Healthy Ideas for the Care Your New Baby

Love Sleep Play delivers ideas and articles for the care and health of you and your new baby

An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Contractions

Many first-time expectant moms are understandably nervous about the labor and delivery process. A smart way to alleviate any anxiety associated with the birth of your new baby is to learn as much as possible about what to expect, including the difference between true labor signs and false alarms. Pocket this advice and you’ll be ready to take on your labor with confidence.

Beware of false alarms. Many soon-to-be new moms experience false labor pains known as Braxton Hicks contractions.  If you're not sure whether these might be real labor pains, remember that false contractions are irregular in their timing. And if changing your activity or position makes the pain go away, it's probably false labor. On the other hand, true labor contractions take place at regular intervals and occur more frequently as time goes on. They’ll last anywhere from 30 seconds in the beginning to 90 seconds as labor progresses, and walking or any increased activity may cause the contractions to intensify.

Look for other signs. While labor pains are usually a sign that you’re nearing your delivery time, there are other indications that labor is not far away. For starters, the new baby may have dropped, also known as lightening. This simply means your little one has settled into your pelvis. In some instances, a woman's water may break before labor begins, which occurs either as a sudden gush of fluid or a steady trickle. This is the amniotic sac, which is a fluid-filled membrane that protects the baby in the uterus. Once this occurs, there is an increased risk for infection, so if labor has not already started, you may need to be induced.   

Call the doctor You'll want to call your health care provider (and prepare to head to the hospital) if your contractions are growing stronger and occurring at shorter intervals. The same is true if your water has broken. Likewise, severe vaginal bleeding or cramping, as well as pain in your belly, back, or pelvis, are reasons for an expectant mom to call for emergency assistance.

When it comes to childbirth, the more prepared you are, the better, so memorize the signs of labor -- especially if this is your first delivery. Simply understanding the changes that take place in your body when the time finally arrives helps to put you at ease and prepare you for the birth of your new baby.

Lessen Your Labor Pain

Unfortunately, no one, not even someone who's given birth before, can tell you exactly what to expect on the big day. That's because every expectant mom’s labor and delivery experience is different. Fortunately, there are basic things you can do beforehand to strengthen both your body and your resolve, and during labor to help keep you as comfortable as possible while waiting for your new baby’s big entrance. Try these nine strategies.

For Pregnancy

New mom tip #1: Learn about labor. Find out everything you can about labor from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, and hospital tours. Familiarizing yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center will mean fewer surprises.

New mom tip #2: Take childbirth classes. In these classes, you will learn different ways to deal with pain during labor such as walking, changing positions, taking showers or warm baths, and using breathing exercises, hypnosis, relaxation, and massage.

New mom tip #3: Express your fears. Are you worried about labor, needles, or medication? Speak with a knowledgeable childbirth educator or your doctor. Voicing your worries can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns.

New mom tip #4: Keep up with your normal exercise routine. The more you move during pregnancy, the better prepared your body will be for labor, delivery, and recovery. Exercise helps reduce backaches, constipation, swelling, and other unpleasant side effects.

For Labor

New mom tip #5: Create a sense of calm. Make your environment in the hospital or birth center as soothing and familiar as possible. Play some soft music and put some framed pictures of your partner next to your bed. You may also want to bring a pillow from home (if the facility allows it).

New mom tip #6: Get a massage. Having someone rub your back will warm your skin and stimulate the body to release its own natural painkiller.

New mom tip #7: Use a warm compress. Applying warmth is a tried-and-tested way of relaxing aching, tense muscles. Have someone in the hospital room keep a compress handy to warm your back, tummy, or groin.

New mom tip #8: Practice deep breathing. Focusing on your breathing is a very helpful way to get through each contraction. Taking a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and then slowly releasing it will conserve your energy and help ease the pain.

New mom tip #9: Change position. Try not to lie on your back once you’re in active labor unless you’re exhausted. Instead, walk around or stay in an upright position. As labor progresses, lying on your side can provide rest and may help slow a delivery that is happening too quickly.

These tips will certainly prepare you for your baby’s big debut, but if you feel you need more help managing the pain, speak up or have your partner convey your needs. And remember, this pain will be a distant memory once you have your beautiful new baby in your arms.

Pregnancy Tips for Managing Mood Swings

Pregnancy is a big deal, and we’re not just talking about your growing bump. Having a baby is one of life’s most joyous experiences, and also one of the most terrifying. It’s no wonder that many new moms-to-be find themselves riding an emotional roller coaster, feeling on top of the world one moment and low the next. Know that mood swings are a perfectly normal part of pregnancy. Taking good care of yourself and your new baby will help you ride out these ups and downs, but make sure to talk with your partner and best friends so you don’t feel as if you have to cope on your own. Here are some additional strategies for managing your emotions while preparing for a baby:

Pregnancy emotions tip #1: Understand your body. Between the sixth and tenth week of your pregnancy -- and then again in the third trimester -- levels of estrogen and progesterone spike. These pregnancy hormones can affect the levels of neurotransmitters, the hormones that regulate our emotions, and leave new moms-to-be feeling unusually sad or irritable. Make sure your loved ones know there’s a reason for your sudden tears or tantrums so they cut you some slack. Carving out time for rest and relaxation will help you stay in touch with your emotions and ask for TLC when you most need it.

Pregnancy emotions tip #2: Lessen your stress. If you find your mind spinning with worry about how a new baby will affect your body, finances, career, relationship, and everything else under the sun, you’re not alone. Becoming a parent is a momentous rite of passage. Ask yourself, what can I do to reduce my anxiety? It’s important for moms-to-be to make time for stress-reducing activities like yoga, massage, walking, taking a bath, or reading a good book. Managing your stress will not only help smooth out your moods, but will help create a healthy physical and mental environment for your developing new baby.

Pregnancy emotions tip #3: Be nutrition smart. Eating nutritious foods is an important part of caring for your pregnant body as well as your new baby. Good nutrition is also essential for your emotional wellbeing. A drop in blood sugar can foul up your mood under normal circumstances, but it can really throw you for a loop when you’re expecting. By eating regularly throughout the day, and choosing healthy snacks like carrot sticks and hummus or plain yogurt and a fruit, -- you can help prevent hunger-related outbursts and boost your intake of vital nutrients.

Above all, be kind and patient with yourself during this time. When you find yourself acting out big emotions or flip-flopping from happy to sad and back again, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that this is great practice for dealing with an adorable but irritable infant and toddler!

Your Preemie: Preparing for Discharge

Having a baby in the NICU is a challenging time where hopes and fears can change daily. When your baby is born prematurely, the neonatologist will be looking to make sure that heart function, lung function, weight gain and ability to maintain body temperature are all stable before discharging your preemie. The length of time that can take will vary widely, according to how early your baby was born.

You’re still dealing with all the things that parents of babies born at term have to handle, such as choosing a pediatrician and installing a car seat. On top of that, your preemie has special needs. You surely wish you could take him home right away, but your premature baby requires more medical attention that you may have anticipated. Take heart -- there are things that can help parents of preemies along the journey to taking your baby home.

Recovery: A silver lining is we can use the time our baby is in the NICU to recover from the birth: to rest and be well nourished. Travel back and forth can be tough, but it’s critical to realize you will not serve your premature baby well by neglecting yourself. Just as the NICU is extending baby’s gestation phase, a new parent needs to take care of themselves to be ready for when your preemie comes home.

Educate: Take an infant CPR class before your preemie is discharged. If your baby is being discharged with a heart or apnea monitor, you will have to attend training on how to use these monitors before you take your baby home. If you plan to breastfeed, find an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant who can work with you to maintain breastfeeding and weight gain once you're home.

If there are older siblings, explain that things will need to be calm for the baby at first, and establish strict hand washing protocols to prevent illness. Your hospital may also have a transitional stay room, where parents can practice taking care of baby for a day or two before coming home.

Support: Line up your support system, both physically and emotionally. First time mothers -- especially of preemies -- can feel very isolated. There are many online forums and support groups to connect with other moms going through this same experience. With babies, and especially with multiples, an extra pair of hands helps. As our job will be to care for the baby, help with shopping, cooking, and laundry becomes very valuable. Enlist friends and family so that you have more room to focus on the baby.

Time and Transport: Preemies can usually only travel an hour at a time. In urban environments or hospitals far away, anticipate a rest stop on the way home. Once your baby is home, you will not have time to waste on finding papers or scheduling time off. Establish a baby medical file -- log doctor and insurance company phone calls. Extend, space (e.g. use one week to take every Wednesday for five weeks) or delay maternity or paternity leave to map out which parent is with the baby and when, and pull in relatives or childcare where necessary.

Coming home from the NICU can be filled with relief but also trepidation. While it is natural to be nervous about being up to the task of taking care of such a fragile baby, obstetrician Dr. George Mussali puts it beautifully: “The fact is that a preemie parent matures faster as a parent due to the adversity they faced at the beginning.”