Immediate Nursing Care of the Newborn

Lynsey Keep, RN
midwife

For many first time moms and dads the experience of the first few moments with a much awaited baby can be overwhelming, which is why immediate nursing care of the newborn can be delivered with the assistance of the delivering nurse of midwife.

Enjoying the First Few Moments

As much as labor and the birth of a new life can be tiring and overwhelming for new parents the nursing care needs to begin immediately whilst still being able to enjoy the first few moments of life.

In the case of natural labor moms are encouraged to feed and bond with their baby immediately following the birth, nursing care and assistance is always on hand from the nursing staff and for many new parents the hands-on skills do not come automatically so practical help is often welcomed. Helping baby to latch on to the nipple being breastfed is something which moms often get frustrated and upset by if the baby doesn't take to the breast straight away and that's where the supportive nursing care is a blessing.

Similarly with bottle fed babies the technique is not always automatic and so a few handy hints from a skilled expert are a sure fire way to get things underway. Dads can also get involved from an early stage and the nursing staff will actively encourage this.

Immediate Nursing care of the Newborn: The Hands-On Approach

For babies born by cesarean section it may be the case that mom is recovering from general anesthesia or is simply too tired or sore to deliver care in the initial time following the birth. Dads or birthing partners are often given very quick lessons on how to get to grips with the necessary immediate nursing care of the newborn and as soon as they understand what is required are left to be there as a support to mom and baby to gain that all important independence in preparation to go home.

Immediate nursing care is essential to the bonding process for both moms and dads and within moments of birth the newborn will be needy of love and practical help from its parents:

Feeding

As previously mentioned, if breastfeeding, the baby can be attached to the breast almost immediately, even if not getting much milk the feeling of closeness to mom is something that is essential. Baby will get used to familiar smells very soon and to have that tactile contact with mom and dad will provide those smells that will offer comfort and reassurance to baby.

Dad can be in charge of making up bottle feeds while mom enjoys her well deserved rest, and nursing staff will be there to show the correct techniques when it comes to preparing formula feeds and sterilizing equipment after use.

Diapering

If parents have never changed a diaper before the first time can be a mixture of fun, frustration and sometimes mess. No one is expected to automatically know which way round it goes, or how tight to do up the tabs and after a period of trial and error parents learn very quickly. Some parents learn this type of thing at parent craft classes although not all would-be parents have access or are able to attend these so the first time can literally be a 'live' trial.

Ensuring that baby is clean and dry is essential before replacing the diaper, and also knowing what a normal poo should look like, or how much pee to expect in an average diaper is best known in the event that problems arise at a later stage.

Bathing

To new parents, handling a precious new baby can be like holding a china doll and the fears of harm are overwhelming as the newborn seems so fragile. Actually they are not, and parents are encouraged to handle babies confidently from day one to ensure that baby feels secure and that they are not at risk due to not being held properly.

Bathing can be a daunting task, and new parents often feel an overwhelming 'pressure to perform' when doing this for the first time. Nurses and midwives are there to help not criticize although constructive criticism should always be welcomed. Immediate nursing care of the newborn does not dictate that infants should be fully bathed the moment they are born, even if covered in vernix or other products of the birth process in most cases a 'top and tail' wash will suffice using tepid water and cotton wool. The vernix provides a waxy layer which helps maintain the infant's body heat and parents are discouraged from removing this.

Cleansing the umbilical cord is encouraged as this may have remnants of dried blood on it. Cords can become infected particularly when the stump has not yet healed therefore a good cleansing routine is essential.

Ensure that baby is not left wet and exposed for too long, babies lose body heat much quicker than adults and older children therefore minimum exposure is recommended in the first few weeks.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Often parents are too proud to ask for that much needed help or advice. It may be something simple that needs clarification, but some choose to make repeated mistakes until they get it right.

Make the most of the time spent in the hospital as the nurses and midwives will not always be on 24 hour standby so it is best to make the most of the support while its there. Going home with a newborn should be a time of excitement and joy, not one of anxiety and dread. If delivered correctly the care that is given in the first few hours and days will set parents up for an enjoyable experience ahead.

Immediate Nursing Care of the Newborn