Lisa Gwynn, D.O., FAAP, is a pediatrician with the Children’s Medical Center in Hollywood, FL. Gwynn has been published in a variety of medical journals and is a featured expert with a special video series on Newbaby.com. Gwynn is a dedicated mother of one and vice president of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, a non-profit organization started by her husband, which is dedicated to helping people with spinal cord injuries and other debilitating illnesses. Gwynn shares advice on what a new mom can expect from her baby during the first 30 days.
New moms need to know the baby’s basic functions and needs. For the baby, it’s about feeding, voiding, stooling, sleeping and bonding. As a mom, you are learning how to respond to what your baby needs. You are learning how to interpret your baby’s cues, such as distinguishing between cries of hunger versus cries of a much-needed diaper change. This is a gradual process.
There is also the big subject of breast-feeding. As a pediatrician, I want my mothers to breast-feed. The medical benefits are overwhelming and I can’t say enough good things about breast milk. However, my number one concern is that the baby is getting enough calories. There are situations when supplementing with formula may be necessary. I try to support all my mothers in finding what works for them and their babies and answering the millions of questions that they might have. It takes time and effort to learn to breastfeed your baby, but it’s nice to know that by day 30, most moms have it down.
The biggest mistake is that new moms don’t always take care of themselves. They must remember to drink plenty of fluids, continue to take their prenatal vitamins and maintain a balanced diet. So many new moms do not sleep when the baby sleeps, as they are told to do. A new mom needs to keep her energy up and that requires as much sleep as she can get. This affects the baby, too—stress and exhaustion affects your milk supply if you are breast-feeding. Babies also are still so physically attuned to their mothers, they almost have a sixth sense and respond to maternal stress.
Another pitfall I see often is too much advice from well-meaning family members. This can add a lot of anxiety for a new mom who is already feeling hormonal and emotional—all of the advice can be overwhelming. Many times family members did things differently in their day and don’t realize that a new mother needs to find her own way with the help of her pediatrician.
The focus should be on mommy, daddy and baby. This is the time to experience the joy of learning about your baby and your new family. It’s quite an adjustment but I encourage parents to embrace this time, as it passes by so quickly. I like to see my moms keep their babies at home for most of the first 30 days—it’s not the time to be dragging the baby to the mall or grocery shopping.
It’s also vital to remember the daddy. Husbands and partners can often feel left out—the mother/baby bond is like no other. I encourage dads to participate in feedings, if possible, attend doctor visits, hold the babies as much as they can and take as much time off from work as they can to enjoy those first 30 days. Being involved from the beginning lays the groundwork for taking on an active role in the care of their baby in the future.
Of course you want to consider one’s training and background, but I think it’s important to look for a doctor with a willingness to really listen to what a mom has to say. You want someone who is open-minded and easy to talk to. You are going to have a relationship with this person for the next 18 years until your child is grown. A pediatrician should be comfortable with answering any and all questions—no matter how simple they may seem to be. Being accessible to answer your questions is very important, as well.
I always recommend that parents have prenatal visits with potential pediatricians—like a job interview. If you don’t have a good feeling, you should keep looking. Don’t settle! Trust your instincts and find someone who is a good fit for you.
The first six months are really still all about the babies. Loving them, keeping them safe and out of harm’s way as they begin to sit up and crawl; there’s lots of interaction. But, it’s important to remember that other people can love your baby, too! If a woman goes back to work, what is needed is a consistent, loving caregiver.
And it’s important to maintain balance—to branch back out into the real world and know that your baby will be all right. Reconnect with your spouse, family and friends. It’s vital that you keep your support system intact as your journey as a new mother continues.
Faith that everything will be okay and that something good will come from the change.
The best change of my life was becoming a mom. The love I feel for my child—I can’t explain it—there’s no greater joy in the world!