It’s easy to feel nervous about caring for such a small and helpless baby that is totally dependent on you. Feeling confident in your own ability is a feeling that your baby picks up on, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
After The Birth
The moment of elation after your baby is born makes the hard work of labour all worthwhile!
Newborn’s are usually covered in a white pasty substance called vernix which has protected their skin inutero. Vernix has excellent moisturising properties, so don’t wipe it off your baby, rub it in to her skin. And if your not squeamish, rub a little around your eyes to battle wrinkles!
Immediately following the birth, there are several procedures your doctor or midwife may wish to administer to your newborn;
Suction and Clamping
Your babies nose and mouth and routinely suctioned to clear it’s airways for breathing. This is quite unpleasant I would imagine and not always necessary. Once the head is delivered, if the baby is allowed to rotate naturally and wait for the next contraction for the body to follow, a natural draining process will occur. If baby still sounds gurgly after it has begun to breathe, a gentle suctioning may be helpful.
Typically the baby is weighed and measured and checked over for any abnormalities. Provided there were no serious complications with the delivery, these can all be done once the baby has breastfed at leisure.
As for clamping the umbilical cord, unless there is danger to the baby of strangulation or impeded delivery, the umbilical cord should never be clamped or cut until it has stopped pulsating and your baby is breathing air. While the cord is pulsating it is still providing oxygen to your baby’s brain and pre-mature severing can cause brain damage, heart problems to name a few. Here are two good links for more detailed medical reasons to delay clamping the cord.
Risks of Pre-Mature Cord Clamping
Five Good reasons to Delay Cord Clamping
You may also have discussed whether or not your newborn is to receive a Vitamin K injection or oral drops. Since babies are born with less Vitamin K than adults in their system, an dose is given to assist in the clotting of babies blood to prevent the rare instance of brain haemorrhaging. New research has been coming to light regarding Vitamin K and I would recommend visiting this Vitamin K Studies link so you can make an informed choice. My first child was injected with vitamin K as I was unaware of the controversy regarding it. My second child was then administered the very bitter drops, as at the time I was told the drops posed less risk of childhood cancer than the injection. Upon further investigation, none of my subsequent children had any form of vitamin K other than that provided in my breast milk.
Here’s more information and research on Vitamin K
Eye drops are routinely administered to newborns, and again they are not without controversy. Traditionally Silver Nitrate was put in the newborns eyes after the birth to kill bacteria that may have been picked in the birth canal (like gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc.). There were many cases of eye irritation stemming from this and so now erythromycin antibiotic ointment is used. However, there is still concern over the effects of this ointment on the newborns health and speculation over whether or not it should be given routinely. Visit this link for alternative information on Newborn eye Ointment and make your own decision.
If your newborn has a slight goopy discharge from their eyes or you often find crusties in them, expressing a little breastmilk into the affected or both eyes will clear up any minor problems. Breastmilk contains many beneficial properties and has a success record of being used in this way.
Follow this link to more information on Newborn Eye Ointment
The Leboyer Method
Frederick Leboyer created a new awareness in the managed childbirth system with the publication of his book “Birth without violence”. This book gives the view of birth from the newborn’s perspective and ideas as to how to make it less traumatic. Thank goodness that it is no longer routine to dangle a newborn by it’s ankles and slap it’s buttocks to welcome it to the world, but there are still many harshness’ of our environment that we are maybe so used to that we have to re-think how this is impacting our child’s first minutes and hours in the world.
Light: The foetus has spent nine and a half months with only a dim rosy glow for light. The light of a delivery room or even ordinary overhead lighting would be blinding. Once the baby is born, it is naturally easier for them to explore their new environment in dim, subtle lighting. Unfortunately, this will prevent the success of photo opportunities unless you have a professional camera, but I feel it’s a small sacrifice.
Sound: All sound your baby has heard has been muffled by the amniotic fluid and your body. Upon delivery, sound will then seem amplified to your baby’s ears. Hushed voices will be more welcoming.
Touch: It has been a very warm, aquatic environment you newborn is used to, then within seconds, the cool air is brushing it’s skin and then a scratchy towel or blanket is rubbing it into shock! Make sure the room is as warm as possible and baby lands on your warm skin after the birth. All towels and clothes that your baby feels should be as soft as possible, although not drenched in skin irritating fabric softener! Brushed flannel cotton is the softest fabric I have found for newborn clothes and blankets. Remember though, all your baby wants to feel is your warm skin.
Click here to visit our Bookshop and Buy Birth Without Violence
The Baby Moon
The few weeks following the birth is traditionally known as the “Baby Moon”. It is the time when you and your new baby are getting to know each other and adjusting to your new life together.
Some new mum’s seem eager to get things back to “normal” and are down the supermarket, babe in tow within a few days. Indeed, with my first baby, through mis-managed circumstances, my husband and I were house-hunting 8 days post partum! I gasp to think of it now!
In some cultures it is customary to seclude mother and baby for up to a month or more, and this, I think, is more like it!
If you can secure help from friends and family for the postpartum fortnight, do so! Take full advantage of people offering to help with meals, laundry etc. your life will develop it’s new rhythm soon enough and you’ll be back on top of things, but now is definitely the time to let some stuff slide!
Make a list of things you need done and let someone else do them.
My advice to new mums is to stay in your bedclothes for at least 2 weeks. People are less likely to ask you to do anything if you’re “not dressed”! Keep visitors to a minimum. Again, this is easier done if you’re in bed and resting. Enjoy the adjustment period of establishing breastfeeding without the hassle of clothing and nursing bras. Sleep when your baby sleeps, and just hang out together when you’re both awake. Nothing will facilitate bonding faster than this sacred time together.
When it’s time to show baby to your community, don’t feel shy asking people to wash their hands before touching or holding your baby. A newborn’s defences are low initially and transference of bacteria into your baby’s mouth is easy with a harmless hand stroke from Granny.
Baby’s umbilicus will dry up and fall off with 7-14 days after the birth.
To care for it your just need to keep it dry and clean.
At nappy changes, it is advised to wipe around the base with a clean cotton swab dipped in alcohol. This has commonly been used with satisfactory results, but may be a bit harsh. I have also known of parents using calendula tincture or witch hazel.
If you notice a persistent redness/soreness and greenish discharge, then you need to be more scrupulous in cleaning the cord. Be gentle though, and do not pull or force the cord to drop off!
If you suspect an infection, talk to your midwife or health visitor who can suggest a method of treatment. The use of antibiotics should be entirely avoidable if you catch the problem soon enough.
Traditional umbilical facts:
Native Americans would keep a piece of the dried umbilical cord in a pouch around baby’s neck into childhood. If the child fell sick, he would chew on the cord to promote healing.
It has also been ground into a powder by many cultures and drunk to cure ills.
In our family, we take the length of cord and sever it from the placenta, squeeze all the remaining blood from it and lay it to dry out; in the shape of a spiral for the girls and a wavy “snake” for the boys. We have them pinned in a display case, a most interesting conversation piece (! ), but most of all a special symbol of my connection to my children.
For one of the best articles ever written on this topic covering religious, cultural, medical and social issues, click here: Mothering Circumcision Article
It is hard to deny that the bizarre and outstandingly cruel practise of severing a newborn male’s foreskin is a blatant disregard to child torture.
Whether parents cite religious or philosophical reasons for this sickening act, it needs to be outlawed as an indefensible crime against helpless newborns.
If someone is seriously considering putting their child through a circumcision, I would advise that they obtain a video of the procedure to make themselves fully aware of what is involved. There is a wealth of information and research proving the harm and permanent damage both physically and emotionally that this “surgery” causes.
If you have religious, and or social issues regarding circumcision, this article is a must read to provide yourself with important information.
For One of the most renowned articles on this topic click here Mothering Circumcision Research Articles
For the UK organization against Circumcision contact NORMUK