Your 1-week old baby: It’s impossible to stop looking and touching. That’s what having a 1-week-old is all about, so settle in and learn a bit about your newborn baby.
Unreal, right? After all the waiting and anticipation, your baby is finally here! Your world is utterly changed forever, in the best way possible. You’re likely feeling every emotion right now, from exhaustion and disbelief to enormous love. It’s all normal, sped along by the proximity of a beautiful baby and a surge of hormones that can take you from tears to euphoria in mere minutes. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.
Some things may be going smoothly (the skin-to-skin snuggles, now those you can do), while others are a rocky road of doubt and desperation (is the latch right, is that poop normal, is it supposed to hurt so much down there?). Support from family and friends is crucial now, which means something different for everyone—whether it’s helping with day-to-day tasks so that you can bond with your baby or pitching in with the bit of bean to get some sleep. Both of you need a lot of rest this week, and having your baby in your arms after nine months of bonding in utero is a lot to process. Snuggle up, stay in your PJs and be gentle on yourself—it’s a steep learning curve and a wonderful week of getting to know your baby.
What Is My Newborn Learning?
Play is the chief way infants learn how to move, communicate, socialize, and understand their surroundings. And during the first month of life, your baby will learn by interacting with you. The first thing your baby will learn is to connect the feel of your touch, the sound of your voice, and the sight of your face with getting his or her needs for comfort and food met.
Even at this young age, newborns are ready to learn about the world around them. Your newborn loves to look at your face. Newborns can recognize and respond to mom or dad’s voice (or other exciting sounds) by looking alert and becoming less active. The baby may try to find out where the sound is coming from by looking around and turning his or her head.
Encourage learning with smiles, soothing sounds, and gentle caresses. When you smile and talk to your infant, your face and the sound of your voice will become a familiar source of calm and comfort. Your little one will learn to associate you with nourishment, warmth, and a soothing touch.
What Is the “Rooting Reflex”?
Babies are born with involuntary reflexes that help ensure survival. Reflexes also are a way for babies to interact with the world. For example, gently stroking a newborn’s cheek will get the baby to turn the head and mouth to that side, ready to eat. This is called the rooting reflex. But by the time they’re 3 weeks old, babies will turn toward the breast or bottle not just because of a reflex but because they’ve learned that it’s a source of food.
Asleep, Active, or Alert?
During the first month of life, your newborn will spend much of the day sleeping or seeming drowsy. Over the next several weeks to months, your baby will be awake and alert for longer periods. You’ll learn to recognize when your baby ready to learn and play:
- A baby who is quiet and up will be attentive and responsive, and interested in surroundings.
- A baby who is awake but active (squirming, flapping arms, or kicking legs) or fussing cannot focus on you. The baby may seem upset or cry when you try to get his or her attention. These are signs that your baby may be getting hungry, tired, or overstimulated.
The 5 Senses and the Start of Communication
After months of muffled sounds and cushioned bumps, oh baby, what a sensory overload the world can be! All of your baby’s senses are working at birth, and, compared to the womb, the world is noisy, bright and probably cold. It can be challenging for your baby to take all of it in at once—cue the need to communicate! Yep, we’re talking about crying, for the most part, and lots of other mysterious sounds as well. This is your chance to get to know what your baby is feeling, and there’s going to be some guesswork involved. Don’t worry; you’ll figure it out. You may even find that your body is biologically tuned to respond, spurting milk in response to baby’s cries and lurching awake when baby calls.
Baby’s got eyes for you! There’s a reason why you can’t stop looking at your baby when you’re cuddling: That’s about as far as your baby can focus, so they do only have eyes for you (or anything within eight to 10 inches of their face). A baby’s vision is blurry, and their focus is off, so there’s no need to worry about those flashcards yet (no, not even those high-contrast black-and-white toys you got as a gift). Face-to-face cooing will do just nicely! And your baby sure can hear sounds: They may startle when a door slams or the dog barks or be soothed by the familiar beat of your heart when you’re chest to chest or the murmur of voices that they recognize from their time in utero. Your baby’s nose is working well in the first week, too, and babies prefer the smell of their mother’s bodies very early on. The scent also helps them find milk, which is where the sweet taste of your baby’s favourite drink also comes in. But it’s touch that is probably the most important sense for both of you. Babies thrive on communication, so don’t worry if you can’t stop cuddling—your warmth, smell and voice are the perfect transition from womb to world.
A Weighty Issue?
Your baby isn’t going to get plump in the first week and will often lose weight instead, which can induce fear in any mom, particularly if you’re breastfeeding and not sure how much milk your baby is getting. But resist the call of the baby scale! It’s normal for breastfed babies to lose seven to 10 per cent of their birth weight, which most regain by the time they are 10 to 14 days old.
Feeding Your Newborn
Oh, the feeding questions, concerns, worries and drama! If anything dominates your baby’s first week of life—and your first week of motherhood—it’s worry overfeeding. If you’re breastfeeding, there may be blood, sweat and tears—quite literally! The latch can be lovely or toe-curlingly painful, so nipple cream (or some breast milk right on your nipple!) and lactation advice are both must-haves in the early days. Who said breastfeeding comes naturally? (And can someone tell your baby that?) There can be many bumps (and bottles) along this road, so definitely keep your goals flexible and your bra off—feeding can feel like a constant demand that first week, and there’s little point in straying too far from the curved pillow and burp cloth. It can be messy, confusing, discouraging and wonderful, often all within the same feeding session.
Breast or bottle, your baby’s greatest joy is drinking their fill, and feeding on demand during the first week is the best approach. Woe to the mama who misses the first cue of a hungry newborn! Your baby can quickly work up to a dull roar, which can be a scary thing if you’re trying to latch them onto the bottle or breast. In the first week, breastfed babies may feed every two or three hours, while bottle-fed babies might go three or four hours between meals. But there’s no sense trying to schedule it in the first week. Offer early and often, and you and your baby will soon get the hang of what’s hunger and what might be a need to suck. Frequent nursing will also stimulate your milk supply, which can take almost the entire first week to come in.
It might be too soon to think about pumping (it’s typically advised to wait until your baby is six weeks old after your milk supply is well established), either to get a break and give your family a chance to bond with the baby or to reassure yourself that milk truly is making its way into your baby. But if there are breastfeeding issues, your healthcare provider or lactation consultant might recommend pumping sooner rather than later.
Your baby’s stomach is tiny during the first week, and it only takes a small amount to satisfy the little lamprey. Of all the dozens (hundreds?) of photos you take of your baby in those first days, the milk-drunk baby, passed out at the nipple, is a favourite. The contented sleep of a full-bellied baby is the best sleep of all for an exhausted mom and baby.
Logging Your Baby’s Diapers
Another sign of a well-fed baby isn’t quite as pretty: wet and dirty diapers. There should be lots of them this week: between six and ten a day if your baby is getting enough to eat. Some breastfed babies will produce dirty diapers after (or during!) every feed, while bottle-fed babies may not go as often. And, oh, the Google searches involving newborn poop. The consistency and colour are not what you might have expected, but chances are, it’s all normal and a healthy sign that your baby’s digestive system is kicking into high gear. The tarry black or green meconium of baby’s first poop may last up to three days—and it’s sticky stuff! By the middle of the first week, the stools will turn yellow and can be very loose. Don’t worry; it’s not diarrhea. Your baby’s poop, mainly if she is breastfed, may remain runny for months—all the better to overflow diapers and stain the cutest outfits you have. Baby blowouts can be genuinely bewildering—where does all that come from?! You’ll soon develop solid theories about the best diapers for your baby and the best techniques for diapering, along with a whole new appreciation for your washing machine.
Sleeping Like a Baby
Like feeding, newborn sleep can provoke a lot of questions. Don’t even think about trying to find a schedule or set good sleep habits—none of that will happen in the first week. That’s OK —40 weeks of pregnancy taught you how to cope with terrible sleep. The most important thing for both of you is safe to sleep, with the baby on her back and away from pillows and blankets that could impair breathing. Some babies love to be swaddled, and almost all of them love the warmth of a body to cuddle. But make sure that your baby is safely held by an adult who won’t fall asleep—everyone in the house may be pretty exhausted this week! Remember the adage “Sleep when the baby sleeps”? A baby who has fallen asleep should be your cue to stumble into a horizontal position yourself.
How Can I Help My Newborn Learn?
As you care for your newborn, talk, smile, and interact with your baby. Pay attention and respond to your baby’s cues. For example, watch how your baby moves or starts to coo back when you speak. Take turns “talking” to each other. This is how your baby learns to communicate.
In the first few weeks, you may want to introduce some simple, age-appropriate toys that appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, and touch, such as:
- textured toys
- musical toys
- unbreakable crib mirrors
Try toys and mobiles with contrasting colours and patterns. Strong contrasts (such as red, white, and black), curves, and symmetry stimulate an infant’s developing vision. As vision improves and babies gain more control over their movements, they’ll interact more with their environment. My Baby Nursery has the best baby nursery products to help create your dream baby room.
Some Other Ideas
Here are some other ideas for encouraging your newborn to learn and play:
Tummy to Play:
Always remember: back to sleep, tummy to play. Babies may not like being on their stomach at first because back and neck muscles are not very strong yet. Make Tummy Time part of the baby’s daily routine, starting with a few minutes at a time, a few times a day. It helps the baby develop core strength.
While your baby should sleep on their back, your baby should have (supervised) time on their tummy when they’re awake. ““Tummy time helps with gross motor skills and keeps the head from flattening. Babies should be on their bellies multiple times a day. If the baby hates tummy time (it happens), sweeten the deal by lying on the floor next to them and encouraging your little one to lift their head. Put items with different colours and textures (like a soft towel) underneath the baby during the exercise sessions, or even move the workouts to a shaded spot in the backyard.
Lie down, propped up by a pillow and place baby tummy down on your chest, so you’re face-to-face. Hold firmly so your baby does not roll-off. It helps your baby strengthen core muscles and achieve developmental milestones.
Get to Know Your Baby:
Take time to get to know the baby in every way. Smile at them. Touch hands, feet and forehead. See how they wiggle and react to touch and voices. It helps you connect with your baby.
Having a one-sided convo might feel a little silly at first, but hearing you speak does wonder for a baby’s language development. Look at all the ‘teach-yourself-a-new-language’ programs. They make their money by letting you hear language out loud. It’s OK to leave the witty banter for cocktail parties—right now; your newborn will find even the most mundane topics fascinating. So explain how you’re slicing vegetables for tonight’s dinner. Tell the baby what you’re doing during their bath. Point out how the leaves outside are changing colour. It may seem boring to you, but trust us, the baby is listening.
Sing a Song
Belting out “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” isn’t just fun; it also boosts a baby’s language skills. Don’t have Beyonce’s pipes? Don’t worry—your infant won’t judge you on whether you hit all the high notes. And don’t feel like your soundtrack has to stick to Wonder Pets! or Elmo’s World. It doesn’t have to be kiddie music that makes you feel like your brain will rot.
Read a Book
Reserve time throughout the day to snuggle up and read a book together. Besides the excuse to bond, reading is an ideal way for a baby to hear your voice (it’s one of their favourite sounds). Look for board books with pictures of faces or high-contrast patterns in black and white or bright colours.
Given the current concerns surrounding COVID-19, parents of newborns are advised to limit trips outside of the home. Still, experts say it’s lovely to take a walk with a baby for some fresh air and vitamin D. Not only is it essential for your sanity, but it’s also fun for babies. Just make sure to practice social distancing and consider pulling the stroller canopy down or snuggling the baby close to your body in a baby carrier.
Turn your phone on silent now and then. Focus on the baby and slow down to their pace. ““Babies change so quickly; every day seems to last a lifetime. They also operate at so much of a slower pace, and that’s OK. This is a more mellow time. Could you relax and enjoy it?
Your Life After Baby
Ups and Downs
Is there life after a baby? Well, not in the first week. But this is when you do need to start thinking about how you’ll get some me-time in the weeks ahead. In the early days, you can carve out personal space between your baby’s time falling asleep and the moment (sometimes minutes later) they wake up for a cuddle. Your significant needs during the first week may be pain management, emotional support and some time away from your baby and visitors. Something as simple as a trip alone to the drugstore may bring blessed relief (alone at last!), but it may also induce panic and a need to reunite with your baby (biology is weird). Embrace the emotional ups and downs—you’ve earned them!
Postpartum recovery is different for everyone. Some new moms are in considerable pain, either vaginally or at their C-section incisions (oh, the unmentionable agony!), while others may find recovery easier than expected. You may have been given meds to help cope with the pain and find it hard to decide whether to take them or not because they can be passed to your baby in breastmilk, so talk to your doctor or midwife. Discomfort is one thing, but agony is another, and your friend’s advice to sit on frozen maxi-pads soaked in witch hazel might not cut it. Be honest with yourself, your partner and visitors about what you can and can’t manage. Some women find it hard to stand up, while others find sitting much worse. Your incision may mean that you can’t lift or carry your baby as planned, and you may be bleeding more than expected. (Fun fact: A newborn diaper is very similar to a full-coverage maxi-pad in a pinch!) Hang onto your elastic undies and that squirt bottle for as long as you think you may need them—the healing process is more of a marathon than a race.
There is no set timeline, but generally, every day should get marginally better, and you should be well on your way to complete recovery by your six-week postpartum appointment. In addition to ice packs in your underwear, don’t be too proud to try the tiny rubber ring cushions they sell at the drugstore. It’s not dignified, but everyone’s looking at the baby anyway.
It’s never too early to start playing games to help your child reach their sensory, communication, feeding and motor milestones. These activities are designed to help your baby as they move towards their three-month milestones. These games are not limited to when they are one week old. You can keep playing these games over the next several weeks as long as you and your baby continue to have fun. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates, and there is a wide range of normal development. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about how your newborn sees and hears or if you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s development.