nurturing the best possible start

When a new baby arrives home - Part 01

Thu, 11/29/2012 - 17:10 -- Dr. Lionel Traverse

On the 3rd day after the birth of her baby and sometimes sooner, the mother and the baby are discharged from the hospital. The mother is sore and the breast milk is not yet well, if at all, established.

For financial reasons, hospitals push for early discharges.  So new parents are often sent home before they are physically and emotionally ready.

There are several issues that need to be ready at home. And parents typically have many questions looking for answers.  Where is the baby going to sleep? How long should the baby sleep? How often and how much is the baby supposed to eat? Is it fine to give a bottle? How important is it to give only breast milk? Are babies’ formulas safe? Which formula is better?  How important is it to give or not give a soother? How often should the baby be bathed? What kind of soap should be used to wash the baby, and his clothing? Which are preferable, cloth or commercial diapers? How often should the baby be changed? What should be done when the baby cries? Is there anything special the parents should watch for in the first few days? What should prompt the parents to seek medical attention for their newborn infant? Can the baby be taken outside? Is it safe to have a “baby shower” party? What about pets in the home? What about the belly button? Skin care? Bowel movements? Ears? Genitalia? Nails? Eyes?

New parents arrive home often without a single answer to all these questions, and they are understandably overwhelmed.

There is no absolute answer to any of these questions. The dogmatic responses have changed again and again over the generations, from the “do not feed the baby for 3 days” that was in vogue 60 or 70 years ago, to the “put the baby on the breast immediately after birth”, from the “breast feeding is going to destroy your breasts” also in vogue 70 years ago, to the “breast feeding is an absolute must and you are not a good mother if you give formula”, from “nothing else than breast milk for 8 months” to “solids can be introduced at 2 months”. Even today the specialists do not always agree with regard to these and other questions about circumcisions, soothers, bottles, management of crying infants, constipation, skin rashes and millions of other questions. The only thing all the recommendations have in common is their dogmatism: they give their advice as if it must be followed to the letter.

I believe the only thing that is truly important is to follow your heart. Do what you think is right for the baby and choose a professional whom you trust; a midwife, a family doctor, a paediatrician who will give you advice when you need it.

In the upcoming weeks I will give you my opinion on some of these questions.



Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on

I work as a public health nurse, and at least in Vancouver - we contact moms within 24 hours after discharge ( at the hospital families receive info prior to leaving as well). We support families with the questions you listed above- during home visits, on the phone; and then later on in clinics and parent-infant groups. If family decides to get information prenatally, there are prenatal classes and free books: baby's best chance and toddler's first steps that are frequently updated. We work with families in a supportive role sharing info and respecting ct's choices. Our services don't end at postpartum visits- we are there as these babies grow and parents have new questions. Please, don't forget to use our services :)

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