You spend your entire pregnancy preparing for baby, and somehow, when you sign those hospital discharge papers, you feel utterly unprepared. You think to yourself, “Are they really going to let us leave with this baby?… Do they know we’ve never done this before?!”
Through all the commotion of the first few weeks at home, Google can be both your best friend and worst enemy. If it causes you unneeded anxiety, stay away – that’s what on-call pediatricians are for. But if you find it to be a helpful resource for basic questions (as long as you’re getting answers from reliable resources), it can be a great asset.
Since many of you will likely be spending a good amount of time on Google postpartum, I figured I’d share a few of the questions I googled in the first few weeks home and save you a little time.
1. When can I give my baby a pacifier?
Our second night home from the hospital, my son would not go back to sleep. My husband and I were exhausted and defeated. My son wasn’t hungry but wouldn’t stop crying. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t give your baby a pacifier until at least six weeks because it could cause nipple confusion. But, at that point, I was ready to try just about anything to make him happy.
I was so worried that I was being a bad mom (ha! I was so fresh), but he loved it and gave us a three hour stretch of sleep, which seemed like an eternity at that point. The pacifier didn’t cause any issues with nipple confusion or breastfeeding, and it made our lives much easier for the first six weeks. What’s even better is that he decided he had no interest in pacifiers after about six months, so we didn’t even have to deal with the rest.
There are a bunch of resources that say you should wait until at least three or four weeks to offer a pacifier, but I would say if you’re struggling and think it could help, talk to your doctor and make the best decision for your family.
2. How do I know if my baby’s belly button is infected?
Let’s call a spade a spade, the umbilical cord nub is just… gross. It’s a bit hard to know if it’s actually infected or if it’s just weird looking.
According to The Mayo Clinic, you should keep the area dry and let the cord fall on its own. You should contact your baby’s doctor if the umbilical area oozes pus, the surrounding skin becomes red and swollen, or the area develops a pink moist bump.
Otherwise, just try not to look at it if it’s creeping you out.
3. How do I help my baby get gas out?
My son was pretty gassy in the early days, as most babies are. He was still learning how to push everything out and hadn’t fully mastered these skills. What worked for us was always making sure he burped (even if it took 20 minutes) and doing leg bicycles and tummy massages to help get the gas bubbles moving. If you’re worried, talk to your doctor about baby’s symptoms, but gas is totally normal.
With all the crying and figuring out how to eat, babies tend to swallow a lot of extra air that they don’t yet know how to get out. Some moms also swear by gas drops or gripe water, but again, you should always talk to your doctor first.
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4. When can I put the baby in their own room?
According to The Mayo Clinic, babies should sleep in the same room as their parents until they’re around six months to 1 year old. I personally found that sleeping in the same room started disrupting sleep for both my son and my husband and me around six weeks or so.
By eight weeks, with our pediatrician’s blessing, we moved Teddy to his own room. His logic was that as long as we had a good monitor right next to us, Teddy would be completely fine in his own room because we would hear everything. (I should also note that we live in a condo, so his room was only about 15 feet away from ours.)
Anyway, having him in our room for six months would’ve taken a huge toll on our mental health and sleep (as if it could get worse at that point, right?), and I don’t think would’ve been good for the baby either. If you’re feeling pressured to keep your baby in your room, talk to your pediatrician and see if there are alternatives that might work for your family.
5. Will my baby be OK if I give him formula?
Yes, yes, yes – a million times, YES.
I had two close friends who combo-fed out of necessity immediately in the hospital and had a much easier time with breastfeeding than I did. They actually ended up breastfeeding for much longer than I did as well.
I breastfed (not even bottle) exclusively for the first two weeks, and it had such a negative effect on me mentally that I only ended up breastfeeding until six weeks.
No matter what you decide, remember that fed is best. Period.
6. What is cluster feeding?
Cluster feeding hit us hard the second night in the hospital. After only two wake-ups between two to three hour stretches the first night, we thought we had the parenting thing down (HA!). We were so wrong.
When your baby is older, cluster feeding often refers to purposely feeding your baby multiple times within a few hours (typically the evening) so that they’ll be full and sleep longer through the night.
But for the first few days, it usually means that your milk hasn’t fully come in and your baby might just “snack” all night long or every 45 minutes or so. Another way to read this is, you will not sleep. Luckily, this kind of cluster feeding is usually short-lived, and once your milk comes in your baby will likely be able to eat enough at each feeding to keep them satisfied for at least a few hours at a time.
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7. Why am I sweating so much?
I was so, SO unprepared for the night sweats. I thought that night sweats meant slight perspiration, like when you’re on vacation in an old house and the AC isn’t great. Uh, no. Postpartum night sweats are a whole different story.
In the early weeks, I would wake up and feel like I just jumped in a pool. I was soaking wet from head to toe. I was unaware that my knees could sweat, but apparently, that’s a thing.
According to Medical News Today, “Postpartum night sweats happen because of low levels of estrogen. The levels of hormones, including estrogen, change as the woman’s body adjusts to not being pregnant anymore.”
For me, they lasted for about a month after giving birth, and they were gross, but they went away.
8. When can you put lotion on a newborn?
Newborns tend to have flaky, dry skin. Adjusting to a different environment (and not being submerged in water 24/7) is a new experience for them.
Naturally, we want to do everything we can to make sure our babies are comfortable, but lotion isn’t always the best option for them. Their skin is incredibly sensitive at this point and can be easily irritated.
9. What temperature should my baby’s room be at night?
The optimal temperature for infant sleep is between 65-70 degrees. It’s important that babies’ sleep environments don’t get too hot or too cold since they don’t yet have the ability to regulate their temperatures. There are many baby monitors that now monitor the temperature in baby’s room to make sure it’s safe.
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10. When will my baby smile?
With all the work you do in those early weeks, it feels like the least your baby could do is give you a smile, or even a wink, to let you know you’re doing a good job. It seems like a long time when you’re in the thick of it, but once the smiles start coming, they don’t stop. You should expect a smile sometime between 6-12 weeks and it will make all the work you’ve done for the past year feel worth it!