THINGS THEY DON'T TELL YOU ABOUT BABIES
The baby’s very first feces will be a substance called meconium. Meconium is a thick, sticky, black-ish substance and it is completely normal. After they start digesting breastmilk or formula, the poop will be yellow, yellow-orange, or green-yellow. As baby moves to solid food, the stool can be brown, green, orange or yellow, depending on diet and supplements, and these can all be considered normal. Black, dark red, white or bloody stools may indicate a digestive or other health issue, so watch for that and report to your doctor along with any accompanying symptoms. Mucus can be found in baby poop, which is normal in small amounts but should be checked out if persistent or in large amounts. Another fun fact: When your baby eats bananas, they can get little black strings in their poop that look like tiny little worms. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. They are not worms. I wish someone had told me this, because it would have saved me Googling “baby poop worms” and all the images that go along with it.
There are benefits to delaying baby’s first bath. Babies are born covered in a substance called vernix, which moisturizes and protects their delicate skin. Contact with the vaginal microbiome is also an important precursor for establishing a healthy system, so excessive and early cleansing can disrupt a baby’s natural defense system. Babies tend to respond better to breastfeeding when they have not been bathed early. The belly button site, where the umbilical cord was cut, heals best when it’s kept dry, and should not be soaked or have any cleaning agents or lotions applied to it. A good time for the first bath is after the umbilical cord stump falls off naturally, sometime within the first three weeks. Until then, the baby can be spot cleaned with a damp cloth, especially around the face, hands and genitals. It’s standard practice in hospitals to bathe the baby within the first 24 hours – sometimes as early as two hours old – so if you have a hospital birth, you must request a delayed bath if that is your wish.
Postpartum, your body has a contraction mechanism to shrink your uterus back to size. You’ll likely feel these contractions, referred to as afterpains, intensify while you are breastfeeding because of the surge in hormones released at this time. The pain can be similar to menstrual cramps or early labour pains. They tend to get even more painful after each pregnancy. The pains taper off after a few days. Talk to your midwife or doctor about safe pain medication if they are difficult to manage. Heat on the abdomen can help. From personal experience, yelling profanities and crying into a pillow may also help.
It is not uncommon to have dark thoughts about your baby. Some parents report thoughts of harming their baby – for example, dropping the baby or letting the stroller roll into traffic. It’s not widely discussed because of the shame associated with it, but it is helpful to know that you can have fleeting disturbing thoughts and that it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It’s like when you were a child riding in the backseat of a car and you would think about opening the car door while the vehicle was in motion. That’s a pretty universal experience. You never actually acted on it. It’s really just the brain’s way of working out worst-case scenarios. It goes without saying that if these thoughts become intrusive, obsessive, or if you think you might harm your child in any way, you must tell someone and seek support for the safety of your child.
Nighttime waking is not exclusive to newborns. Before I had babies, I was under the impression that newborns would wake for nighttime feedings every few hours and that, over time, they would sleep for longer periods at night, in a linear fashion, until they eventually slept through the night consistently. I thought wrong. There’s this really cute thing kids go through called sleep regression where they start to wake up multiple times a night even after they have shown a pattern of sleeping through the night. It’s so sporadic that it’s hard to say if sleep regression is even a real thing, or if inconsistent sleep patterns throughout childhood are simply the norm. Reasons for waking vary, from teething to growth spurts, nightmares to potty training, change in routine to change in seasons, increased brain activity due to developmental milestones and more. Bottom line: Don’t expect your child to sleep through the night, every night, by one, two or even three years of age. If you are feeling extremely sleep-deprived and having difficulty coping, a sleep consultant can be a great resource.
Car seat safety is not as straightforward as you might think. The socially acceptable, or “popular”, way is not necessarily the safest way. The safest thing to do is to keep your child rear-facing until they reach the top weight limit, which often falls around age four. It may seem awkward to have a child of that age facing the back of the vehicle, and they will have to bend their legs to fit, but it is the safest position according to independent safety testing. Also, for those in colder climates, it’s important to know that it is unsafe to secure your child in a car seat when they are wearing a puffy winter jacket or a bulky car seat warmer underneath the harness. In the event of a collision, the air pockets will compress, causing too much slack in the straps, meaning the child could be ejected from the seat. The safest thing to do in this case is to take off the jacket when you get to the car, and either put the jacket on backwards over the harness or bring a blanket for them. There are car seat consultants who can help you choose the best seat for your vehicle and can advise on the proper securement and use of your car seat.