The missing manual

Prepare for your baby's feeding and sleeping habits.

If you are first time parents you might have be thinking so much about preparing for your baby and the birth itself that you might not have give much thought to what it will be like to actually have a baby.

Every baby is different and will develop their unique patterns of behaviour. It’s worth preparing yourself beforehand and making some decisions about your baby. Be prepared to be flexible however, as sometimes babies don’t always do what you want them to!

Sleeping

At first babies tend to do one of two activities: Sleeping and eating. Newborns can sleep up to 18 hours a day, almost always in short 1-2 hour stretches. This usually means that you won’t get much sleep and you won’t be able to rest much during sleeps anyway. This will settle down within a few months and most babies will sleep for longer periods of time and some babies sleep through the night by their third month of life.

The biggest decision to make is whether your baby sleeps with you in your room or in a separate room. You have to decide what works best for you, but most parents tent to find that keeping you baby with you in your room for the first few months is helpful, especially when you are getting up to feed them every few hours.

Even if you establish a routine for sleeping with your baby, several things can cause problems. Teething, separation anxiety, ear infections and numerous other things will wake your baby from time to time.

Crying

Crying is the only way that very young babies have to communicate, so they cry for a variety of reasons. Hunger or a dirty nappy are the first things that come to mind, but sometimes babies cry for seemingly no reason at all. This can be very difficult to cope with and parents’ natural reactions are to worry. If possible it’s best to stay calm and remember that although distressing, crying does not hurt your baby.

Feeding

Most experts will agree that breast feeding your baby is best as breast milk contains the mot complete nutrition for babies. However, for a variety of reasons it is not always possible for mothers to breast feed their baby. Again, it’s about what works best for you as there are advantages and disadvantages for both.

Bottle feeding advantages

Many mothers say that bottle feeding is the more convenient than breast feeding. It does mean that other people can feed your baby and can give you a break. Also baby formula digests more slowly than breast milk, so babies can stay satisfied for longer periods of time and require fewer feedings.

Bottle feeding disadvantages

The cost of using commercially produced formula milk along with all the bottles, teats and other equipment needed is high. It also takes a while to prepare and heat up the milk and when you have a screaming hungry baby this can be inconvenient. Babies who are breast fed benefit from all the nutrients from their mother’s breast milk as well as antibodies which help prevent infections, allergies and illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.

Breast feeding advantages

Breast milk contains everything a baby needs and is the only food necessary for babies up to six months of age. It provides vital antibodies for babies which can help prevent infections, allergies and illnesses such as asthma and diabetes. Breast milk is also easier to digest than formula and causes fewer problems with digestion for babies.

It’s much more convenient for mothers to breast feed as well as it is readily available and requires no preparation or equipment. This is definitely an advantage in the middle of the night. It is also the most affordable option.

Breastfeeding helps reduce incidence of pre-menopausal breast cancer and the risk for ovarian and uterine cancers, too.

Reasons not to breast feed

There are few reasons not to breast feed if you can, but there are some reasons why it might not be right for you. Some mothers have difficulty getting the hang of breastfeeding. This can usually be remedied with a little guidance and patience. Difficulty in getting the baby to latch on or breast tenderness are common concerns in the beginning, but like everything, it takes practice.

It can be tiring, especially as you are the only one that can do it! You can express breast milk and freeze it, defrosting it when needed, which means that the father ot other carers can feed the baby and give you a break.

There may be medical reasons why breast feeding is not right for you. Those who are HIV positive, have AIDS, or are undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer are included in this group. Some medications also make breastfeeding inadvisable, so mothers who are taking any drugs, whether prescribed by a doctor or purchased over the counter, should check with their GP to assure that they are safe to use while nursing.