Establishing a good environment for your baby

Learning how to care for a newborn

Parents have few tasks more exacting that that of properly caring for the newly arrived infant. Certainly none is more important.

The spirit that prevails in the home affects the baby greatly. He thrives best, physically and mentally, in a harmonious family environment in which mother and father feel secure in their relations with each other. Young couples who anticipate rearing children should know how to establish their home life on a sound basis of mutual affection and confidence.

The first few months of a child's life are especially important because: 1) he is then completely helpless and could not survive without proper care; and 2) the manner in which this care is given helps to shape all the earlier habits that every infant must acquire. His way of life during the first year may start him on the road to stable, healthy, joyous childhood or it may lead to one that is fretful, unhappy, and uncomfortable for both mother and infant.

Most babies today are born in the hospital. For the first 24 hours after birth the baby's bed is tilted so that the head is three or four inches lower than the feet. This enables fluids and mucus to run out of the windpipe. 

At some time during the first days of his life the baby is disturbed by the feeling of hunger. He responds to this new sensation with a vigorous cry. If he is taken up and put to the mother's breast or given a bottle, he will eagerly make sucking motions and will soon be swallowing. As the discomfort in his stomach goes away, he learns very early in life that eating is satisfying. At the hospital the mother is given instructions on bathing the baby, preparing his formula if she has enough breast milk, and other details of routine baby care.

Too often, the very first days during which the mother has responsibility for her newborn infant are days of trial and stress. Such anxious days can be avoided if the mother will prepare herself for her task. She should acquaint herself not with a great deal of theory about child care but with the simplest needs of the child and how to meet them. Her doctor and the hospital nurses have helped her to some extent. She should expect, however, that the first day or two at home may be disturbing to the child. This is the first time for the young mother not to become alarmed at every small sign of discomfort.

When he entered the world, the baby was suddenly exposed to strange surroundings and new experiences. These included bright light and the cold. Therefore he cried. He continues to be sensitive to these things for many days. Immediately on the return homw from the hospital, the baby should be put to bed, well covered, in warm room. A screen may be used to protect him from drafts. Bright, glaring light should be avoided. The baby's sleep is disturbed only for his daily bath, changing of diapers, and feeding.