How to survive the first few weeks with a newborn

The tried-and-tested feed, swaddle and cuddle routine will help newborns settle and sleep

Expert advice and top secrets from the baby whisperers to help you ace those first few weeks with your little one, compiled by Louise Pyne

It’s virtually impossible to prepare for the incredible life changes and ongoing challenges that new parenthood brings. Factor in the raging postpartum hormones surging through your body and the sleep deprivation, and life with a baby can be both utterly exhilarating and completely overwhelming. To help you on your way into parenthood, our in-the-know experts reveal their top tips to perform like a pro, whatever the problem.

 Breastfeeding really hurts

The secret: From engorgement to tenderness, the early days can take their toll as your breasts adapt to feeding your baby. Don’t wait for the pain to go away on its own as there are lots of different aids that can provide quick relief. “If these don’t work, you may have a bacterial infection or blocked ducts. See your GP or a breastfeeding specialist straightaway,” advises midwife Vicki Scott, founder of the New Baby Company.

My baby gets sick after feeds

The secret: Acid reflux is very common in babies and is caused by stomach acid escaping upwards into the oesophagus, causing heartburn-like pain and vomiting. “Help your baby by feeding her in a more upright position, burping her frequently and keeping her upright for a while after feeds,” says Vicki. Raising the head of the cot for nap times and small, frequent feeds over large feeds will also help to keep the acid down.

My baby doesn’t want to nap

The secret: There are several reasons babies don’t nap well. “Teach your baby from a young age – feed, swaddle, cuddle and tuck her down in her cot or pram to sleep, making sure she has a full tummy. Leave her to settle for five to 10 minutes. Often babies will make little noises, this is part of the sleep cycle, so if she has her eyes shut, don’t get her out as this breaks the cycle,” says Rachel Waddilove, author of The Baby Book.

Changing my baby’s nappy is a complete nightmare

The secret: Babies hate changing time because it can be cold for them, and as a result, they may feel unsafe because they are so used to being wrapped up and warm. “Have all your changing essentials already in place and close to hand before starting, so the process happens quickly. Sing to your baby – sometimes just hearing an adult’s voice is reassuring for them,” says nanny Caroline Hartwell of Tinies childcare.

 Bathtime makes me nervous

The secret: There’s an art to bathing a newborn, and it takes a little practice. “Place a large towel just inside the baby bath so baby doesn’t slip down. Until you get used to holding her with one hand, don’t use any bath products because as soon as you do, she will become very slippery,” advises Caroline. Always have everything you need close to hand, and remember, “bathtime is supposed to be relaxing. You could use lavender oils to aid a restful sleep, too,” adds Caroline.

I’m worried about taking my baby out 

The secret: Taking your newborn out can be daunting, but being organised will ensure outings go as smoothly as possible. “Keep your baby bag near the door and replenish it when you return home each time. Purchase a light pram that is easy to put up and fold down, preferably with one hand,” says Caroline. Know where you’re going in advance and see what changing and feeding facilities they have to offer, to put your mind at ease.

I’m struggling to function because I  haven’t slept

The secret: Every new mother has been there – learning to cope without sleep. It’s an inevitable part of caring for a newborn and it’s important to remember that the sleepless nights won’t last forever. “It’s a cliché, but you really should sleep when your baby sleeps,” says Vicki Scott. “Ask your partner, a friend or family member to watch your baby after a feed so you can have an uninterrupted nap. Negotiate an early night and ask your partner to give baby her bottle (expressed milk or formula) some evenings.” Also ensure you get plenty of fresh air and light exercise, eat well and do everything you can to simplify life.

My baby screams every time I put her down

The secret: Habits can be hard to break and if you’ve been carrying your baby round the clock since day one, she’s going to expect nothing but warm cuddles in mummy’s arms, day and night. Begin by putting baby down in a bouncy chair or on a play mat for short periods while staying close so she feels safe. Getting your baby into a routine will also help her to become more independent. “By the time baby is two or three weeks old, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be in a flexible three-hourly routine. Swaddling can help. Put her on your shoulder, stroke her head and soothe her by gently rocking, then put her in her cot and tuck her in. She will shout if she is not used to going into her cot – rub her head and tummy, leave for a few minutes and then go back and do the same again, repeating until she settles,” says Rachel Waddilove.

Expert consultations

If you’re at your wits’ end, consider having a consultation with an expert. Many will come to your home, talk to you at length on the phone, or even offer Skype consultations and follow-up sessions. Whether it’s about getting to grips with breastfeeding, advice on getting your baby into a routine, or weaning tips, there are lots of people who are ready to help. See overleaf for specialists in and around the capital.

The experts

Vicki Scott 

Rachel Waddilove

Caroline Hartwell

Clare Byam-Cook 

Vanessa Christie

Sarah Ockwell-Smith 

Deearna Withey