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Intro

Congratulations on your the arrival of your Newborn.  You will likely feel in total awe of seeing them for the first time and holding them in your arms.  There can be a number of different emotions that can be felt in these early weeks – Excitement, Happiness, Content, Feeling Overwhelmed, Anxiety, Irrability, Sadness, Exhaustion.  This is completely normal in the early days.

This guide is to help make your Postpartum Recovery easier for you and your baby and navigate easy answers to any questions you have on Feeding and Caring for your Newborn.  You can read through or just navigate to the part you need help with.

Your Mental Health is important to give attention to with all the change.  See our Mental Balance Guide including Advice and Tips, 5-10 min Meditations, Sleep music and 3 Min Time Out Videos to help you take time to breathe.

Below is a summary of the main expectations you can have of the First Week and then the Guide will go into more detail to help you through the first 4 weeks after birth making it a more enjoyable experience for both you and your little one.  Our ‘Babies & Kids’ Guide will then give you tips and advice throughout the next 5 years.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) refers to your baby being a ‘Newborn’ until 28 days old and they will then move into being an ‘Infant’ until the age of 1.

The First Week

First Bonding

Skin to Skin (Kangaroo) contact is encouraged immediately after birth whether you had a Vaginal Birth or C-section and regularly from then on to help with bonding with your baby, regulating their temperature and to help encourage breastfeeding.  Whether you had a Vaginal delivery or C-Section it is recommended you have skin to skin contact immediately after birth and to try the first breastfeed within one hour after birth.

There are circumstances that unfortunately may mean this is not possible such as Immediate Medical Intervention required for either yourself of your Newborn or if you underwent a General Anaesthetic to give birth.  You may feel sad it was not possible but remember there will endless times that your baby can enjoy skin to skin time with you and the first breastfeed will be encouraged as soon as everyone is safe.

For skin to skin when in hospital allow yourself to be in the reclined position with bed head raised and pillows behind as support and lay them on you with their bareskin touching your bareskin and cover loosely with a blanket or swaddle to keep warm.  Once home you can do the same with pillows supporting you behind your back in bed or in an armchair or couch.

Follow Safe Sleep guidelines and ensure put them back into their cot if you feel that you may nod off or want to sleep.

You can also use wraps that hold the baby securely near you so can encourage skin to skin while walking around. See more in our ‘Caring for Baby’ section.

How They Communicate

Their main communication will be in the form of crying which is their signal for Feeding, Discomfort and Attention.   It may be confusing at first which of these is the cause of their crying but in time you will learn the different cues they use when wanting to be Fed, When they are in Discomfort and when they are wanting Attention.  This guide will help with some tips on how to decipher cries.

Your Baby's Appearance

Newborns usually appear wrinkled and more so if they are premie or a smaller baby with less fat.  Their skin is likely to be blotchy and skin colour will depend on their genetic make up which can change as they become older.

Their head maybe slightly cone shaped if had a vaginal delivery as a result of adapting to moving through the vaginal canal.   They may be bald, have a little hair or a full head of hair.

Their skin still may show some vernix caseosa which is a white cheese like substance and some remaining lanugo which is the fine hair that covered them for protection while in the womb.

Your Baby's Senses

Eyesight – Their sight is between 20/200 and 20/400 and their eyes are sensitive to bright lights so will be more likely to open their eyes in a lower light.  While they may look intently at a highly contrasted target they will not be able to tell the difference between 2 targets or move their eyes between 2 images.  Their focus distance is approximately 8-10 inches away from their face (less than a full size ruler).   And sometimes their eyes may be crossed or ‘wall eyed’ where they drift out.  This is normal and adjusts later as their vision improves their eye muscles become stronger.  They will not be able to see all colours which is why many baby books or sensory cards have black and white patterns.

Hearing – Your baby started hearing sounds way back in the womb such as your heartbeat, digestive system gurgles and the sound of your voice.  Once they are born most newborns can hear fairly well but not perfectly.  The middle ear is still full of fluid which may impair their hearing to a small extent and the entire hearing apparatus still has some developing to do.

Taste – Babies prefer sweet over sour tastes and have a strong preference for human milk

Touch – Your baby will be comforted by touch including having your hand placed on them, having skin-to-skin time and being swaddled.

Smell – Studies show babies to have a strong sense of smell and prefer the smell of their own mother especially her breastmilk

Baby's Weight

As they are learning to feed it is common for a baby to lose up to 10% of their body weight in the first week after birth.   This is why regular weighing of the baby will be done in the hospital and at follow up appointments with your Paediatrician or Family Doctor.  Once feeling is established a normal weight gain is to b be looking for is approximately 4-8 ounces a week.

Umbilical Cord

The stump of the umbilical cord will be begin to dry and will fall off within 1-2 weeks after birth.   Only ‘Topping & Tailing’ and Sponge Baths are recommended and not Babytub Baths until the stump has fallen off.

1st Sponge Bath

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that the baby does not be given a wash or bath within the 1st 24 hours after birth to encourage baby bonding and breastfeeding.

Feeding

The First type of breastmilk that will be produced after birth is Colostrum which is known as ‘Liquid Gold’ being yellow in colour and thick as it is dense in antibodies and nutrients providing your baby’s nutritional and immunity needs in a very small amount (5-7ml).  Your baby’s stomach size is tiny to start with so they only need a small amount.  Our ‘Feeding’ Section will go into more detail on the amount of milk their stomachs can take in the first week.

Your milk will start to come in around 72 hours after birth which is when you may find your breasts really start to swell.

Your baby will likely wake to eat every 2-4 hours and with breast-fed babies they may wake more frequently every 2-3 hours as human milk digests more quickly than Formula milk.  It is encouraged to not let them sleep for longer stints than 4 hours at a time and waking them to feed through the night if they do not wake themselves to meet their needs for milk.

Health2mama supports Mothers in any choice they make with Feeding their Baby but when you are making your decision it is advised to consider the below recommendations.

WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies initiate Breastfeeding within the the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life – meaning no other food or liquids are provided including water.   They should be breastfed on demand (‘Responsive Feeding’) which is as often as they want – day and night.  And no teats, bottles & pacifiers used.

To have a successful Breastfeeding journey it is particularly important to only offer the breast – ‘Breastmilk’ is best with providing Immunity and Nutrients that a baby needs and will help boost the Oxytocin hormones which stimulate milk production and encourage better mother-baby bonding.   The first stages of establishing Breastfeeding are difficult for the majority of Mums so do not worry if this is you – you are not alone.  It will likely need preseverence but will be worth it to give your baby the best start in life.  Refer to our ‘Feeding’ Section to gain advice and tips to make it easier.

There are circumstances where Feeding from the Breast is not possible or you may need to supplement by providing them with Expressed Milk in another way or Formula Milk.  The ‘Feeding’ Section will give advice on other methods of feeding Expressed Milk and Formula.

Which ever way your baby is fed it is important to burp them after every feed – even when they take in tiny amounts at the start.  Burping helps to release some of the air swallowed when feeding and helps with digestion and their comfort after feeds.  See our ‘Baby Burping’ Section to learn how.

Sleeping

The National Sleep Recommendation is 14-17 hours for Newborns (up to 28 days) and 12-15 hours of sleep for Infants (1 month to 1 year).  Their sleeping schedule can vary between different babies but typically is made up of:

    • 3 to 5 naps – each 15 mins to 3 hours
    • Time awake between sleeps – 30 mins to 1 hour
    • Longest stretch of nighttime sleep – 2-4 hours

Keep your baby safe and avoid any chance of Suffocation by following the ‘Safe Sleep Guidelines’ outlined by the American Academy of Paediatrics – see our ‘Sleep Section’ to learn how.  It is important to follow these Guidelines from birth.  

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