Before I arrive to be with a new family I have kept in touch with them and sent two folders of handouts. 'Preparing for your Baby' contains comprehensive layette, equipment and hospital lists as well as tips about getting the home ready. Around six weeks before the due date, 'Early Days with Your Baby' is sent giving advice about starting to breast-feed and coping in the early days.
Many parents like to have several days alone with their new baby before I arrive. A typical length of my job is three to four weeks. My first concern is to work with the mother on establishing feeding and then move towards settling the baby into a routine suitable for their needs. My aim is to teach the parents all aspects of baby care so that by the time I leave they feel confident as parents. I will show them first and then, as soon as they feel ready, let them take on as much of the daily routine as they like, still advising them when needed.
The following day is typical of a day with a first time mother of a two-week-old baby who is exclusively breast-fed.
I begin to wake the baby for a feed at 7 am, changing him then taking him into the mother. If feeding is going well I leave the parents to enjoy this time with their baby whilst I go back to bed for a short rest.
In the first two weeks I offer the mother breakfast in bed and encourage her to go back to sleep until the next feed. The baby comes back to my room and when he is tired I settle him for his nap, which usually begins around
Once the baby is asleep, I shower, dress and have breakfast, taking the baby monitor with me. I start the baby wash, do any baby-related ironing and sterilize the night bottle as well as the breast pump if used at 7am. Before the next feed I write up the night's feeding times on the Daily Record sheet I keep.
If the mother is still sleeping, I let her know the time so she can get herself ready to feed around 10 am whilst I wake the baby.
When the baby is ready to be topped and tailed, I either do this myself or stay with the mother whilst she does it. During this time I discuss small details about baby care such as nail cutting, skin care in the future and other topics which may arise.
Depending on the time of year, the mother and I may go out for a walk together or the baby will be settled for a nap at home. As a mother is learning how to settle her baby, I will stay nearby. Gradually during my time with her, I leave her more and more to carry out settling on her own. I may take a two hour break now or later in the day, depending on individual circumstances. If I go out for a walk I do any small bits of shopping which are needed, such as bread and milk or nursery supplies.
Once back home I make sure the mother has had some lunch, a meal we often take together as this is an ideal time of day to continue discussing baby topics, such as cold weather clothing needs or preparing to go away on holiday.
The baby will be ready for a feed. After this is over, I encourage the mother to take a rest on her bed if she has not done so before lunch. I will look after the baby for her. If she has visitors in the afternoon I take my two hour break then, either going out for a walk or resting. 4pm In the lighter, warmer months this is a good time for the mother to take a short walk with her baby. I may go with her if my break has been earlier. Once back home, I make sure the mother has a drink and snack before she feeds the baby.
A shorter feed is given followed by some time with the nappy off and preparation for bath time. Feeling confident about bathing your baby can take time so I show a mother first, giving the bath myself until she feels ready to take on this part of the routine. Helping a mother find the most comfortable position, suggesting the best place for the bath to take place and showing her little tricks can all make this an enjoyable part of the day.
I advise a mother to give this feed in the nursery, or a quiet, calm place in the house. If her partner is home from work, I encourage them to spend time together, enjoying their baby before he settles for the evening. I involve fathers in baby care with tasks such as winding and changing, so they feel confident they can help their partner once I have left.
Once the baby is settled for the evening, I either help with the preparation of the evening meal if needed or spend time in my room resting to allow a couple some privacy. In most posts I eat with the parents, again this relaxed time of day gives us time to talk about the baby and other things as well. Once the meal is over I often leave the parents together whilst I rest, watch TV or read in another room. Before the next feed at around 10 - 10.30pm I make sure the breast pump is ready for use the following morning, storing it in the fridge. If a night feed of expressed or formula milk is being given by me, I prepare all that will be needed before waking the baby at 10pm.
In the early weeks I encourage the mother to get ready for bed before this feed, and often it takes place in her room. This is a good time to involve the father when a nappy change takes place. Whilst the feed is being given, I get ready for bed and rest until it is time to collect the baby and settle him for the night.
Once breast feeding is going well, usually sometime between the seventh and tenth day, I begin to give a bottle feed when the baby wakes in the night. This allows the mother to have one longer stretch of sleep at night, which will help her recovery from the birth. If the baby is still quite small this feed may take place around 2 am. The baby may wake again sometime around 5 am. If so I take him to the mother's room for her to give a small feed which will settle him to nearer 7 am when our whole day begins again.