The Five Things Your Baby Needs Most from You

Because you are the most important person to your baby!

As doulas and educators, our job is to teach our clients so they can simplify and focus on what’s important and let go of the rest. With all the excitement and exhaustion, many new parents are understandably overwhelmed with information about caring for their newborn. It can seem like there are a million things to remember, and they don’t want to get it wrong.

In the first weeks and months of a baby’s life, it helps to keep it simple. Delegate or delay any other tasks you can do so that parents don’t feel pulled in too many directions. Focus on the baby in the first months and, gradually, they can add more activities, responsibilities and time to take care of yourself.

During this early stage, a lot of important brain development happens for babies. A baby’s brain absorbs experiences and creates neural pathways that they will have throughout their lives. A newborn’s highest priority is bonding with their caregiver. In fact, their survival depends on it. So, they seek love, food, contact, and comfort.

A parent’s brain also makes new connections. It’s all new, and you can help parents learn as they go. Parents need reassurance to be patient and keep trying! Notice if they are tired, frustrated, and just need a break.

Encourage clients to ask for help and accept offers from friends and family. They don’t have to do it alone!

The good news is that these five points are the most important things your baby needs. You can hold everything else — new gadgets, classes, items, and tricks. Take a deep breath and focus on them and they’ll know your baby is getting everything they need.

Safety and security

Newborns are 100 percent dependent on their parents. Babies need protection. Newborns feel safe and secure when they are held in arms or held close to the body in a loving way. Skin to skin is ideal if possible; proximity releases calming hormones in caregivers and infants. The calming effect of holding and nurturing nurtures your baby’s brain and body development while strengthening attachment and bonding. Babies who grow up in homes free of drug use, neglect, and violence develop emotional health, stronger relationships, and do better in school.

Some parents are worried about their first time out with the baby. Plan ahead! They can accept invitations in places that will make them feel comfortable, even if they have to feed the baby or they are crying. Pack a diaper bag carefully and don’t forget an extra change of clothes, some diapers, snacks, water bottles and anything else they might need. Sometimes it helps to have another adult with you while you manage the car seat, the bag, the baby, and other things you’ll be carrying. Sometimes a walk or a walk outside feels great. Invest in a good carrier and strap your baby to you while you walk. Physical activity and socializing can be a great way to refresh as a parent and build your confidence for going out with baby.


Newborns need to be fed at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. They require constant caloric intake and proper nutrition to support their rapid growth and brain development. If a parent has any concerns about a baby’s feeding or weight gain, don’t hesitate to meet with a lactation consultant or contact your healthcare provider.

Breast milk is the best food for a newborn. Consists of perfect protein, amino acids, carbohydrates, and immune boosting minerals; babies get perfect nutrition from mother’s milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 12 months of breastfeeding, while slowly introducing solids as your baby shows signs of readiness, usually around 6 months of age.


Newborns need frequent diaper changes to keep their delicate skin clean and dry. When bathing a newborn, use a mild soap and lather the skin with a mild baby oil or lotion. Bath time can be a time of eye contact, listening to quiet music in a calm environment of gentle loving care. Then, use mild oil to rub the baby’s skin and massage. Playing soothing music (for baby and parent) and using a gentle oil (apricot, almond, or coconut oil work) can help set the scene for a relaxing time to bond and hold. your baby.

Hold on

Newborns love to be held, rocked, cuddled and comforted. When your baby is skin-to-skin on your chest, he can regulate his breathing and temperature, allowing him to sleep longer. Massaging the baby, holding him, dressing him, changing his diaper and wearing him in a carrier are ways to comfort and engage in early “play” together. When newborns are held skin-to-skin, they usually cry less and eat more easily. Carriers of all kinds make it easy for parents to hold their baby while they walk, clean, rest, or eat. Baby massage has been shown to help relax babies, calm anxiety or discomfort, and provides valuable time for parents to gently hold and get to know their babies. You can find videos, classes, and books to help guide you in learning about infant massage. Start with gentle touch and see what your baby likes!

Binding and Connection

The newborn knows your voice and loves to hear it! From week 18 or 20 of pregnancy, babies can hear and at the time of birth, a baby prefers familiar voices. Talking, telling stories and singing to newborns promotes bonding, while calming and comforting them. Early reading to babies helps expose them to the different rhythms and tones of their own language. Popular baby books are Goodnight Moon, Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see? and Guess How Much I Love You. So, let babies hear voices! They study the language.

Babies love faces too! Newborns see 12 inches away from their own faces at birth, the perfect distance to gaze at faces while being held. When a baby sees a familiar face, the stress hormone (cortisol) decreases and the love hormone (oxytocin) increases. They thrive on attentive, gentle, loving care.

Babies really need you. By responding to your baby’s early cues for food, comfort and connection, you can reduce crying and fussiness. It is impossible to spoil your baby!


Enhancing Brain Development in Babies and Toddlers: Strategies for Caregivers and Educators Illustrated Edition
by Doris Bergen (Author), Lena Lee (Author), Cynthia DiCarlo (Author), Gail Burnett (Author), Sandra J. Stone (Foreword)

Active Baby, Healthy Brain: 135 Fun Exercises and Activities to Maximize Your Child’s Brain Development from Birth to Age 5 1/2 by Margaret Sassé (Author), Georges McKail (Illustrator), Frances Page Glascoe PhD (Foreword)

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Protect Your Child’s Growing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel (Author), Tina Payne Bryson (Author)

Baby Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina (Author)

About the Author

Abby Bordner, CLD, CPD, CLE®, ICCE began her career in reproductive health care. She started at Planned Parenthood in Portland, OR where she was trained as a health counselor for contraception and HIV/AIDS and went on to work as an assistant to a busy Ob/Gyn doctor for several years. She had her first child in 1999 when she began her interest in maternity work. Soon after, she pursued her labor doula certification, became a childbirth educator, then a lactation educator, and finally a postpartum doula with CAPPA. She teaches a variety of educational workshops and training for professionals, including a level two prenatal yoga teacher training. Her passion is providing group training that includes education, self-reflection, sharing, and playing together. She has two children and lives in Santa Fe, NM.

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