Private Health Visitor Jill Irving, eases your worries by discussing the questions most new parents ask her…….

Whether you are a mother or father, becoming a new parent can be extremely daunting. You may find that you have lots of questions in the early months.

How will we cope?

Having a baby has lifelong implications and very little can prepare you adequately for the reality of actually having one. Routines disintegrate, emotions waver and suddenly your house becomes full of baby equipment. In between all of this you find yourselves trying to cope with the demands of a newborn. No matter how much you may have wanted your baby, the enormity of the demand still comes as a shock.

As a mother, initially, you may have to cope with a tender and painful body as well as of all the practicalities surrounding the care of your baby. As a father you may have other worries regarding the demands of having to return to work when your baby is so young and with so little sleep.

Getting enough sleep for both of you will be a challenge so separate bedrooms for the first few weeks may be a good idea. If you are a father this can then enable you to get enough sleep whilst you are working and give your wife/partner an opportunity during the week ends to have some well earned catch up sleep. Whatever your decision just remember to talk to one another about what is best for both of you.


Without sleep none of us can function but this is what parents with newborns frequently have to cope with.

As soon as your baby has reached eight weeks old teach them to fall asleep alone without any external props or associations. For example, try and not feed or rock your baby to sleep. If you do this then each time your baby wakes, as he will do, he will then expect you to repeat this action to get him back to sleep.

When your baby wakes and cries, try and not rush to him straight away but ‘pause’ for a few seconds as more often than not he may grizzle himself back to sleep.


All babies cry. But crying is excessive if it totals three hours a day and happens more than three days a week for at least three weeks.

Hearing a baby cry can be distressing for anyone but don’t try and quell every cry. This is the only way your baby is able to communicate with you. In order for you to understand his needs, pause and listen and try to learn to differentiate between his cries. By doing this you are allowing your baby to have a voice.


If your baby cries excessively, but is otherwise healthy and feeding well, it’s likely that he has colic. Your baby may be diagnosed with colic if:

– Stay in a sitting position and hold his head steady.
– Can co-ordinate his eyes, hands and mouth so he can look at the food, pick it up and put it in his mouth all by himself.
– Swallow food. If he is not ready he will push his food back out, so get more round his mouth.

There is no ‘best’ way to comfort your baby or reduce the symptoms of colic. Different babies respond to different methods, so you may have to see what works best for you. Some suggestions include always burping your baby after a feed or giving your baby a tummy massage once the pain arrives. If all else fails speak to your health visitor about using ‘colic’ drops that contain simeticone, which can help relieve the pain by enabling your baby bring up wind easier. If you are formula feeding your health visitor may suggest changing your baby’s formula.

Weight gain

Most babies lose some weight in the first few days after being born although generally no more than 10% of their birth weight. The loss tends to be regained within 10-14 days after birth. Weighing your baby regularly shows how he is growing over a period of time. Generally, babies gain at least 450g (1lb) a month during the first three months. Each time your baby is weighed his weight should be marked on a centile chart in his Personal Child Health Record (red book). This will give you an indication how his weight is progressing. To be sure he is thriving you need to look at how your baby is overall, so for example does he have good skin colour and muscle tone as well as alertness which are just as important as weight gain.


Even before you had your baby the midwife would have discussed with you the options of how to feed your baby. Chances are that you have read about all the benefits of breast-feeding and although it may be the preferred option for many mothers for others it may not be. Whatever your choice, ensure you have made your decision based on accurate information and not from an out of date source or a well meaning friend or relative. Remember this is your baby so it’s your decision.


As your baby reaches six months old you will be thinking about weaning him onto solid food. You may be tempted to start earlier than six months but it is better to try an extra breast or formula feed as you need to be sure that he can:

– Stay in a sitting position and hold his head steady.
– Can co-ordinate his eyes, hands and mouth so he can look at the food, pick it up and put it in his mouth all by himself.
– Swallow food. If he is not ready he will push his food back out, so get more round his mouth.

If you remain unsure about weaning have a chat with your health visitor.

Skin care

Whilst your baby is very small you may be advised to wash your baby with only water. Research has now shown that washing with water alone may have a more drying effect on the skin. If you live in an area where the water is very hard there could even be an increased risk of eczema. The best advice is to use a liquid cleanser in the bath that contains emollients. These have a protective effect on skin that cannot be provided by water alone. Liquid cleansers will also cleanse and hydrate your baby’s skin.

When it comes to changing your baby’s nappy there is nothing better than soap and water. However, the best soap to use is one that has a liquid paraffin base that can lock in moisture by leaving a protective barrier on the skin whilst replenishing and re-hydrating the skin. Once you have cleansed and dried the nappy area, it is then best to apply a barrier cream.


Teething is a natural process in which the deciduous teeth (baby teeth) emerge through the gums and become visible in the mouth. For most babies this occurs at around 6-7 months.

Teething may be natural but unfortunately that doesn’t mean pain free. The inflammation and tenderness of the gums can cause some babies a lot of discomfort. You may also find that your baby has increased drooling, biting, gum rubbing and sucking.

There are plenty of things you can try before resorting to pain relief products or teething gels. Giving your baby something cool to bite on can relieve the pressure and ease the pain as can rubbing a clean finger over your baby’s sore gums, which can numb the pain temporarily.

Many parents prefer to use teething granules or powders such as Ashton & Parsons Infants’ Powders. Ashton & Parsons Infants’ Powders come in sachets that you pour into your baby’s mouth; for babies from 3-6 months use half a sachet twice a day and the easiest thing to do is tip half a sachet onto a teaspoon, keeping the other half for later. Babies and toddlers over 6 months can have a whole sachet twice a day.

Returning to work

This is a personal decision, which only you can decide. You may feel that your salary will barely cover the cost of childcare. You may feel that staying at home is the best option for your family. Or you may not want too long a break in your career, even if it’s not providing you with much extra income after childcare costs.

If you do decide to return to work it will only be successful if you are totally happy with your childcare. If you are opting for your child to attend a nursery then you will probably have to get his name on a waiting list soon after his birth as the most popular get filled very quickly.

Parents can now share the 52-week maternity leave between them. Shared parental leave is designed to give you more choice and flexibility in balancing work and family life. You can find out more by visiting GOV.UK.


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