First Days Home With A Newborn: What You Need To Know Explained Quickly
Pregnancy is a joyful time, but it can also be filled with anxiety. One of your major worries may surround the first days with your newborn. Since you don’t know what to expect, you may be afraid of doing something wrong or not knowing everything you need to.
We’ve compiled all the basics that you need to know before you bring your baby home from the hospital.
Your First Days After Labor
During the first few days after giving birth, you’ll notice a few changes with your own body and emotions.
If you have a vaginal childbirth, you can expect soreness and discomfort for the first 24 hours. It may help to ice the area and take frequent warm baths. If it’s uncomfortable to sit, try putting a pillow on your sofa or chair. However, compared to other parts of the body, your vaginal area heals more quickly.
If you have a C-section, your doctor may prescribe pain medication. If not, you can use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Advil. Since moving around promotes healing, try to walk a bit around the house when you can. The incision can take up to 6 weeks to heal. During this time, monitor the area to make sure an infection doesn’t develop.
Many women experience cramping after birth. This is because the uterus is returning back to the size it was before pregnancy. The pain increases when your baby latches on during breastfeeding. You may also notice discharge that can include mucus, blood or tissue.
Other experiences you may go through include frustrations or other emotions related to difficulty breastfeeding. Keep in mind that your hormones are still fluctuating and you’re probably sleep-deprived. It can take up to a few months to adjust to your baby.
Although you’re happy your baby is healthy, it’s normal to feel a sense of overwhelm, sadness or disconnection at first. However, if these emotions persist, you should talk to your doctor about postpartum depression (Read: How to Prevent Postpartum Depression Before Delivery: 8 Ways).
Your First Days Home with a Newborn
We’ve broken up what you need to know into 6 categories.
Feeding a Newborn
If you notice your baby losing weight in the first few days, it’s normal. A breastfed baby can lose 7-10% of her birth-weight and a formula fed baby may lose about 5%. This is because babies are born with extra fluid that is lost after birth. You can expect her to regain her weight within two weeks. To ensure this, aim to feed her about every two hours. Even if your baby is sleeping, wake her up to feed. You can help her stay awake by rubbing her back or speaking.
Since your baby’s stomach is small, she can only eat a little bit at a time. Because of this, she’ll also eat more frequently. Whether you nurse or bottle feed, you can expect her to drink 1-3 ounces every 2-3 hours. If your baby eats even more frequently, that’s also normal.
Newborns can show they’re hungry in a few ways. Although crying can be a hunger sign, look for quieter ques. Before a baby cries, they often suck on their fingers, move or pucker their lips and lean toward the breast.
Some mothers are alarmed when their baby spits up after feeding. However, this is normal, even if it seems like she’s spitting up everything she just ate.
If spitting up is happening too frequently, talk to your doctor. Although it may improve with your baby’s control of her head, it may also be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For everything you need to know about feeding, read these posts:
- Everything You Need to Know About Breastfeeding: For Complete Beginners
- 6 Products That Make Breastfeeding Way Easier for New Moms
- Is My Baby Growing Properly?
- Breastfeeding vs Formula: Which is Better?
Wet and Dirty Diapers
One way to know your baby is feeding enough is to pay attention to how many dirty and wet diapers she has. You should keep track because your doctor will probably ask you during your baby’s first checkup.
In terms of wet diapers, a newborn should have:
- At least 5 if she’s breastfed
- Up to 10 if she’s formula fed (usually more than a breastfed baby)
When it comes to dirty diapers, there’s a wide range of what’s considered healthy. But here’s a guide:
- Breastfed babies can poop anywhere from once after every feeding to once every 4 days or so (breastfed babies tend to poop more since breast milk is digested quicker).
- Formula-fed babies can poop a few times a day to once every few days.
Your baby’s first poops—called meconium—are black and tar-like, so don’t be alarmed. If your baby is breastfed, her following poops may be light brown, green or yellow. Formula-fed newborns usually have pastier poops which vary in color. While changes in color are normal, white mucus or red colors can be a problem, so contact your doctor if this happens.
When Do I Burp My Newborn?
You may notice that your baby burps on her own. If not, she’ll need a little help from you. If she seems agitated after feeding, it could be a sign she needs to be burped. You can also try burping her when she’s switching from one breast to the other. Every baby is different, but after a few days, you’ll notice when and how often burping is needed.
Try holding your baby with her head resting over your shoulder. Then, give her a few soft pats on the back or rub in a circular motion. You may notice that air is released easier in other positions. For example, you can lay her across your lap and burp her tummy-down. Another option is to sit her on your lap, using one hand to support the front of her body and the other to pat her back.
Is My Newborn’s Breathing Normal?
You should know that newborns don’t typically breathe as smoothly as adults. You may notice that your baby takes a breath, pauses for a few seconds and then continues. That’s normal, but there are some signs you should watch for that could indicate problems:
- Pausing for more than 10-15 seconds after a breath
- Breathing fast non-stop
- Heavy breathing
- Wheezing from chest
- Grunting noises
What Should I Do About My Baby’s Cries?
Although all babies cry, they may be quiet for the first few days because they’re sleeping a lot. At two weeks, you can expect your newborn to cry for about two hours a day in total. The amount a baby cries tends to increase until around eight weeks. After this time, she usually becomes less fussy.
A baby could cry for several reasons:
- Dirty diapers
- Too much stimulation, such as sounds and activities going on around her
Over time, it will get easier to pinpoint why your baby is crying. Although it can be frustrating when you can’t get your baby to stop, try to be easy on yourself. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, you’re simply in the process of learning what works for your baby.
If you’ve ruled out all of the above reasons for your baby’s cries, the next step is to soothe her. Here are a few ways:
- Offer a pacifier (read 10 Crucial Things Moms Ought to Know about Pacifiers)
- Take her outside for a stroll or car ride
- Snuggle or swaddle her
- Play gentle music or sing her a lullaby
You should know that you can’t give your baby too much attention. Before, some people used to believe that letting a baby “cry it out” would teach her independence and she’d learn how to self-soothe. However, research now shows the opposite is true. Letting babies cry can lead to long-term effects, such as anxiety and reduced health and intelligence.
How Much Do Newborns Sleep?
Although it will feel like you’re always attending to your newborn, her naps usually add up to 16-18 hours of sleeping a day. Newborns like spaces that mimic the snugness of the womb. This is why she may fall asleep easier in a car seat or in your arms rather than a crib.
There are several safety tips you need to know about putting your baby to sleep. You can read them here.
How Often Does a Newborn Need to be Bathed?
Sponge baths should keep a baby clean for about the first two weeks. Since your baby’s umbilical cord stump still remains, it’s not a good idea to use a baby bath yet.
With the cliché “baby smooth skin,” you might be alarmed to see irritations. However, these are common:
- Shoulder or back hair
- Cradle cap (crusty patches or dry skin that looks like dandruff)
Many skin irritations can be treated at home with products such as baby creams. However, other common problems, such as jaundice (yellow skin and eyes) require you to visit your doctor for treatment.
Are you nervous for your first days home with your newborn? Comment how you’re preparing below! Be sure to share this post with any expecting friends, too.
P.S. Have you heard about fetal heartbeat monitors? These amazing devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat at home—similar to an ultrasound. They’re affordable, safe and easy to use. You can check out our fetal dopplers here.