and learn how to use the equipment before you bring your baby home.
2. What about first aid and medications?
An excellent idea is a well-stocked medicine cabinet and a first aid kit, including a good thermometer, baby doses of acetaminophen and baby ibuprofen, nasal saline, and baby-safe nail trimmers. Your pediatrician can offer guidance on other medications specific to your baby’s needs.
Congratulations, and Enjoy the Journey!
Parenting your newborn is a full-time job. It’s exhausting and challenging but also wonderful and filled with joy. Remember that babies change rapidly, and what worries you today may change tomorrow. Share any concerns with your pediatrician as they arise. But in the meantime, enjoy your journey of infant adoption!
November is National Adoption Month. Please join us in learning about and raising awareness of the need for permanency through adoption for all kids.
Image Credits: William Fortunato; RDNE Stock project; Antoni Shkraba; Pixabay