Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Getting organised for the new arrival

At long last the baby has arrived and the parents would be taking him or her home. Usually in uncomplicated deliveries, even after Caesarian operations, the baby is sent home in a couple of days. It is generally a hectic time and if steps had not been taken already to get things organised at home, it would be quite difficult for the new parents. Getting things into shape should have started well before the birth of the baby but even if he or she has arrived rather earlier and quite unexpectedly, getting organised even at that stage is important to make life easier for both parents. This is perhaps easier said than done, especially for a young couple but it is a process that would pay dividends. All that is required is a little common sense.

An important thing to do is to arrange everything in the bedroom so that the baby things are easily accessible and you know where each thing is. As an example, it should not be necessary to look high and low for nappy pins once a nappy has been put on the baby. What is advocated today is to keep the baby in the same bed as the parents and this means an extra cot is not necessary. It would also provide a little more space in the room which would otherwise have been taken up by a cot. There is no danger of the mother rolling over the baby in sleep as the natural maternal instincts would wake her up at the slightest touch from the baby or the tiniest noise from the baby. The clothes and nappies of the baby should be easily accessible and available at all times. It is not necessary to buy a new almirah or a cupboard for the baby. A couple of shelves of a cupboard already in the bedroom would do nicely. A small separate wooden or cane rack with shelves too would be more than adequate for this purpose. The secret is to still have sufficient room in your own bedroom to move about even after getting the baby’s things organised. Sweeping and cleaning the bedroom should be done everyday. Some people elect to wet-mop the floor. These tasks should not take too much time and could be quickly attended to when the baby is resting quietly after a feed. Other people in the household and perhaps even the father could help in this regard. Battery torch lights and emergency lights for power failures should be kept in places that are easily accessible even in the dark. It is no joke to start looking for these things when electricity and lights fail. Such episodes are so very frequent in certain areas of the country. Incidentally, there is nothing against the use of electric fans in the bedroom where the baby is. During very warm days, it will only make the baby a little bit more comfortable. It will not be the cause of any illness. The same applies to air conditioners provided they are maintained well and serviced regularly. If there is a telephone in the house, it would be worthwhile getting a cordless extension so that the mother does not have to run round in circles to answer the phone while attending to the needs of the baby.

Feeding the baby should not cause any problems. The need of the hour is to exclusively breast feed for the first 4 to 6 months. Feed the baby on demand and not by the clock. This would obviate the need for bottles, teats, cups, spoons, formula milk powder, sterilising equipment etc. There is no extra cost involved as well. Government legislation has provided the mother with sufficient maternity leave to feed her baby for at least the first four months. If there are ways of getting a little bit more leave to stretch it to six months, this should be explored to the full as the benefits of exclusive breast feeding are worth a lot more than money could buy. There are added benefits of breast feeding such as control of the mother’s weight and figure as she burns up a significant amount of calories in producing her milk.

When it is time to give the baby a bath, arrange everything you need around the place where you are going to bathe the baby. Towels, soap etc should be at arms length. If there is help available at home in the form of members of the extended family or domestic aids, this is the time you could really make use of them. When the mother gets used to the procedure, bathing a baby is no big deal. In most instances it is a thing that both mother and baby would enjoy. Get the baby used to bathing as early as possible. This will prevent him or her making an almighty fuss at bath time later on. Almost all babies love to be in water provided they are introduced to bathing very early on in their lives.

It is essential that the mother arranges her mealtimes and resting periods to coincide with the times when the baby is quiet or is sleeping. Mother’s meals just need to be nutritious and everyday foods are more than adequate. It is not necessary to go out of the way to provide her with expensive supplementary foods or additional forms of nutrition. There is no scientific evidence to say that certain foods are not good for nursing mothers. The notions of "heaty" foods and "cooling" foods have no scientific rationale. Most authorities believe that a nursing mother could and should eat anything and everything. The only thing necessary is to provide a nicely balanced adequate diet. It is essential for the mother to get adequate sleep, especially during the day. This is particularly important because she may have to get up several times during the night to feed and change the baby. Steps must be taken to provide her with these essential periods of resting. Organising a routine to help her with this aspect would be most desirable.

It is also advantageous for the father to get his work schedules and duties rearranged in such a manner so as to provide sufficient time at home to help in caring for the baby. This of course depends on the exact type of work that he is involved in. In each and every case, a genuine effort could be made to have quality time with the mother and the baby. This is particularly useful for the first few months of the baby’s life. As far as possible, the father should be equally involved with the rearing practices of the baby. Looking after a baby should be a shared responsibility. This process also enhances the baby developing a sort of bondage with both parents.

The arrival of a new baby should not lead to a complete social embargo for the family. One could travel outside home with the baby, especially if the times of travel are carefully planned to suit the requirements of the baby such as feeding times. Even then, as the baby is breast fed, he or she could be fed almost anywhere. Some babies are however prone to throwing up while travelling immediately after a feed. It is generally better to avoid intensely over-crowded social gatherings but social visiting, attending weddings and parties are quite in order even when the baby is just a few weeks old. If the parents own a car, it is a good idea to get a commercially available baby car seat that is fitted to the rear seat of the car. The sooner you get the baby used to travelling in this baby seat, the better it is for all around. It is the safest way to take the baby in the car. In some of the Western countries, newborn babies are not discharged from the hospital till a car seat is fitted to the car. Unfortunately, baby car seats are not that popular in this country but it must be pointed out that they contribute a great deal towards the safety of a baby in a traffic accident.

Many parents spend unnecessary amounts of money on a baby. All kinds of expensive items such as perfumes, colognes, powders etc., are not quite essential for a baby. The natural milky smell of a baby is quite unique. The clothes that one buys for a baby should be simple, uncomplicated and preferably of cotton origin. It is best to remember that babies grow up very fast, especially in the first two years of life and tend to outgrow clothes in next to no time. Even the toys for the baby should be appropriately selected and should be eminently affordable. There is no reason whatsoever that the expenses for a little new born baby should be more than what one would normally need to spend on an adult.

A newborn baby should be such a joy for the entire family including the extended family. Grandparents would usually dote on the baby. If there are other children, it is important to provide the necessary attention to them as well so that they would not feel neglected. It would prevent sibling rivalry and the other kids would go on to love the new arrival. All new born babies are quite a delight and never a burden and it is definitely their right to be treated as such.

The writer would appreciate some feed-back from the readers. Please email him at or write to him at the following address: Dr. P. J. C. Perera, Consultant Paediatrician, Asiri Medical Hospital, 181, Kirula Road, Colombo 5.


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