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Realistic Expectations After Having a Baby

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

The long-awaited day has finally arrived: You're taking your newborn home to a nursery you may have had set up for months in eager anticipation of the joyous event. The miracle of a new life is clearly a thrilling time. Nevertheless, the next several weeks can prove to be more challenging than expected, especially for first-time parents. Although caring for your new baby is your top priority, it's also important to tend to your own needs during this major life transition.


It would come in handy if your newborn came with a detailed instruction manual that offers step-by-step guidance as you enter a new of world of uncertainty. Alas, you're more or less on your own once you and your baby leave the hospital. That's why finding a good pediatrician should be at the top of your "to do" list. Knowing a doctor is a phone call away should you have any questions or if your little one becomes ill offers peace of mind. New parents will be relieved to know that most newborns stay perfectly healthy once they leave the hospital, explains Dr. Vinod K. Bhutani, professor of pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University School of Medicine

Early Days and Weeks

It won't take long to notice that your newborn doesn't resemble the infants you see on TV and in magazines. Your baby's skin may be dry to the point of peeling; fine hair may coat your little one's ears, temples, back and shoulders; her tiny feet may be turned up and she may appear bowlegged after being housed so tightly in the womb, explains the Cleveland Clinic. Over the next several weeks and months your newborn's skin will soften, fine hair will shed and her legs and feet will straighten to a normal position.

Sleep, Feedings, and Changing Diapers

Newborns can sleep 16 hours or more in a 24-hour period -- but typically no longer than four hours at a time, according to KidsHealth. Your newborn's erratic sleep pattern will undoubtedly interfere with your sleep. His tiny tummy can hold only so much breast milk or formula, which means you'll need to feed your baby every few hours around the clock. Infants require 4 ounces of formula or breast milk at each feeding, notes HealthyChildren.org, a website published the American Academy of Pediatrics. Frequent feedings naturally lead to frequent diaper changes. Babies often go through at least 10 diapers a day. Your newborn may develop a diaper rash, which can usually be successfully treated by applying diaper ointment that contains zinc oxide to the rash after the area has been gently cleaned.

Baby Blues

The majority of new mothers (approximately 75 percent) feel down in the dumps or experience mood swings shortly after the birth of their child, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Crying, impatience, irritability, insomnia and restlessness are among the possible symptoms of the appropriately dubbed “baby blues.” Hormone changes that occur during and after pregnancy are believed to contribute to these negative emotions that may take many new mothers by surprise. Talk about your feelings to family members or friends and make time for yourself whenever possible. Symptoms lasting longer than two weeks could be a sign of a more serious condition called postpartum depression that may require professional help.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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