Your baby is finally here! After nine months of waiting, wondering and anticipating, that sweet-smelling bundle of cuteness is in your arms.
Perhaps you didn’t expect your newborn to be puffy-eyed and wrinkled with a bit of a conehead, but it makes sense considering her extended stay in your cramped and watery uterus, followed by a tight squeeze through the birth canal.
Luckily she’s beautiful to you, and happily, she’ll become even more photogenic as the week progresses. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Remember to savour all those first cuddles, first feedings and first skin-to-skin snuggles. Now’s the time to start the bonding process with the newest member of your family. Keep in mind, those feelings of love and attachment don’t always happen automatically but sometimes take time to grow over the weeks and months ahead.
About your newborn’s first week of life
Newborns spend their first week of life adapting to their new environment.
The outside world is very different from the womb, where it’s dim, the temperature is constant, and noise is muffled. You can help your baby get used to the outside world by giving them warmth, love, security, attention – and lots of cuddles and smiles.
Your newborn’s appearance in the first week of life
Your newborn’s appearance will change over the first week.
If your newborn’s head is a bit cone shaped after journeying through the birth canal or because of a vacuum-assisted birth, it should round out to a more normal-looking shape.
Any swelling around your newborn’s face and eyes will go down within a few days. If your newborn’s face or head has been bruised – for example, after a forced birth – the bruising will disappear. Newborns with bruising are at risk of newborn jaundice. Let your midwife, GP or child and family health nurse know if the skin on your newborn’s face looks yellow, and you think it might be jaundice.
Your newborn’s umbilical cord will gradually dry, become black and then fall off, usually within the first ten days. Try to keep the umbilical cord clean and dry. If the area around the umbilical cord looks red or is sticky, let your midwife, GP or child and family health nurse know.
Your newborn might have one or more birthmarks, either at birth or later on. Birthmarks are common and usually don’t need medical attention. But if your newborn’s birthmark concerns you or if it changes, it’s a good idea to have it checked by your GP or child and family health nurse.
Feeding and sleeping in the first week of life
Most newborns feed every 2-4 hours, and they have around 8-12 provides every 24 hours. Sometimes might last up to an hour, especially if your newborn is breastfeeding.
Newborns usually wake for feeds. But some might need to be revived for feeding – for example, newborns who have lost a lot of weight, are tiny or are jaundiced.
It’s likely to be a while before you see a pattern or routine of feeding and sleeping.
In the first few weeks, looking after yourself is essential. This means eating well and doing some physical activity and resting when your baby sleeps, which will help you catch up on sleep. Getting help from family and friends can make a big difference too.
Development in the first week of life
Your newborn is learning a lot as you spend time together every day. Their brain is growing and developing as they see, hear, smell and touch the world around them.
Your newborn will close their hands involuntarily in the grasp reflex and will startle at sudden loud noises. They’re also likely to have sudden jerky movements while asleep.
At 1-week-old, your baby is working on fine-tuning the skills needed to survive outside of the womb. The top priorities? Suckling, digesting, and setting up their immune system and digestion system with good flora to develop a different microbiome from mom.
Right now, your baby relies heavily on a sense of smell and a sense of touch, so it’s essential to have as much skin-to-skin contact as possible this week. You may also notice many reflexes early on, such as appearing to startle or looking like they’re shivering—both are normal reflexes.
One significant occurrence in newborns is their breathing pattern. At 1-week-old, your baby’s breathing will be irregular, with regular episodes of apnea (when they stop breathing altogether).
This can be scary to witness when it first happens, but irregular breathing in newborns is normal, especially while sleeping. Of course, you should constantly monitor for a problem and follow safe sleep guidelines.
In your baby’s first week, you can usually expect them to:
- Have a spontaneous or almost reflexive smile, which can occur as early as your baby’s first few days of life and should be present by ten weeks old. This is different from the social smile that arises in response to something, like when you talk or sing to your baby. Babies develop the social smile a little later when they are 1-2 months old.
- Have equal movements of the arms and legs on both sides of the body. For example, 1-week-old babies shouldn’t move one arm or one leg much more than the other, which could be a sign of injury or weakness.
- Lift their head briefly when on their tummy. But remember, newborn babies have poor head control and need their head supported at all times.
- Focus briefly on objects near the face and up to about 12 to 15 inches away, which is about the distance of a breastfeeding baby looking at their mother’s face. Babies can also see simple, high-contrast patterns at this time, but their vision will quickly mature over the next few months. Your baby may also respond to loud noises and look at and follow objects toward the midline of the face.
Bonding and communicating in the first week of life
You can communicate with your newborn using your voice, touch, sight and smell. Gentle touch, cuddling, smiling and gazing sounds important information about your newborn’s place in the world and helps your newborn feel safe and secure with you.
During this first week, you’ll also start getting to know how your baby communicates with you using baby cues and body language.
Bonding and attachment are about always responding to your newborn’s needs with love, warmth and care. And bonding and affection are vital to all areas of your child’s development, including brain development. Our exclusive range of baby nursery products will help create the perfect baby nursery for your baby.
Common health concerns in the first week of life
It’s normal for newborns to lose weight during the first five days after birth. This happens as they lose excess fluid. This weight loss shouldn’t be more than 10% of their birth weight. Most newborns regain their birth weight after 1-2 weeks. If your newborn has lost too much weight, they might have to be readmitted to the hospital until they’re feeding well and gaining weight each day.
It’s common for newborns to develop sticky or discharging eyes during the first few weeks of life. The most common cause is blocked tear ducts. This issue usually gets better by itself, but gentle eye cleansing and massage will also help. It’s best to have your GP or child and family health nurse check your newborn’s eyes if they’re red and sticky.
Newborns can develop all sorts of rashes, which usually aren’t severe. But if your newborn has a rash, it’s best to have your GP or child and family health nurse check it out. Common rashes include cradle cap, nappy rash, heat rash, eczema, milia and dry skin.
When to Be Concerned
Although 1-week-old babies will sleep a lot, if they won’t wake up for feedings or have any change in activity levels where they appear much more lethargic than usual, you will want to speak with your baby’s doctor.
You should also be sure to call a doctor if you notice any additional symptoms, such as yellowing skin or fever. Fevers in a 1-week-old can be a sign of a severe infection, so don’t hesitate to take your baby to the doctor’s office or the ER.
If something doesn’t seem right and you’re worried about your newborn, seek medical help. Contact the midwives at the unit where your baby was born, your GP or your child and family health nurse.
Seek medical help as soon as possible if you’re newborn:
- isn’t feeding – for example, your newborn is taking half the average volume or number of feeds in 24 hours or vomits more than half of three meals in a row
- has fewer than 6-8 wet nappies per day
- seems irritable, lethargic or very tired all the time or is hard to wake for feeds
- Has pale or yellow skin.
Crying in the first week of life
Newborns might cry because they:
- are hungry
- have a wet or dirty nappy
- feel too hot or too cold
- I want you close for reassurance.
If your newborn is crying, you can try feeding, changing their nappy, cuddling or rocking, speaking or singing in a soothing voice, or giving them a warm relaxing bath.
And if your newborn is crying a lot, remember that it’s normal for newborns to cry. Comforting your newborn will help them feel safe and secure.
When to seek help for crying
If you think your newborn is crying too much or you’re having trouble coping, speak to your GP or child and family health nurse as soon as you can.
In particular, seek medical help if you’re newborn:
- has a high-pitched cry (like a cat’s)
- seems to have a weak cry or is moaning
- is crying for long periods.
After the first week: baby health check-ups
Your nearest early childhood centre provides free check-ups for your baby, usually at two, four and eight weeks after birth. When you go for your baby’s check-ups, it’s a good time to ask questions about anything, from rashes to vomiting to crying. You could write a list of questions before the check-ups, so you don’t forget to ask the nurse anything you want to know.
What the First Week With a Newborn is Really Like
Bringing home a baby is equal parts awesome and terrifying. But you’ll get through it, we promise. Use our guide, so you aren’t blindsided by feeling sore, sleepy, and a little weepy during those early days.
Day 1: Your Body Is in Shock From Delivery.
Most first-time moms-to-be spend so much time obsessing about childbirth that the struggles of recovery aren’t on their radar.
If you deliver vaginally, you will be highly sore — a baby, the size of a Virginia ham, did just come out of a tiny spot. Ice the area for the first 24 hours, then take frequent warm baths to soften stitches and keep them from feeling tight.
The good news? “Because a lot of blood flows to your vagina, the area heals quickly — in a matter of days,” she says. For cesarean births, pain medication (OTC or prescription) can relieve the soreness and pull at your incision site.
It’s essential that you take enough medication during the first week, so you feel good enough to move around, which encourages recovery. Your C-section incision will take four to six weeks to heal fully, so keep an eye out for infection. If it leaks, smells, burns, or looks red, or if you develop a fever of more than 100.4 degrees F, call your doctor.
No matter how you deliver, you can expect a lot of cramping during this time as your uterus shrinks to its pre-pregnancy size. If you’re nursing, the pain will be sharpest when your baby latches on, which signals your body to start releasing oxytocin, the contraction-triggering hormone. And all postpartum women experience a few weeks of lochia, vaginal discharge that includes blood, mucus, and bits of placental tissue. Have plenty of sanitary napkins on hand; don’t use tampons for at least six weeks because they can introduce bacteria.
Shall we go on? Incontinence, hemorrhoids, and urinary tract infections (UTIs) may enter into the picture. To help prevent incontinence, perform frequent Kegels (tightening vaginal muscles as if you’re attempting to stop the flow of urine). For hemorrhoids, move around, guzzle water, and take a stool softener. Tell your doctor about any pain when urinating or if you develop a fever since either symptom could signal a UTI.
Day 2: Your Baby May Develop Jaundice.
The tricky thing about this condition, caused when bilirubin levels build up too excessively in a newborn’s bloodstream, is that it often appears when your baby is 3 to 5 days old, which is when you’re likely already at home. The telltale yellow colouring usually starts at the head and works its way down.
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, about 60 per cent of newborns will experience some degree of jaundice. Most cases resolve on their own, but because jaundice can cause brain damage if left untreated, pediatricians don’t take it lightly.
It’s stressful for parents during the baby’s first days, but jaundice levels that fall outside the accepted range are very curable. Many pediatricians will have you schedule a newborn visit about two days after you get home from the hospital to check for jaundice.
Always call your pediatrician if your baby’s abdomen, arms, legs, or the whites of his eyes are yellow. If your baby has already been diagnosed with jaundice, and he becomes fussy, hard to wake, or is not feeding well, tell your doc.
Day 3:Feeding Is the Hardest It Will Ever Be.
When moms of older kids dreamily tell you how much they “loved, loved” nursing their infants, they are not talking about the first seven days.
If you’re breastfeeding, take it one step at a time. Your goal right now is to get your baby to latch on correctly—lips flipped out, chin close to your breast, jaw and ear moving slightly in a rhythmic motion as she sucks. While some tingling or irritation at latch-on is familiar for the first week or two, the nursing session shouldn’t hurt. (In the first few days, it may induce some uterine cramping, which is normal.)
If your breast or nipple hurts or you’re concerned about your supply, talk to your doctor and consider hiring a lactation consultant to show you different ways to latch and see whether your baby is eating enough.
Keep in mind that milk can come in anywhere from 36 to 72 hours after birth, and for some, it could take four to five days. This can happen for several reasons, including gestational diabetes, a long, stressful birth, or a cesarean.
While you’re waiting, continue offering your breast to stimulate milk production. Your body expects your baby to be at the breast very soon to start suckling. If that doesn’t happen, you can mimic the baby with hand expression and pumping to get the milk going sooner.
Are you opting to formula-feed? Choosing a brand can be overwhelming, so ask your pediatrician for one she recommends. Know that formulas come in three general forms: powders, which need to be mixed with water; concentrates, which come in liquid form but must be diluted with water; and ready-to-use liquids, which can be poured directly into bottles. The type you choose may depend on both your baby’s preference and your budget.
Whether you breast- or bottle-feed, record when feedings occur to track what’s going on and help you know whether your baby’s eating the right amount.
Day 4: You May Cry a Lot.
With over a third of babies now delivered through C-Section, feeling sad about not having the birth experience, they planned to jolt many women. And regardless of how you provided, your body is on a hormone roller coaster during these first weeks. The highs can help you bond with your baby, but you may hit lows you’ve never experienced before.
Your body doesn’t feel like your own, your boobs hurt, your bottom is sore, you’re not sleeping, you may not have much help. The postpartum blues magnify all of that stress.
Bonding isn’t necessarily automatic, either. It’s okay to feel somewhat disconnected from your newborn at first or to be anxious about not knowing how to take care of your baby. Give yourself time to be with your little one: Doing tasks like feeding and changing him will help your confidence grow, says Dr Mittal. When he’s alert, focus on him. Hold your baby, noting what positions he prefers. Sing, imitate his sounds and make eye contact with him.
If you continue to feel indifferent or anxious, or your feelings of sadness worsen, especially if you begin to have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, you may have postpartum depression. Contact your ob-gyn, who can steer you to help right away.
Day 5: You Realize What True Sleep Deprivation Is.
At first, the adrenaline rush of having a baby carries you through. Then comes the crash — the rude awakening that this is no temporary matter.
Tending to a newborn will require you to wake up every two to three hours to feed during the night. To try to keep up on your sleep, consider taking cat naps whenever your baby sleeps or match your bedtime to your baby’s.
Suppose you’re formula-feeding, alternate late-night bottles with your partner so you can take turns getting to sleep early. If you’re breastfeeding, you can begin that same switch-off routine as soon as you and your baby have mastered nursing, and you’re ready to pump and offer breast milk in a bottle. (This is generally approved by around a month, but speak to your pediatrician or lactation consultant first.)
It can also be game-changing—rest wise—if your partner handles all the other middle-of-the-night “fun,” like diapering, burping, swaddling, and changing dirty pyjamas. Newborns sleep 16 to 18 hours a day, but usually not at the “right” times. During the day, wake him for feeding if he slumbers for more than four hours at a stretch, so he maintains his weight gain. At night, keep the lights dim during diaper changes and feedings to avoid waking him up entirely. When your baby can’t settle down, but you know he’s been fed and had enough to eat, soothe him by rocking, giving him a pacifier, or swaddling.
And as hard as it is to pause the snuggles, never share your bed with your newborn.
Day 6: Take Care of Her Skin.
We know: There’s nothing like that first bath photo! But hold off on sudding her up during the first week. Studies show that the vernix—the white, waxy substance that covers your baby in the womb and that she’ll be coated with at birth—helps lower her skin’s pH level and serves as a protective barrier from irritants once she arrives.
It also contributes to the makeup of her skin’s microbiome, a layer of microorganisms that help keep her skin healthy. (Every baby’s microbiome is different. The mix of bacteria depends on whether she was born vaginally or via C-section, whether you formula-feed or breastfeed, where you live, and more.) Washing your baby with a cleanser can disrupt the microbiome’s formation, which may make her more susceptible to skin issues like eczema down the line.
Of course, with all the diapers your baby will go through in a day (8 to 12, on average), some cleaning is essential. Breastfed babies often poop with every feeding in their first weeks of life, and formula-fed babies can poop three to four times a day.
Washing with water alone won’t obliterate poop and pee, so if your baby has an extra-dirty diaper, it’s okay to wash her more thoroughly. Use a soft cloth and a gentle pH-adjusted cleanser that protects and nourishes the microbiome on her messy skin. It would help if you continued to use this product at bath time after the first week. To prevent rashes, go for super-absorbent diapers and fragrance-free (either synthetic or organic) wipes. If the area is irritated, apply plain petroleum jelly or a zinc-oxide paste.
Day 7: Make peace with your new normal.
You likely won’t have the energy to socialize as you did pre-baby, so talk with your partner about which visitors will cut. It’s okay to make some people wait. Eager pals can help in other ways: Accept their homemade soups, let them walk the dog, and welcome their groceries. They can peek at your baby then. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Be realistic. You might set one non-baby-related goal every day, like doing a load of laundry or writing two thank-you cards. If your baby doesn’t want to be put down, use a swing or wear him in a carrier as you check off your to-do list. If you can’t manage to keep your home tidy, let yourself off the hook.