The First Days with Your New Baby

There is nothing like the magical moment when you see your long-awaited baby for the first time. The first few days of life with baby are both the most wonderful and some of the most challenging for new parents. Suddenly everything has changed, and your world revolves around this tiny little person whose health and well-being are entirely in your hands.

What Your Baby Looks Like

Years of seeing babies being “born” on television and in movies have ill prepared new parents for the reality of a newborn. Your baby might not be the perfect bundle of joy you were expecting. The process of birth can be difficult on a baby, especially with a long vaginal birth. You might see things like a cone-shaped head, squished nose, and red marks on baby’s face and body.

Babies often have blotchy skin and still have some of the waxy white coating on their skin known as vernix, which covers a baby’s skin in the uterus to protect it from the long exposure to amniotic fluid. It is not uncommon for babies to be born with a little extra hair on their bodies as well. Both of these will soon be gone.

Your baby will also have a piece of the umbilical cord still attached, which will be clamped off at first. This usually falls off within the first few weeks of life. You may notice that your baby’s genitals appear swollen – this is a normal reaction to hormones passed from the mother, and will recede over time.

What Your Baby Needs

In the first days of life, what your baby will do most is eat and sleep. It is not unusual for baby to fall asleep not long after birth; after all, it has been a long and trying day. While it is tempting to stay awake and watch this sleeping miracle you have waited so long to see, new moms should take advantage of their newborn’s naps to get some much needed rest as well. Sleep in the first days will be erratic, so get it while you can!

If you are breastfeeding your baby, you may put her to the breast immediately following birth, but don’t expect much. She may be tired and has not yet mastered latching on, although the sucking reflex is well developed in full-term infants. When she is awake, you can try again. The first few days are a time for mom and baby to learn the ropes of nursing. Don’t be concerned if your baby doesn’t seem to be eating a lot at first. She is still being sustained by nutrients passed through the umbilical cord, and her appetite will soon grow.

It is entirely normal for a newborn to lose up to 10% of her birth weight within the first few days of life. Your doctor will monitor her weight to ensure it starts to climb again.

Bringing Baby Home

Depending on whether you had a vaginal birth or a caesarean section, you will likely be in the hospital for the first 2-4 days of your baby’s life. During this time you will have the assistance of the nurses in caring for your baby. Don’t be surprised if going home, that much anticipated event, feels a bit overwhelming or even frightening. This is a normal reaction to the realization of the monumental task before you.

In these early days, focus on caring for your new baby and yourself. Don’t worry about the housework, and if you have offers of help don’t be afraid to accept. The first days with a newborn are exhausting and challenging, especially for moms recovering from a difficult birth or from a c-section.

Remember that both you and your newborn are making a major adjustment to a whole new life, and there are bound to be some bumps in the road. You will soon settle into a new routine, and things will smooth out again.

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