LIFE THROUGH YOUR BABY'S EYES
Now that your baby is into his second month he is growing more interested in his surroundings, although his visual capacity is still not very mature and most things remain a bit of a blur to him.
He's still very sensitive to light, although his eye muscles are stronger now and he can change his focus without having to turn his head to adjust his line of vision. He'll enjoy watching objects dangled about 15-25cm form his face.
Try moving a brightly coloured or patterned object slowly from side to side or up and down at a distance of around 15-25cm from your baby's face and watch him follow it around. If you move it too quickly he'll struggle to focus and you'll see his eyes jerking about with the effort of keeping up. It'll help to strengthen his eye muscles if you keep the movements steady and rhythmic, although it's still normal for his eyes to drift and wander at this stage.
Your baby is able to distinguish between some primary colours, such as red and green, of the same intensity, as well as black and white and different greys. Those shades with the strongest contrasts appeal to him most.
By two months your baby's sensitivity to contrast will be 10 times better than at birth and nearly as good as an adult's.
He'll appreciate a change of scene from time to time so that he gets new things to look at, scrutinise and appreciate, so move his Moses basket or cot around; sit him in a bouncing cradle seat in front of the TV for short bursts or in his highchair while you work in the kitchen, and take him out in his buggy or pram to broaden his experience.
GAMES TO PLAY WITH YOUR BABY
During this month your baby will begin to smile meaningfully to convey her pleasure. You can probably elicit a smile by being playful and smiley yourself. You may even notice your baby smiling in her sleep, and she might do this in response to a gentle, high-pitched noise from you (not too loud, though - you don't want to wake or frighten her!).
Play games like face-pulling with your baby and see if she tries to copy you. She'll love studying your face and mimicking you.
Sing to your baby, but leave pauses and see if she coos or gurgles in return. Repeat the same songs often, perhaps accompanied by actions, so she gets used to anticipating the fun.
Continue to bounce and dangle interesting objects in front of your baby and watch her fascination as she follows their movements.
Now's a good time to hang a baby mobile over her cot and enjoy watching her excitement. Those that move will probably get the best response.
Show her pictures of different faces and see if she seems to shows a preference for some over others.
Splash her tummy gently with water or pour it from a cup during bathtime, laughing as you do.
One particular study found that at around two months, babies were able to recognise the faces of people who had stuck their tongues out at them 24 hours previously: this was proven when the individuals who'd previously stuck out their tongues simply looked at the babies, and the babies stuck their own tongues out in response! Why not try a similar experiment yourself with friends and family.
Now that the first month has passed and, hopefully, you and your baby have got to know each other better, it's a good time to think about starting to establish some sort of routine.
If you can get your baby used to certain things happening at certain times of day or night, it will not only make your life easier, it will instil a sense of security in your baby.
Newborns and children of all ages thrive on routine as it lays down a certain predictability and reliability to their days. Once you've got into an established routine with your baby you can begin to work towards most of your activities together happening during the daytime rather than carrying on all night!
A good place to start with your routine is with your baby's daytime naps. The key is to make a distinction between day and night, so instead of putting your baby down in her cot in the nursery with the curtains closed during the day, try putting her down in her Moses basket or pram in a room near you, with the curtains open or just partially closed if the sun's shining in.
Don't tiptoe around to make things as quiet as night: go about your chores as usual (perhaps without bringing out the vacuum cleaner) and don't whisper or turn off the TV. Your baby needs to learn to drop off with the normal sounds and activities of daytime going on around her.
Then, when it comes to night-time sleep, alter the circumstances so that she gets all the cues that this is her main long sleep: put her in her her cot (which should be in your room for the first six months); close the curtains; and pull the door closed so that she's shielded from your noise (making sure first that the baby listening device is switched on and you have your half with you).
If your baby is very reluctant to drift off without you cuddling her to sleep, take the opportunity to try to break this cycle before she becomes able to manipulate the situation in a few more months' time. Start by putting her in her cot while she's still awake, earlier than you'll be going to bed yourselves, and sit alongside her just stroking her and speaking gently to soothe her.
If she accepts this, gradually move your seat a little further away from her and sit talking gently to her for a little while. Gradually move your seat a little further away until you are sitting just outside the bedroom. If she cries during this routine, get up and stroke her again until she settles, then move away again.
It might take you a week or a couple of weeks to get your baby used to settling herself without being in your arms, but as long as you stick to the regime it will work with most babies eventually.
It will certainly help her learn to settle herself when she wakes in the night, too, if she's not actually hungry or needing a nappy change - and this will allow you a little more sleep yourself.
Whether you're breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, chances are you're already in some kind of routine. Breastfed babies do, though, sometimes seek the comfort of sucking on a breast without really feeding; if this is the case with your baby, you may start to feel as is she's permanently latched to you and you are tied to a chair for most of the day.
In this case, you might want to try expressing breast milk so that it can be fed to your baby in a bottle. That way, your partner or someone else close to you can take it in turns to feed your baby, giving you a break. This can be particularly helpful in establishing a bond with another carer, especially if your baby only ever seems to 'want' you.
If she's truly hungry she'll take the milk, even though it might take a little while and a few changes of teat to find a set-up she's happy with. If she's very fractious, you could try starting her off on the breast until she seems less hungry, then handing her over for a bottle feed.
FIVE TO EIGHT WEEKS CHECKLIST
Two months into new motherhood, there are a few things for you to make sure you get done (or at least get started on):
Check you've received an appointment for your baby's first immunisations.
These are against diptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and pnuemococcal infection. If you're dreading taking your baby, psychologically you might feel you want to wait for your GP practice to contact you, but if you haven't heard by the time your baby is nearing eight weeks, it's important you contact them yourself.
The jab is over in a flash and, although your baby might cry through sheer surprise, she won't be in a great deal of pain. You may be advised to give a dose of baby paracetamol afterwards in case of any minor reaction, but don't worry - you're doing your baby (and the wider community) a huge service in having her immunised, helping to prevent her from contracting potentially life-threatening disease and contributing to wiping these diseases out altogether.
If you're going to return to work sooner rather than later (or if you just feel you'll need a day or so off a week from childcare), don't leave it too long to begin researching your options.
The best childcare has long waiting lists, and you may want to make more than one visit to each before making your mind up. You should try to ensure you have a contingency arrangement in place, too, such as with friends or family.
Obviously it's best to continue breastfeeding your baby, but if you feel you have come to the end of the road - or if you want to express milk so that someone else can feed your baby - you'll need the appropriate equipment.
A steam steriliser is a great purchase (even better if it'll go in the microwave as it's so quick), and you'll need bottles, teats and bottle brushes. You might need some help with expressing, too, if it doesn't come easily by hand: some women find the electric pumps a little bit brutal, but hand pumps can be hard work. Ask around and read some online reviews before making a purchase.
BABY CHECKS 6 - 8 WEEKS
Your baby's second examination at 6-8 weeks old will probably be carried out at your GP practice by your GP, health visitor or a paediatrician. You'll either be called to have this examination at your own 6-week check or your practice will invite you to bring your baby for his first immunisation and include the check at this appointment. If you haven't been invited for your baby's check by the time he's six weeks old, contact your GP practice yourself and make an appointment.
The check will include:
A look at your baby's eyes to check for the presence of cataracts.
An examination of his palate to check for its normal development, during which the inside of your baby's mouth will be felt.
A listen to your baby's heart to check for any indication of congenital heart disease.
Manipulation of your baby's hips to check for dysplasia (a malformation of the hip joint).
An examination of your baby boy's scrotum to make sure that both testicles have descended.
Other checks will include:
Your baby's weight, height and head circumference, which will be recorded on a centile chart to show how his growth compares to the national average.
His femoral pulses to check the arteries to the lower limbs are not constricted or blocked in any way.
Your baby's degree of eye contact and whether he's smiling yet.
That all four limbs move symmetrically.
Your health practitioner might also use this opportunity to talk to you about all sorts of babycare issues from feeding to suncare and preventing accidents, as well as issues that might be affecting you like detecting depression or giving up smoking.
The results of your baby's 6-8 week check are recorded in your Personal Child Health Record (the red book) and are also stored on your NHS Trust's child health computer records. All community health records, such as immunisation details and growth and development statistics, are transferred to the child health computer from birth until your child is 16 years old.
THINGS TO DO FOR YOURSELF
Making 'me' time is so important when you have a new baby. At first all your energies will be devoted to your new little one - and rightly so - but by the second month you're at risk of becoming a bit isolated and careworn if you don't claw back a little time here and there for yourself.
Just as in pregnancy, when you were probably advised to 'make the most of the time now - soon it won't be your own to enjoy!', you should grab any time you can to give yourself a bit of pampering, relaxation or just sleep!
Try to find 20-minute windows when your baby's asleep to have a restorative catnap. This is thought to be the optimum amount of time for a nap by day, as any more will allow you to fall into deep sleep, which leaves you feeling more drained than ever when you wake up again.
Set your mobile phone alarm to wake yourself up (if your baby doesn't wake you automatically). Don't worry that your baby will need you: you'll hear him if he does. And, after all, you do get some sleep at night while he's slumbering, don't you? As long as you've put him down safely, he'll be fine, and you'll feel so much better for a short kip.
When did you last get a haircut? If it's time for a trim, try to find a time when you can leave your baby in someone else's care. Why not ask your hairdresser for advice on a new cut that's easy to manage and will suit your face shape? A new look can do a new mum the power of good - if not only because it'll get people noticing you rather than just your gorgeous baby again!
Next time you're supermarket shopping, treat yourself to your fave magazine (or one you've always told yourself you'll never pick up, but have always secretly wanted to!). Give yourself a break when your baby is either sleeping or happily amusing himself, make yourself a drink, put your feet up and indulge. And hey, why not throw in a chocolate treat, too? There's no need to go mad, but the odd few squares of good-quality chocolate can actually boost your iron stores! (Well, not much, but it's a good enough excuse...)
See if there's a mother-and-baby exercise class operating locally to you. You might find mum-and-baby outdoor buggy training classes; mum-and-baby yoga sessions or mum-and-baby keep fit. It's a great way to meet other new mums and their babies - and another chance to start your own postnatal group if you haven't got round to it yet.
It might not seem much, but how about going for a longish drive on your own while someone else looks after your baby? You can listen to the radio or a CD, sing your heart out, maybe stop off for a coffee somewhere and come home having benefited from your own company and a complete change of scene!
More on Parentdish:
Your baby at three months
Your newborn baby and the first month