The birth of your baby is one of the most exciting events in your life. The more knowledge you have prior to the baby’s arrival, the more confidence you will have as you transition to home with your newest family member.
Your Baby’s Appearance
Understanding what your newborn will look like and how he or she will behave will help you prepare to care for the baby. An average newborn weighs approximately 7 ½ lbs. at birth. Most infants lose 5-8% of their birth weight in the first few days, but regain that amount by day 10.
Appearance can vary widely from infant to infant. Pressure from the birth canal may cause eyes to appear temporarily swollen and their head may appear elongated or cone-shaped. You may also notice two soft areas at the top of baby’s head where the skull bones haven’t grown together year. This is all normal!
Your newborn’s skin may be dry or peeling for the first few weeks. Some baby’s skin (mostly premature) might also be covered by fine, downy hair known as lanugo which typically wears off within several weeks. Babies with a condition known as jaundice have a yellow appearance of the skin and eyes, resulting from a normal body chemical called bilirubin. Bilirubin levels are monitored and treated if necessary.
Most newborns need and naturally request 8-12 feedings in a 24 hours period (approximately every 1-3 hours ). In the early days, watch for hunger cues. Keep baby awake and interested during feedings, and if baby is still sleeping 2 ½ hours from the beginning of last feeding, wake him. Studies continue to show that breastfeeding is beneficial to babies and their moms, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
Babies frequently have changes in the number, color and consistency of their stools. These changes are of no concern as long as the newborn is eating normally and shows no signs of illness. The number of stools may vary from 6-8 per day to one every other day. After day 4, babies should have at least 3-4 wet diapers per day.
Most infants wake up every 2-3 hours for feedings until 6 to 8 weeks of age. Each baby tends to establish his own pattern of sleep. Some sleep after feedings and some take only brief, occasional naps.
Nighttime sleeping patterns will change between 4-8 weeks of age. The majority will start sleeping through one or two nighttime feedings, allowing for 5-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. You should plan your rest and nighttime sleeping periods to match your babies.
Ensure your baby is in a safe sleep environment positioned on his or her back for sleeping.
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It’s important to respond promptly to your baby’s crying in the first few months. If your baby is warm, dry and fed, he will usually be content. If he continues to cry you can try rocking, swaying, singing or talking. Some parents have also found it helpful to take a car ride or take a walk with baby in a stroller.
It is recommended that a healthy breastfed baby not be given artificial nipples including pacifiers for the first four weeks of life. Pacifier use can mask early feeding cues and cause latch problems and/or nipple confusion during breast feeding, affecting the mother’s milk supply.
- Never leave an infant alone on a bed or surface where he could fall.
- Keep small items that could be choking hazards if swallowed out of reach
- Check air flow and temperature of baby’s room (particularly if using heat)
- Ensure a safe sleep environment: no loose sleepwear or bedding.
- Place baby on his or her back for sleeping.
- Childproof your home
- Double check temperature of bath water and hot liquid/food.
- Never shake your baby and protect baby’s head from any jerking movements.
- Discuss routine care and immunizations with your child’s pediatrician.
Tanya Robinson, RN, graduated from nursing school in 1987. She has extensive experience in the field of nursing including pediatrics, well-baby nursery, NICU, and post-partum as well as adult med-surg and ICU. Tanya has worked at Touro’s Family Birthing Center for almost 16 years and serves as Director of Touro’s Postpartum Unit, Well-Baby Nursery, and Lactation Center.