logo
Parent education at Bradford

This section is all about caring for your baby, seeing life through your baby’s eyes. Have a look at the links below for some useful information.

We offer virtual antenatal classes that cover all the topics below and more.

midwife
Caroline Lamb, Midwife
midwife
Gina Melia, Midwife

Building a happy baby – responding to your baby and brain development

During pregnancy, your baby’s brain is growing very quickly and you can help this growth by taking some time out to relax and talk to baby, to stroke your bump and maybe play music. Encourage other close family members to do the same.

New babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved. When babies feel secure they release a hormone called oxytocin, which acts like a fertiliser for their growing brain, helping them to be happy babies and more confident children and adults.

Holding, smiling and talking to your baby also releases oxytocin in you, which helps you to feel calm and happy. We cannot spoil babies by giving them too much attention, when babies’ needs for love and comfort are met; they will be calmer and grow up to be more confident. Babies don’t benefit from lots of toys, looking at your face is the best way for babies to learn. Talking, listening and smiling triggers oxytocin and helps your baby’s brain to grow.

Skin-to-skin contact – meeting baby for the first time

After your baby is born, hold him against your skin as soon as possible, and for as long as you want. Skin to skin contact reduces baby’s stress level by 75%. This will calm him and give you both the chance to rest, keep warm and get to know each other. If you want to breastfeed, this is a great time to start as your baby might move towards the breast and work out the best way to suckle for himself. Breastfeeding also releases lots of oxytocin in baby and mother, which will help you to feel close and connected. If you choose to bottle feed, giving the first feed in skin contact while holding your baby close and looking into his eyes will also help you bond.

Sleep

How to look after a newborn baby in those first few days (0 to 12 weeks)

Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it’s unlikely to be the same as other babies you know. It’s also unlikely to fit in with your need for sleep. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

How can I get my baby used to night and day?

It’s a good idea to teach your baby that night-time is different from daytime from the start. During the day, open curtains, play games and don’t worry too much about everyday noises when they sleep. At night, you might find it helpful to:

  • keep the lights down low
  • not talk much and keep your voice quiet
  • put your baby down as soon as they’ve been fed and changed
  • not change your baby unless they need it
  • not play with your baby

Your baby will gradually learn that night-time is for sleeping.

Where should my baby sleep?

For the first 6 months your baby should be in the same room as you when they’re asleep, both day and night. Particularly in the early weeks, you may find your baby only falls asleep in your or your partner’s arms, or when you’re standing by the cot.

Newborn sleep needs

Most newborn babies are asleep more than they are awake. Their total daily sleep varies, but can be from 8 hours up to 16 or 18 hours. Babies will wake during the night because they need to be fed. Being too hot or too cold can also disturb their sleep.

How to change a nappy

Babies need frequent nappy changes, but how often they need changing depends on how sensitive their skin is.

Some babies have very delicate skin and need changing as soon as they wet themselves, otherwise their skin becomes sore and red. Other babies can wait to be changed until before or after every feed.

All babies need changing as soon as possible when they have done a poo (stool) to prevent nappy rash.

Young babies need changing as many as 10 or 12 times a day, while older babies need to be changed at least 6 to 8 times.

Soothing a crying baby

All babies cry, and some more than others. Crying is your baby’s way of telling you they need comfort and care.

Sometimes it’s easy to work out what they want, and sometimes it’s not.

The most common reasons for crying are:

  • hunger
  • a dirty or wet nappy
  • tiredness
  • wanting a cuddle
  • wind
  • being too hot or too cold
  • boredom
  • overstimulation

There may be times of the day when your baby tends to cry a lot and cannot be comforted. Early evening is the most common time for this to happen.

This can be hard for you, as it’s often the time when you’re most tired and least able to cope.

The amount babies cry tends to peak at about 7 weeks, then gradually tail off.

How to calm a crying baby

Try some of the following ways to comfort your baby. Some may work better than others:

  • If you’re breastfeeding, let your baby suckle at your breast.
  • Having some gentle noise in the background may help distract your baby.
  • Some older babies like to use a bit of cloth or a blanket as a comforter.
  • Hold your baby or put them in a sling so they’re close to you. Move about gently, sway and dance, talk to them and sing.
  • Rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or a drive. Lots of babies like to sleep in cars. Even if they wake up again when you stop, at least you’ll have had a break.
  • Find something for them to listen to or look at. This could be music on the radio, a CD, a rattle, or a mobile above the cot.
  • Try stroking your baby’s back firmly and rhythmically, holding them against you or lying face downwards on your lap.
  • Undress your baby and massage them gently and firmly. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby’s at least a month old. Talk soothingly as you do it and keep the room warm enough. Some health centres and clinics run baby massage courses. For information, ask your midwife or health visitor.
  • Try a warm bath. This calms some babies instantly, but makes others cry even more.
  • Sometimes too much rocking and singing can keep your baby awake. You might find lying them down after a feed will help.
  • Ask your health visitor for advice.

Coping with infant crying

Washing and bathing your baby

You don’t need to bathe your baby every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully instead. This is often called “topping and tailing”.

Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand. You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.

Topping and tailing tips

You may find the following step-by-step guide to washing your baby useful:

  • Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
  • Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn’t get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby’s eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don’t transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
  • Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby’s ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby’s ears. Wash the rest of your baby’s face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
  • Take off the nappy and wash your baby’s bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
  • It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they’ll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you’re saying.

Bathing your baby safely

You don’t need to bathe your baby every day, but if they really enjoy it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.

It’s best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they’re hungry or tired. Make sure the room you’re bathing them in is warm.

Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, two towels, a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.

  • The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
  • Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face, as described above.
  • Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
  • Once you’ve dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
  • Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders.
  • Don’t add any liquid cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby’s skin in the first month.
  • Keep your baby’s head clear of the water. Use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
  • Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
  • Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
  • This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.
  • If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn’t too hot. It’s easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.

What you’ll need for your baby

Safer sleeping – reducing the risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

The sudden and unexpected death of a baby is usually referred to by professionals as ‘sudden unexpected death in infancy’ (SUDI) or ‘sudden unexpected death in childhood’ (SUDC), if the baby was over 12 months old. The death of a baby which is unexpected is also sometimes referred to as ‘sudden infant death’. While SIDS is rare, it can still happen and there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk for your baby.

While SIDS cannot be completely prevented, you can reduce the risks of it occurring considerably by following our safer sleep advice. For example:

  • Sleep your baby on their back for all sleeps – day and night – as this can reduce the risk of SIDS by six times compared to sleeping them on their front.
  • Share a room with your baby for the first six months – this can halve the risk of SIDS.
  • Keep your baby smoke-free during pregnancy and after birth – this is one of the most protective things you can do for your baby. Around 60% of sudden infant deaths could be avoided if no baby was exposed to smoke during pregnancy or around the home.
  • Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby as this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times.
  • Do not co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner has been drinking, is a smoker, has been taking drugs or is extremely tired; these factors can put babies at an extremely high risk of SIDS when co-sleeping. One study found that the risk of SIDS when co-sleeping is six times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.

The above is especially important for babies who were born premature or of low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.