The newborn brain is made up of millions of brain cells connected by branches of fibers called dendrites. Dendrites are created by stimulation. What better stimulation is there for your newborn then the human touch? Human touch is critical for brain development in a newborn baby. I encourage new parents to put their newborns on them skin to skin as much as possible during the first days and weeks of life. This skin to skin contact is called Kangaroo Care and allows a newborn to thrive!
A sense of smell is one of the first steps toward human bonding. Newborns quickly learn and prefer the scent of their own mother or other caregiver. Nursing babies have the richest olfactory experience, smelling their mother's milk. Bottle-fed babies also can learn their parents' scents rather rapidly, depending on the amount and closeness of their contact. When feeding your baby, hold them close to your body.
If they are inexperienced with newborns, parents can feel an incredible amount of anxiety after the birth. Parents feel pressure to ‘do all the right things' with their babies. However, because newborns sense anxiety, a nervous parent can lead the baby to feel unsafe. When a baby feels insecure it can lead to an escalating of crying which then begins a long cycle of anxious parents...causing an anxious baby. Remember this: You are in charge, if you concentrate on your breathing and RELAX so will your baby. This is miracle stuff here. It really works!
In my line of work I find myself hearing the same thing over and over from new parents: "We don't want to spoil her", "We want him to get used to the crib right away." These common myths are just that....myths! I feel strongly about educating and encouraging parents with the truth. I want to debunk these myths and give parents a positive message that empowers them in caring for their babies.
“If I hold my baby too much…he'll get used to it and then he'll want to be held all the time.”
It is impossible to spoil a newborn baby. The first 3 months of a newborn's life should be as much like the womb as possible. What great news! That means you can take every opportunity to hold, comfort and shower your little one with affection. The more physical contact they have, the more confident children and adults they will be.
“My baby hates tummy time, but if I don't make her do it while she's a newborn, she'll never learn to crawl.”
Every baby is different. Some will crawl earlier than others...but that is determined by their genetic make-up and personality, not how much tummy time they had as a newborn. If your baby enjoys tummy time and is motivated to crawl, then support your baby by challenging them to go and get their toys, rather then handing them something all the time. If your baby is uncomfortable or dislikes tummy time then spend that time just enjoying and getting to know your baby. Try putting your baby on your chest and watch them raise their heads! Babies develop best when allowed to develop at their own pace.
“My milk never came in… so I had to stop breastfeeding" or "I have implants or have had a breast reduction, so I can't breastfeed.”
Gone are the days where just because you had previous surgery or your milk never came in meant giving up on your dream and desire to breastfeed your baby. Don't give up! These days there are many ways to bring up your milk supply: herbs, medications, and pumping are just a few. Talk to your doctor and/or visit the La Leche League website for guidance. I am also available for breastfeeding support - just contact me for a consultation!
“I want all my friends and family to visit my new baby as soon as we get home from the hospital.”
For at least the first six weeks you have your new baby, visitors and external stimuli such as television, lights and lots of loud talking should be kept to a minimum. Low stimulation is the name of the game when arriving home from the hospital. Don't worry; there will be plenty of time to show your new baby off to all your friends. For now, focus on allowing others to take care of you, so that in return you can care for your baby. Social pressures may tell you that you have to be grocery shopping and at the gym right after you have your baby. However, accommodations must be made; you have to accommodate your baby not the other way around. You need to fit into your baby's world. Your baby cannot accommodate you. Did someone offer to bring you a meal or run an errand for you? Great! Graciously take them up on it and allow yourself to be nurtured so that you have even more energy to nurture your baby.
"If I keep my baby awake during the day she will sleep better at night."
When it comes to babies and sleep...they go hand in hand. Sleep begets sleep with babies. Keeping babies awake causes over-stimulation which then prevents them from calming down to go to sleep. Newborns need 16 to 20 hours of sleep a day (depending upon their age). Remember...the more they sleep....the more they will sleep!
"Newborns LOVE rattles and other toys dangled in front of their faces, right" or "I need to play games with my newborn to stimulate his brain."
Ouch! They DO NOT need that stimulation. Every time they open their eyes it's a wonder world for them! Remember, your baby is just learning how to take in all the stimuli around him. He doesn't need anything dangled in his face to stimulate him. Can you imagine opening your eyes and seeing what equates to being Disneyland on acid? The human face is the only thing newborns need to focus on for at least the first couple of months. In fact, the brain synapses really kick in when your baby looks at you or any face for that matter. Even pictures of faces are appropriate stimulation for your baby.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are real illnesses that new mothers can experience. If you are displaying symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety lasting longer than two weeks, consult your OB. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, dial 911 or go to your closest emergency room. You are not alone, this is not your fault and it is ok to ask for help.
Postpartum Support International
Provides support and can connect you with local resources. Also offers live chat.
Search by zip code for support groups and narrow by postpartum.
LOS ANGELES LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS
Maternal Wellness at Huntington Hospital
Hosts free pregnancy and postpartum support groups.
Outpatient program for moms suffering from PPD and PPA.
The Center for Postpartum Health
Addresses the physical, mental, and emotional needs of pregnant and postpartum women and their families, facilitating the transition from pregnancy to parenthood.
The Mother Nurture Network
Offers counseling and postpartum support groups.
Family Room Center
Free peer to peer postpartum depression support group.
Recovery Now LA
Free postpartum support group.
Well Baby Center
Postpartum counseling services on a sliding scale.