NCT looks at what to expect and prepare for in the first three months with your new baby – from feeding to bath time to sleep.
As a new parent you will naturally want to make sure your baby is healthy and growing well. In the first week after birth, it’s normal for newborn babies to lose a little weight so don’t worry if your baby does in those early days. They will eat and sleep more than anything else in the first few weeks and by three months most babies will have almost doubled their birth weight.
Your baby’s appearance and behaviour will also help you feel confident about their development and whether they are thriving.
Feeding your baby will be one of your most time-consuming tasks in the first three months. If you feel uncertain about how you’re doing, the contents of your baby’s nappies will certainly be a good indication of whether they are feeding properly.
For the first months of their life, your baby will obtain all the nutrients they need from milk – be that breast milk or formula . The Department of Health recommends that babies are not given solids until they are six months old.
How you decide to feed your baby is your choice as a parent but breast milk, and therefore breastfeeding , does have significant health benefits for mum and baby.
If you have any questions about feeding your baby, you can call NCT’s breastfeeding helpline on 0300 330 0771 (8am–10pm, seven days a week) to talk to a qualified breastfeeding counsellor.
Your baby will have their first immunisations when they are eight weeks old and a booster when they are 12 weeks old. They will receive a combined vaccination that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Hib and a separate vaccination called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). At 12 weeks old, they will receive a booster of the combined vaccination and a separate vaccination against meningitis C. Your baby might be more fretful and upset after these vaccinations so ask the attending nurse or doctor for advice on how best to soothe them.
All babies are different but at this age, you can expect your baby to wake up during the night for feeds. Their tummy is still tiny, so they will need to feed little and often. Their sleeping patterns will change as they grow and there are many ways you can help your baby to sleep well. For instance, some parents find swaddling their newborn helps to settle them.
Newborn babies can cry a lot and it’s usually because they are hungry or tired, but it can be hard to tell. When your baby starts crying, going through a checklist of likely causes can help you find out what’s wrong quickly and therefore minimise your anxiety.
Sometimes small babies suffer from colic – uncontrollable crying – which can start when the baby is a few weeks old and last until they are about four or five months old. The exact cause isn’t known, but it may be related to digestive problems or the immaturity of the baby’s nervous system. It can be very hard to deal with so if your baby suffers from colic, make sure that you get support and remind yourself that it will pass as your baby gets older. Talking to other parents about their experiences is always helpful so why not join an NCT Early Days group or Bumps and Babies group in your local area.
At this age, you don’t need to bath your baby every day. Three or four times a week is usually enough, though a bath can be an enjoyable part of a bedtime routine. Bath time can also be a great way for dads to get involved.
One thing your baby will need a lot of is nappies. Take time to consider your choices and what’s best for you and your baby, as there are many nappy options available.
As your newborn baby grows, they will take more and more interest in the world around her. Play will become increasingly important as this is how babies learn and develop. By three months, they will have begun to turn their head, kick their legs, make eye contact, smile and babble. Colourful mobiles or pictures of black-and-white shapes will usually attract their attention, as will rattles being shaken or the sound of voices. Some babies like to lie on ‘baby gyms’: arches with objects such as bells or mirrors dangling from them that they can bat with their hands. Your baby will also love to simply watch your face as you sing or talk to them.
As your baby becomes more mobile and you become more confident getting out and about with them, you will want to make sure you are keeping them safe at all times. For instance:
Don’t leave them alone on a bed or other surface that they could roll off. Check your car seat regularly for fit, both for your baby and in the car. Always use the appropriate harness in your buggy or pushchair.
Taking care of yourself
The first three months after giving birth are challenging and tiring. You need to look after yourself as well as your baby so take a look at some of the following things you can do:
- Sleep when your baby sleeps, even if it means napping in the day. If you can’t sleep, do at least try to rest: put your feet up with a magazine or watch a bit of TV.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and relatives.
- Go out for a walk each day with your baby.
- Join an NCT Early Days course or Bumps and Babies group – meeting other mothers can give you something to look forward to and other people to talk to who are at the same stage in life.
- Try to do some exercise, especially pelvic floor exercises.
- Many new mums experience ‘baby blues’ within the first few days after their baby is born. Amid the tiredness, upheaval and physical impact of giving birth, it’s hardly surprising if some mums feel a little down. The ‘baby blues’ include crying unexpectedly and feeling that you can’t cope. Usually this passes but if it doesn’t it could be a sign of postnatal depression (PND). There is plenty of help, advice and support for new parents suffering from PND so don’t be afraid to talk about any concerns you have with your friends, family, GP or local health visitor.
- The arrival of a new baby is also bound to have an impact on your relationships with your partner, family and friends. Understanding how your relationships might change will help you to adjust confidently and happily to life with a new baby.