At Home with Baby
What a newborn baby can do
There is one important skill that babies don’t have to learn – they are born knowing how to suck. During the first few days they learn to coordinate their sucking and their breathing. Newborn babies also automatically turn towards a nipple or teat if it is brushed against one cheek, and they will open their mouths if their upper lip is stroked.
They can also grasp things (like your finger) with either hands or feet, and they will make stepping movements if they are held upright on a flat surface. All of these, except sucking will be lost within a few months, when your baby will begin to make controlled movements instead.
Newborn babies can use all their senses. They will look at people and things, especially if they are near, and particularly at people’s faces. They will enjoy gentle touch and the sound of a soothing voice, and they will react to bright light and noise. Very soon they will also know their mother’s special smell.
It can be difficult to encourage a pattern of sleep in the first few weeks. Newborn babies tend to sleep for two to three hours and then wake for a feed.
Newborns like to sleep during the day and are often wide-awake at night. This is normal and the baby will eventually sleep more at night. You must be patient and learn to sleep when your baby sleeps.
Background talking, music or children playing generally do not cause any problems for the baby sleeping, but a sudden loud noise will. As each week progresses the baby will stay awake for longer periods and will settle into a routine of sleeping. By three months your baby will usually wake up for a time before they are due a feed and quite a few will sleep for most of the night.
Tips to help settle baby at night:
- Bath and feed your baby, change their nappy if needed and dress them in a comfortable babygro.
- Do not talk out loud while settling your baby as this can encourage the baby to stay awake.
- Dim the light, as a bright light will keep the baby alert.
- Make sure the room is not too hot and free from draughts.
- Do not pick the baby up again once they are settled because this will confuse them.
It is recommended that your baby stays in the same room as you for the first six months, but they should sleep in their own cot.
Preventing cot death or sudden infant death (SIDS)
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or cot death is the tragic sudden and unexpected death of a seemingly healthy baby. No cause for death can be found even after a post mortem. Cot death can occur in a cot, pram, bed, car seat or anywhere a baby is resting. The best position for your baby to sleep in is on its back, with the back of their head lying on the mattress.
How to reduce the risk of cot death
- Always put your baby on their back to sleep in a face up, face clear (nothing blocking their face) position.
- Place your baby’s feet at the foot of the cot.
- Do not smoke in the same room as your baby.
- Do not share a bed with your baby.
- Keep your baby’s head and shoulders above the blankets.
- Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold. To check how warm your baby is, feel their tummy, which should feel warm, but not hot.
- Dress your baby for bed in a nappy, vest and babygro. In hot weather, your baby needs fewer clothes.
- Use light layers of blankets in an ideal room temperature of 16° – 20°C.
- Duvets are not recommended for babies under one year of age.
- Do not put a pillow in your baby’s cot.
- Take off the dribbling bib before you put your baby down to sleep.
- Do not have a ‘soother’ (also called a ‘pacifier’ or ‘dummy’) attached to the babygro by a ribbon.
Immunising your baby
Immunisation is a safe and very effective way to protect your baby against certain diseases. These diseases can cause serious illness or even death. Immunisation works by causing the baby’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight these diseases.
BCG is a vaccine that protects against tuberculosis (TB). The vaccine contains a weakened form of the bacteria that causes TB; this stimulates the baby’s immune system to protect against the infection. The vaccine is given to the baby in the first few weeks of life and is available through your local health centre. The vaccination is free of charge.
Your baby should have the next immunisations when they are eight weeks old. It is very important that your baby receives the different vaccinations when they are due. Your GP or public health nurse will give you information on the schedule of vaccinations. For further information on the childhood immunisation programme, visit the website: www.immunisation.ie