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New mum, new baby

Sian Eustace from health store Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway looks at the ideal diet, lifestyle tips and natural solutions for a new mother and newborn baby

What new babies need

New babies are just adjusting to being in the outside world. They need very little beyond milk, close contact with a parent, sleep and nappy changes. It’s totally normal for your baby not to settle without being in contact with you or your partner. They have been inside your body for the last nine months and aren’t used to being alone.

Keep them close to one parent as much as you can – skin to skin contact and parental heartbeat can help them to regulate even things such as body temperature. Slings can be helpful to keep a baby close to your body and still be able to move about.

What new mums need

New mums need rest, fluids, food and emotional support. Ideally, especially if breastfeeding, they should be able to rest up, with baby skin to skin and be fed and minded for the first while after the birth. They will need plenty to drink, nutritious food and as much rest as is possible with a newborn. Breastfeeding is an amazing thing but it doesn’t necessarily come easily or naturally to everyone.

If you want to breastfeed your baby but are having any difficulties, there are volunteer breastfeeding support groups with branches right around the country. Please seek support, or have your partner reach out for you to groups such as Cuidiu, Friends of Breastfeeding or La Leche groups in your area. These groups can provide evidence based information and support which can help you establish a successful breastfeeding relationship. Expectant mums and all breastfeeding mums, not just those experiencing difficulties are welcome at these support groups. They will be happy to help as much as they can.

Early visitors

First up is don’t visit until you’re invited, especially with a firstborn. Parents and babies need time to rest and bond. The new mum should be able to remain in nightclothes or a dressing gown rather than worrying about dressing for guests.

When you do visit, bring food – something that can be heated and served such as a lasagne or shepherd’s pie. Look for jobs that can be done to help around the house, for example a load of laundry or the washing up.

If the mum is comfortable for you to do so, hold or watch the baby so that mum can shower. Don’t visit if you are unwell and don’t kiss newborn babies as it is possible to pass on infections which can make newborns very unwell.

Be kind to yourself

Remember to rest when you can. There is no need to go anywhere or see anybody until you are ready to do so. Lie on the couch, watch a boxset or listen to an audiobook or podcast, and feed your baby. Don’t worry about the housework. These first few weeks are about nourishing yourself and your baby as you recover from labour so that you can establish your relationship together. Allow yourself to be looked after, fed and cared for.

Nourish your body

It is important to nourish yourself well, especially if you are breastfeeding, but even if not as your body has worked hard and needs to be replenished. Nutrient-rich foods that are easy to consume could be a good way to recover, so think of protein-rich smoothies or soups with as many vegetables as possible, either of which can be drunk and pack a powerful punch of vitamin and mineral goodness. If you are breastfeeding, be sure to have a bottle of water close to hand in order to keep yourself well hydrated.

When to supplement

If you are worried that you may not be managing to eat a good variety of unprocessed food, you could consider a supplement to make sure that your nutritional needs are being met. If breastfeeding, you should continue with a prenatal supplement or one that is specifically formulated for those who are breastfeeding.

The advice for newborns who are being breastfed or receiving a small amount (less than 300ml a day) of formula is that they receive a vitamin D supplement for the first year of life. Newborns who are being formula fed do not need this supplement as the formula contains vitamin D already.

Looking after baby’s skin

Even if not using more natural skincare for themselves, many people start to look for natural options for skincare when starting to look after a new baby. There is nothing you could need for baby which cannot be found in a natural or, even better, organic version. From eco-nappies and wipes, to lotion, shampoo, body wash and other bath products, it is all available in your local health food store.

Look out for the following natural ingredients:

  • Calendula – has wonderfully moisturising and soothing properties. Calendula is perfect for soothing eczema, nappy rash and inflamed skin.
  • Chamomile – boasts a natural anti-inflammatory action whilst working to soothe inflamed and red-looking skin.
  • Shea butter – rich in vitamins A and E and essential fatty acids, this nourishing ingredient has protective and healing properties making it great for dry, sore skin.
  • Rosehip – ideal for sensitive skin and often used in the repair of damaged tissue.

Top baby skin tips

Do not bath your baby daily – three times per week is enough. Sponge bath instead – and keep baby’s nappy and mouth clean with warm water on a sponge.

Cut out the wipes –warm water on a clean cloth is just as effective and does not contain chemicals.

Avoid scented products on baby’s skin – they are likely to dry it out.

Wash clothes in fragrance- and dye-free washing detergents – and wash all new clothes before you put them on baby.

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