The First Week
Congratulations! Your baby is finally here after months of waiting, preparing and wondering what it will all be like. Even though this is the moment you’ve been waiting for you might be feeling slightly panicked, and thinking ‘What now?!’ Don’t worry, you’re not alone, every new mum we have ever spoken to has felt like this. You’re brand new to this parenting thing, and have been left in charge of keeping another human alive! You and your baby need time to rest and recover. Birth is a huge event for everyone, so now it’s time to slow it down and embrace this precious time. Take it one day at a time, you only need to know what’s important right now. So let’s have a look at what you might need to know in the first week.
Your baby may look different to how you imagined. The process of birth, however it occurs, is hard work for you and your baby. That beautiful pink skinned new baby you see on TV or in the movies is rarely a baby that has just been born. In fact, a newborn’s skin tone can be blotchy and red at first, but this will settle to a more even tone in time.
Baby’s Appearance First Week
Here are a few common features of newborns, all of which are
Milia – This is another name for ‘milk spots’ which are small white spots caused by obstructed oil glands. They can appear on the nose, cheeks and chin of your baby. You don’t need to do anything with the spots like trying to remove them. Once the glands are functioning after a few weeks they will disappear.
Dry skin – Many babies have peeling dry skin around their wrists, hands, ankles and feet. Overdue babies peel more than term babies. This is because the vernix, a white creamy substance which protects
the baby’s skin in the womb, has probably already been absorbed in the amniotic fluid.
Your baby’s head may be elongated or cone shaped following labour and birth. This is called moulding and usually settles down within a few days. Sometimes the scalp or face can be bruised or swollen, this will also disappear in time.
Some babies can have soft downy hair on their backs and ears; fear not, they are not werewolves! This hair is very cute and will fall off in time.
Baby’s Skin First Week
There is no current evidence on when a baby should have their first bath, but they are ready once their temperature, breathing and heart rate has stabilised, which is usually around six hours after birth. The vernix acts as a protective barrier so you may choose to keep it on your baby’s skin and to rub it in as a moisturiser. It contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It has a thick consistency so may even stay on the skin in the creases after a bath.
The Royal College of Midwives (2018) advise to only bath your baby about 2-3 times a week (from birth to 6 months). Some parents like to include a nightly bath later to calm and soothe baby ready for sleep. If you prefer not to bath every day/night then topping and tailing (cleaning the baby’s face, neck creases, and bottom area) is just fine. It’s important to keep all the little creases clean as you would be surprised what gathers in them!
Umbilical Cord Care
When it comes to your baby’s umbilical cord all you need to do is clean it daily with warm water and let air dry. It is handy to fold the front of the nappy down under it. You may notice some discharge on the vest but there is no need to worry unless there is a smell and it is red in appearance. The cord should fall off within 10 days. If you have any
Newborn Sleep First Week
Your newborn will typically sleep around 17 hours in a day, and
mostly only wake to be fed. Babies can’t sleep for long stretches as
their tummies are tiny and need regular feeding. Babies sleep cycles
are also far shorter than adults. They aren’t born with a circadian
(day/night) sleep rhythm and it does not fully develop until around 3
or 4 months. The most common sleep state in newborns is light sleep where they are active, making movements and sounds, and rapid eye movement. They can be more easily woken in this sleep so this is never a time to move your baby to another sleep surface – they WILL WAKE UP!! Until your baby develops their rhythm it’s best just to go with the flow and try not stress about sleep. Your days and nights might feel a little mixed up during this first week, so try to have plenty of support lined up so you can rest.
Feeding Baby First Week
Newborns generally feed 8-12 times in 24 hours, which is usually
every 2 – 4 hours. It is important to watch your baby for feeding cues
so that you can be tuned into when they are showing signs of hunger, and feed them before they become distressed. They normally wake for a feed, but some may need to be woken if small, jaundiced or not gaining weight.
Some breastfeeding mothers can be concerned about how much milk their baby is getting. Colostrum, the first milk, is the perfect amount for your baby, and all your baby needs for the first few days while your body establishes a milk supply. It can be reassuring to know that at birth your baby’s tummy is the size of a cherry, growing to the size of a hen’s egg within the first week. If your baby is having plenty of wet and dirty nappies and is alert, this is a sure sign that they are taking in enough milk. As they say what goes in must come out!
Babies can only breathe through their noses for the first few months so they can sound stuffy. You may notice that your baby’s breathing is irregular in the first week. When they are asleep their breathing can be rapid, followed by shallow breaths, and there may be times when they don’t seem to breathe at all for a few seconds. It’s helpful to know that what may sound unusual or alarming may be perfectly normal. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself leaning over them to check twenty times a day! I
In the first week your days and nights will be feeding your baby, sleeping, resting, eating and changing nappies. You may be challenged by this endless cycle which is perfectly normal when you’re learning something new. This is only a moment in time and will not last forever. Allow yourself the time and space to learn what it’s like to be a new parent!