Week 1: Skin to Skin
I was not entirely sure of all the benefits of skin to skin contact but at our birthing class we were told that our hospital, Melomed Tokai, prioritises skin to skin so much that newborn babies stay with moms nearly the entire time after birth. Scout spent most of the first 24 hours of her life on my chest. When the nurses were busy with me, dad would remove his T-shirt and bond with her in this way.
I would recommend reading up on all the benefits but I found that the prolonged skin to skin contact did the following for baby and I:
- I felt an instant bond and connection to her and so did dad.
- Breastfeeding, although challenging, was a focal point and she latched within the first day.
- My colostrum and then milk supply was instant, even though I had had a caesarean section birth.
- I slept peacefully the first night, knowing that she was safe in my arms.
- I Felt that she cried only when she needed to feed.
There are a number of health benefits as well that one could research but these were the tangible benefits I felt during my experience and would encourage new moms to spend as much time bonding with baby in this way; our bodies are not only pumped with hormones that make us recognisable through smell to our babies but the rhythm of our heartbeats and our body temperatures are geared to care for baby once they enter the world, which is very foreign In comparison to baby’s in-utero environment.
Weeks 1-2: Massage
I massage Scout every night after her bath; as soon as we got home from the hospital I made massage a part of her bath-time routine. I’d witnessed my best friend massage her baby when he was little and my mom and aunts always encourage rubbing and stretching the limbs of a new baby. I found that the muscle tone in Scout’s legs to be quite weak, particularly because there were some concerns about her hip sockets and joints at birth. We had ultra-sounds and x-rays performed and they were shown to be fine; I decided to use massage as a tool to help her straighten and lengthen her legs and have seen a significant improvement.
I use the Johnson’s ‘How to Massage your baby’ Guide that we got at a baby expo and use Olive oil as my rubbing agent.
I find that the nightly massages provides the following for us:
- Scout’s limbs have straightened and her movement and grip is strong.
- The massage allows for that initial brief tummy time, which we will lengthen and incorporate into playtime as time progresses (tummy time improves neck and back strength).
- Her skin is soft and moisturised.
- Scout is calm and relaxed after her bath; this facilitates her night-time feeding and reading time, which amounts to a full hour of quiet and bonding time for mommy and baby.
We start her night-time routine around 7:30pm. Dad baths her as this allows for them to spend time together. We keep the environment warm so that she begins to feel cosy. After her bath I take her to the feeding chair in a room that is quiet and secluded where I read to her and feed her. Dad then proceeds to burp her and she’s asleep by 9pm. She wakes up between 10 and 11pm for a feed and then she sleeps for a few hours, waking once during the night to feed.
*see Week 2: ‘Establishing a Routine’ for more on her sleeping routine.
Week 2: Establishing a Routine
I showed up at the doctor’s office for our 1 week follow up appointment and complained that Scout was sleeping all day and keeping me up to feed through the night. She suggested that I wake Scout during the day for feeds and make sure that she is full at bed-time to help her sleep. It is the best advice I’d received! I am not strict about the clock but I try to wake her every 2-3 hours to feed. I wake her by changing her nappy; the coldness of the wet wipe is enough to get her attention. She feeds for around 20 minutes with these daytime feeds and I allow her to have a long sleep in the evening before we start our bedtime routine.
Once Scout has been bathed, her and I spend time away from distractions where I feed her and read to her. I make sure that I turn off my phone’s data and only use it to time the feed. She feeds for anywhere between 40 minutes and an hour. The reading and feed is done after a massage so she is really relaxed at this time so the environment, I find, allows for her to feed until she is fully satisfied and sleepy. After being burped by dad, Scout sleeps for up to two hours before she has a short feed (at around 11pm). She sleeps well after the late feed, waking once for 1-2 hours for a feed after and then she sleeps till around 7am.
I find that this routine:
- Keeps my baby fed and happy.
- Allows for little crying due to hunger.
- Allows me to get 5-6 hours of sleep at night.
- Allows for me to nap with her at some point during the day.
- Allows for some mom-time during her earlier naps (I use this to shower/ drink tea/ read a chapter in a book/ watch TV/ chat to friends etc.).
- Sometimes allows me to make a meal for supper.
Week 2+: Reading
I’ve always dreamt of reading to my child. As a teacher, I believe that it is never too soon to start developing language and reading skills; even if children present learning barriers during their development, reading can be used as a stimulant or calming tool that can aid development. I started reading to Scout long before she was born. While I was pregnant I noticed that she would become active when I would read before bed. She’d gently cause my belly to pulse and move while I indulged in my favourite pastime; I think that my calm and enjoyment was communicated to her and she responded with love and gratitude each time!
Now that she is out in the world, I find that she continues to enjoy this pastime with me. I read a story out load to her at the start of her bedtime feed and proceed to pray or speak calmly to her about lessons learnt in the story. I find that she feeds best at this time and her eyes, from two weeks of age, have begun drifting up to the sound of my voice. I know that she is engaged and that she feels the same calm that my reading introduced while she was in my belly.
I find that reading benefits us by:
- Allowing mommy and baby to be calm
- Opening up communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
- Exposes baby to words and language (babies learn language by hearing people speak).
- Allows me to start thinking about my parenting and the lessons I’d like her to learn.
- Allows me to speak about and establish the faith that I would like to introduce her to as she grows in understanding.
- Allows for constructive bonding in a stimulating environment.
- Enables calm feeding that allows for restful sleep.
Week 3: Building Strength + Stimulating Eye Movement
As we approached three weeks of age I noticed that Scout has stopped going down for a nap immediately after each feed. She’d be calm, awake and alert after her afternoon feeds and I realised that this was the perfect opportunity to engage her. One of my development applications said they her eyes should start following me when I move my head from side to side. I began singing two of the songs that I use to pacify her as a tune to which I moved my head and found that, initially, her eyes would follow me. At the very end of this week her head began following me, too, which the paediatrician was quite impressed with at our visit. I follow 2-3 rounds of each song with five minutes of tummy-time. Yes, she moans but her head no longer flops forward and she is building good back and neck strength. (Note, moms, that even though you may be tempted to push down on the mattress to allow for breathing it is important that they struggle and lift their heads to allow themselves to breathe for strengthening to happen).
I will add a minute to tummy time on a weekly/ bi-weekly basis depending on how she responds to it.
I found that this early form of ‘play’ benefitted us by:
- Allowing Scout to be stimulated when she was awake, fed and changed.
- Made the time together constructive and developmentally meaningful.
- Helped her build neck and back strength.
- Stimulated her eye and side-to-side neck movement while engaging her recognition of sound.
- Allowing mom to feel less idle and stressed when baby is fed but still awake.
- Taught mom that baby will ask to play and that a positive response to the question aids development.
From now on these posts will be posted (hopefully) on a weekly basis, making them shorter reads. Please note that these posts are based on my experience as a mom and on articles I have read. I hope to get the educational support to add credibility to these posts at a later stage.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this post and, as always, thank you for taking the time to read.
Until my next post,