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As the first year of your baby’s life goes on, you will see how they change from not knowing anything about what is going on, to joining in with you. Part of this is the development of your baby’s ability to understand that things happen in a certain pattern and that one thing follows another, such as you getting the pushchair out and the two of you going out.
Small babies don’t have any knowledge of the world, so everything comes as a surprise, but as this ability to predict things develops, so you can enjoy with your baby the anticipation of doing things, as well as the event. You can talk to them about what you are doing and what you are planning to do. They may not completely understand all of it, but as they get older, they will understand more and more.
Eventually, your baby will be able to “ask” to do certain things – they may hold out a toy to you to show that they want you to play with them or bang a spoon because they are hungry, then you really know that they are beginning to understand the world around them.
You might not think it, but when you have a new baby it’s a good time to enjoy yourself. OK, you’re thinking but what about the tiredness, hormones and stress? Well, they are there, but with any luck, they won’t be the only thing in your life.
Just sitting in a chair, holding a sleeping baby is about the most relaxing and satisfying thing in the world to do. You can watch the gentle rise and fall of their breathing and feel the softness of their hair and skin.
If you’ve been lucky enough to receive new baby gifts, then you can dress your baby in their new clothes and sort out the soft toys to show them. Small babies enjoy being cuddled and stroked and you could gently stroke your baby with a soft toy so they can experience the feeling of it. You may have been given photo frames, so could take photographs of your new baby to display.
Babies grow faster than you will imagine, and there’s a lot of sense in enjoying this first stage, because it won’t last long. Your memories of a very small baby will be overtaken by the reality of a baby who is developing and doing more and more, so just sit and enjoy the newness while you can.
With any luck you will have been given some gifts for your new arrival, perhaps some lovely organic sleepsuits and other clothes, soft towels and bath things and soft toys. In all the excitement and rush of the birth, coming home and the visitors, you will probably find that after a few weeks you still have your lovely gifts put down just anywhere, and once you are getting your new baby into a routine, you will want to get everything sorted out.
The first thing to remember is that you can’t fit more than 24 hours into the day, so don’t try to be superhuman, you will only end up even more tired. You will be spending most of your time simply looking after your new baby – it’s almost impossible before the baby arrives to believe how much time they take up.
So try to set aside some short periods of time to get your baby gifts sorted out. The things that you had already bought before the birth you probably have organised, so now it’s a case of fitting in the new gifts that were given. Don’t try to get the whole lot done at once – if it’s been sitting on the top of the chest of drawers for a couple of weeks another day or so won’t hurt it – just do 10 minutes at a time and note for yourself which bit you plan to tackle tomorrow, it’s surprising how much you can get done this way.
It is difficult to know how to deal with this, whether it’s your first or a later baby. When you look at all the advice offered, it seems to differ from one expert to another, and you will probably find that all your friends and family have different ideas about it too.
As a new mum of a first baby, it can feel quite frightening to have a baby crying and not to know whether to follow the advice to go to your baby, or to leave them. Even with a second baby it can be worrying, as all babies are different. Like most things to do with your new baby, you will become the person who knows most about them. Of course it’s difficult at first to know what the crying means, and this is where your midwife or health visitor can help as they are an expert who will actually get to know your baby too, so can use their expertise and personal knowledge of your baby to advise you.
And sometimes of course, you simply can’t break off what you are doing to go to the baby; this may be especially true when you are looking after a toddler as well. One tip some people have found useful is to talk to your baby – just chatting to them about what you are doing, not only when they are crying but anytime; this keeps them in touch with you and gives them confidence that you are there, even when you are not holding them.
Part of the joy of a new baby in the family is the developing relationship between the new baby and your toddler. Of course, there is a lot of information and advice about sibling rivalry and how to avoid or minimise jealousy, but there is always a bond between brothers and sisters, even when they sometimes seem to hate each other.
Just as you will be creating your bond with your new baby in the first weeks, so you can help your toddler to do the same. Like you, they need to get to know their new brother or sister and there are things you can do to encourage this. When you are bathing your new baby, your toddler can ‘help’ and while they are doing this, encourage them to talk to the baby about what they have been doing today.
Suggest to your toddler a song that can be their special bathtime song for the new baby, so that an individual bond is created between the two small children - as the baby grows and develops, they can come to singing together.
A specific toy that your toddler shares with the new baby will also give them a way of communicating and creating a shared relationship, which all parents hope will then be a lifelong support to them both.
It sometimes seems that, just as you have found a good routine for taking your toddler out and about, your new baby arrives and you have to think all over again about how to manage.
At first it seems that it is almost impossible to take the two small children out and you feel like admitting defeat and becoming a homebody for a while. But don’t just give up, there are lots of places you can go to with both of them.
Many swimming pools have special mother, baby and toddler sessions, so contacting your local pool is a good idea to find out what is there. This is an activity that you can enjoy with both your baby and toddler and can help both of them with muscle development and coordination, as well as giving them social contact.
It is very important to remember the safety precautions needed when you are in or near the water with small children. Never take them swimming unless you are sure you can keep them safe. Make sure that you have checked what you need to know before going – there are web sites that give you information, or you could talk to the staff at your local pool. If you have another adult to come with you it is easier to look after both the small children and to keep them safe.
Even when your baby is very young, it is important to talk to them and introduce them to you and your life. When you are dressing a small baby you can talk about the baby gifts people have given. You can talk about how you are putting on the giraffe sleepsuit that Auntie May gave them. Or you can tell them how grandma gave them the rattle you are shaking and show them their photograph in the special photo frame that another relative or friend gave.
You will certainly have visitors from your family and friends and on these occasions you can tell your baby that here is Grandma or Auntie May and start to link the things you have been saying with the wider family.
A small baby won’t understand the words you are saying, but over time as you repeat the same ideas and names, these will become familiar to a baby and as they grow they will come to recognise the names and eventually be able to associate the name to the correct person. Everything you are doing with your new baby is introducing them to the world they live in and all the things you say and toys you use to play with your baby are teaching them about the world.
Having a basket or bag all ready with the things you will need immediately when your new baby is born will make life easier for you once you are home with the new arrival. Before the baby is due, see if you can get a wicker basket or a bag and put in it nappies and nappy bag, baby wipes, clothes and perhaps a soft towel to wrap the baby in. Then you will have these things to hand when you are home on your own and finding it all rather new. Having this already organised will make it easier for you to manage.
Some other preparations you can make are to have the cot or crib already made up and in a safe place in your bedroom and the baby’s bath ready for use. With all your preparations, make sure that you think of safety for your baby. It is a good idea to have everything ready a few weeks in advance as you may know the due date, but your baby may have other ideas. You will find that life is easier to manage if you have all the organising done before the baby is born, rather than once you arrive home with the new baby. You will probably receive many of the things you need through baby gifts from friends and family.
There is some indication that babies may react to music even before they are born, but you can certainly start introducing them to music once they have arrived. You don’t need to start them off with a full symphony orchestra and loud rock bands are certainly not a good idea, but there are varied ways you can introduce music from very early on.
A very popular new baby gift is a rattle. You will probably have one or two of these and you can use them to create new and different noises for your baby. You can make sounds that repeat the rattle’s rhythm so that your baby hears you using your voice in a new way. Even if you don’t usually think you have a good singing voice, there is no need to be bothered about it as this is just between you and your baby.
While you are bathing or changing your baby, you can sing nursery rhymes or other songs and move your baby in time to the music. As you hold your baby and listen to music you can sway your body and step in time to the music. Babies will learn about music and movement from your singing and actions.
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When you get home with your newborn baby, you will very likely find that in the first couple of weeks they will lose some weight, whether they are breast or bottle fed. This is quite normal and your midwife or health visitor will be able to explain to you how much weight loss is usual and be able to reassure you about your baby.
You will probably have received some new baby gifts of clothes for your baby and if you are lucky will find that you have a selection of soft body suits, bootees and sleepwear. If your baby is small at birth, you will probably find that everything is too big, but once your baby puts back on the lost weight and then starts growing, you will find that the clothes soon fit and then are soon grown out of.
Wise and experienced friends and relatives will have given you some next size up clothes to allow for this and this gives you the pleasure of opening and using the new baby gifts as time goes on, so reminding yourself of the affection and support you have around you.
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