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Life with your new baby

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baby in parent's hands

Life with your new baby

Congratulations on the birth of your baby!

Welcome to the world of parenting! As the parent of a new baby, you will experience many changes and may have many questions.

Ottawa Public Health is here to help. 

 The Healthy Babies, Healthy Children home visiting program
The Healthy Babies, Healthy Children home visiting program is designed to help parents who need more support give their children a healthy start.

A Public Health Nurse is available to:

  • Meet with you at your home to discuss how we can help your family.
  • Assess your family's health, including mental health, parenting challenges and stresses affecting your family and also your child's growth and development.
  • Provide health teaching, counselling, and active support.
  • Help you to connect with community resources
  • Involve other members of her team - family visitors and a social worker, as needed

The service is available in the language that you speak and there is no cost to you for this service.

To contact us:

613-PARENTS [613-727-3687]
TTY: 613-580-9656, Toll free: 1-866-426-8885
Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm 

 Parenting in Ottawa Drop-Ins
Do you have questions about your baby? Want to know if your child is on track? Do you have questions about their health or development? We are here to help.

The Parenting in Ottawa Drop-ins are located across the City of Ottawa. Speak with a public health nurse about parenting.

  • Get support for breastfeeding
  • Learn ways to help your child eat healthy and be active
  • Make sure your child is on track with their growth and development
  • Ask about your child's social skills and happiness 

The drop-ins are available to:

  • Expectant parents and parent(s) and guardians of children aged birth to 6 years of age
 Ottawa Public Health Information Line
613-PARENTS (613-727-3687)

Call any time from 9:00am to 4:00pm Monday-Friday for free confidential information and advice on a variety of health topics ranging from:

  • Prenatal health advice
  • Breastfeeding support
  • Help related to feeding your baby or child
  • Advice about speech, language, and your child's growth and development
  • Answers to your questions about immunization
  • Information about services in your community
 Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page
The Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page is moderated by Ottawa Public Health and is updated by a Registered Nurse Monday to Friday, 8:00am - 3:00pm (excluding holidays). It's our mission to share information, respond to your parenting questions and create a safe place for parents to get together to chat about raising kids in Ottawa. 


Parenting topics include:

  • family planning
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • the growth and development of your child
  • physical activity
  • healthy eating
  • child safety
  • mental health
  • how to talk to your child and teen about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs 
  • how to talk to your child and teen about puberty and sexuality
  • community services for your family

What are you waiting for?! Join the conversation

Learn more about...

 Feeding your baby

Choosing what to feed your baby is an important decision for a new parent. Check out the following information on breastfeeding and introducing solids:

Breastfeeding

Breast milk is the natural food for newborns. It offers everything a baby needs. 

Check out our Breastfeeding Section, or one of the links below.

Introduction to Solids

Additional Nutrition Information

 Safe Sleep

To reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), it is recommended that babies be placed on their back to sleep on a firm flat surface. SIDS is less common in babies who sleep on their back. Learn more about safe sleep and sleep behaviour.

 Infant crying
Crying is an important way that your baby communicates to you before he/she can speak.
 Infant mental health and responding to your baby's cues

Responding to your infant's needs and cues from birth will help your baby to grow up happy and healthy.  Learn more about mental health and attachment, and how to help your little one to feel safe and loved.

The emotional bond between your child and you is called attachment.

 Safety

As a parent you want your baby to be happy, healthy and safe. Learn more by selecting one of the options below:

Emotional changes in the postpartum period

New parents experience some emotional changes . It is important to care for yourself. It's also important to know about the postpartum blues as well as the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and where to get help.

Postpartum blues or "Baby Blues"

Postpartum blues (PDF) are common. In fact about 80% of mothers will experience "baby blues". You may have postpartum blues if you are:

  • restless
  • irritable
  • sad and tearful
  • fatigued
  • discouraged
  • having trouble eating or sleeping

All of these feelings are normal and usually start a few days after the baby's birth. They usually last for only a few days, but no more than 2 weeks.

What can you do?

  • Remind yourself that these feelings are normal
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling
  • Have a good cry if you feel like it
  • Ask for help

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression (PDF) can happen shortly after having a baby or many months later. About 10-25% of mothers will experience it. We don't really know what causes postpartum depression.

Some of the signs of postpartum depression are:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling s ad and crying frequently
  • Difficulty making decisions and concentrating
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Feeling frustrated or angry
  • Having anxiety or panic attacks
  • Feeling sad, lonely, hopeless
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed
  • Losing interest or joy in activities you used to like

Talk to your health care provider, if these feelings go on for more than a couple of weeks. You may have postpartum depression.

What can you do?

  • Remind yourself this is not your fault. It is normal and you are not alone.
  • Talk to your partner and family about how you are feeling.
  • Don't try to do everything. Ask for help.
  • Take care of yourself. Rest when your baby does. Try to get as much sleep as possible. Eat healthy foods and be active.
  • Get help. Join the MOMS support group or go for counselling.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications.
  • Call Ottawa Public Health Information 613-580-6744 ext. 28020 / Toll free 1-866-426-8885.
  • Call the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region at 613-238-3311. Open 24 hours a day to provide immediate support.

What can partners do?

  • Learn about the signs of postpartum depression and be alert for them. Mothers don't always know that what they are feeling is more than the "baby blues".
  • Help and support her. Do household chores, go to appointments with her and make sure she has had something to eat and drink.
  • Be ready to listen and encourage her to talk about how she is feeling.
  • Encourage her to get help.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat well and keep active.
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling.
Taking care of yourself

Life changes with a new baby. As exciting as each new moment can be, there can also be hard times. Coping with the hard times can be even harder if you are not getting enough sleep. Sleep can affect how you feel emotionally and physically. Remember, your needs matter too and it is important to take care of yourself.

You can try:

  • Sleeping when your baby sleeps.
  • Asking for help from others. Try being clear about what help you need.
  • Being active (PDF) because it can help clear your mind, reduce stress, increase your energy and meet others.
  • Eating a well-balanced diet. For more information, visit Canada's Food Guide.
  • If you have a partner, work together during the night to feed and care for your baby. For example, your partner can change the diaper and you can feed.

If you are not feeling like yourself, or you are worrying your partner, it is important to get help. Some women experience postpartum blues or more serious, postpartum depression.

Immunization
Your baby's first vaccines are at 2 months of age. Learn more about your child's immunization record and schedule.  
Plagiocephaly (flat head)
  • Shape of your baby's head (PDF) (CHEO) - It's important that your baby sleeps on his back. Babies who lie in one position for long periods of time can develop a flat area on their head, as their skull bones are soft until about one year of age. During waking hours tummy time is a great way to interact with your baby. Learn how to position your baby. 
Dental health
Even though your little one doesn't have teeth yet, it's important to know how to care for your baby's gums. Now is the time to start good oral hygiene habits.
Fever
As a new parent, you may question whether or not your baby has a fever. Visit The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario's website to know what to do.
Growth and development

Learn more about your child's growth and development, and what you can do to help your little one explore and discover his environment.

Speech and language
The first years of life are very important for learning speech and language. From the time they are born, children start communicating. Very early in their lives, they learn to understand what you are saying and to make sounds of their own. Eventually, these sounds and babbling will turn into words.  First Words is Ottawa Preschool Speech and Language program which focuses on prevention, early identification and treatment of speech and language. Visit First Words for more information.
Smoke free homes and second hand smoke
Are you, or is someone in your home a smoker?  Learn more about second hand smoke, and how to protect your baby by not smoking in your vehicle and by having a smoke free home.

The City of Ottawa's smoke-free regulations are designed to protect children and non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

Childcare
Have you thought about childcare services for your new baby? There are many options you can choose from and it is important to register early.
Community resources
Ottawa is a city where many resources in the community are available for you to connect with other parents.
Emergency preparedness
All new parents should have an emergency plan so that they are ready and can ensure that they have what they need in situations when usual sources of help are not available.

For example, your emergency food and water kit should contain adequate supplies to keep you and your family self-sufficient in your home for at least three days.

It is important to review the emergency preparedness checklist and the emergency preparedness special needs kit to ensure your safety and the safety of your family.

Balancing demands
It can often be hard to balance demands. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 58% of Canadians report "overload" with demands. These pressures include work, home and family, friends, physical health, volunteer and community service.

Here are some tips for you to help balance your demands:

  • Ask for help
  • Write down 3 things you are thankful for each day, even if you find it hard  
  • Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night 
  • Don't try to do it all
  • Take care of your well-being 
  • Use your vacation time 
  • If you get sick, stay home 
  • Plan ahead
  • Set firm limits between your work and non-work time
  • Say no. Be honest with yourself about how much you can handle.

If you are returning to work, it can be a hard transition for both parents and children. You may want to talk to your employer about a flexible work day or slowly returning to work. Take the Work-Life balance quiz to find out if your life is in balance.

For more information on the 'Struggle to Juggle' visit the Psychology Foundation (PDF).

Do you have more questions?