Whether it takes two days or two hours, I can pretty much guarantee that you'll experience every emotion imaginable when you give birth to a child. From fear (why are babies' noggins so much larger than vaginas?!) to anger (where the hell is the epidural?!) to complete and utter joy (no explanation necessary), your head and heart will be filled to bursting. So it's no surprise that you might draw a complete blank on things you should do with your baby in the first 24 hours. Luckily, your doctors and nurses will be there to help.
All moms want to give their babies the best start possible in life. Dr. Iffath Hoskins, clinical associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center, gave Romper some tips on how to make that possible. But she first wanted to remind mothers that giving your baby the best begins before you even give birth, and urges moms to stay healthy throughout their pregnancy and to communicate regularly with their doctor about any issues or concerns.
Hoskins also stressed that very few things are mandatory when it comes to mothering your newborn baby, and that you don't have to do anything you feel uncomfortable with simply because of peer pressure. With that in mind, here are five suggestions she gives new moms.
1. Get The Recommended Vaccines And Shots
Hoskins thinks parents should say yes to the Hepatitis B and vitamin K shots offered to babies in the hospital shortly after birth, though she understands some people have reservations about them. “Everything has a risk to it, but there are certain things that you just want to let the experts do,” she said.
2. Try To Breastfeed
Hoskins tells her patients to give breastfeeding "a fair shake." It's benefits for babies are well documented, and it can be great for mothers as well. But she also knows that it can be extremely difficult. “In over 30 years, I have seen mothers who really cry and stress themselves out because they’re just not able to initiate the breastfeeding," she says. "But if it’s not working for that mother and baby, it’s useless.” Ultimately, if it doesn't work out, that's perfectly OK.
3. Get Tons Of Skin-To-Skin Contact
Doing as much skin-to-skin in the first hours of your baby's life has great benefits, including keeping them calm and stable according to Hoskins. It's also a wonderful bonding opportunity. "That’s going to be the beginning of a lifetime of you and the baby having a bond no one can come between," Hoskins says. "I tell the mother, 'swaddle the baby with yourself'." But she also knows that it's not for everyone, and said she's encountered many patients who for cultural reasons are not comfortable with the practice. That's fine, too.
4. Send Them To The Nursery, If You Need To
More and more hospitals are encouraging mothers to keep their babies with them at all times throughout their stay. But after an ordeal like labor, it's fine if you feel like you need a little break. “If the mother truly cannot handle it, she cannot have the baby next to her, for whatever reason, she’s anxious, she’s sleep deprived, very stressed out, whatever, my best gift to her is to say, ‘OK, let the baby go to the normal nursery for two or three hours, you catch a quick nap,” Hoskins says. And it's nothing to feel guilty about. “The mother’s comfort and the baby’s safety are paramount to everything."
5. Be Their Biggest Advocate
You and your baby may be in the care of dedicated professionals, but Dr. Hoskins also has an important reminder for moms. "You are the best monitor of your baby," she says. If you feel like something is wrong or you have a question about something, you should speak up. You don't want to be in a situation where you're wishing you said something.