Updated: Jan 18, 2021
Your new baby is finally here and you're officially a Mom (or Dad)! You did it! Now let's get to know all about your baby.
Your baby will feed at least every 2-3 hours during the first several weeks of life, and sometimes more often, particularly if you are breastfeeding your baby. If your baby does not wake up to feed within 3 hours, you should wake him/her up to feed. This is extremely important for his/her growth and overall health. Your baby's doctor will talk to you about how your baby is feeding, check your baby's weight, and make recommendations for any changes in feeding if needed.
You will be given the opportunity to breastfeed within the first few hours after birth if you desire to do so as long as there are no major health issues with you or your baby. This helps you to begin bonding with your baby and establish breastfeeding as early as possible.
However, know that your milk will not come in immediately! Before your milk comes in, you will express small amounts of a yellowish or golden-colored fluid, called colostrum, from your breasts. Colostrum is full of antibodies to help your baby begin building their immune system.
Your breastmilk will take 2-5 days to come in. When it comes in, you will feel a heaviness in your breasts and sometimes pain (if your breasts are engorged). This is often a time that babies will "cluster feed" or feed very frequently now that these rich nutrients are finally available to them.
Engorgement means that your breasts are overfull with milk and this can be painful. Feeding your baby will help to relieve your engorgement. If feeding your baby does not relieve this, you can express some milk by hand or use a pump to relieve the heavy, overfull feeling, and sometimes pain, engorgement can cause.
Breastfeeding should not be painful, but it can be if your baby is not latching correctly. Check out my "Breastfeeding Basics" post for more detailed information on how to avoid this pain and other tips and tricks for breastfeeding.
Ask your nurse or doctor early on if your hospital has a lactation consultant. If so, you can request that they visit you in the hospital to help with breastfeeding. Your baby's doctor may be able to provide additional breastfeeding help at your baby's first few doctor's visits. Also, check with your insurance company for information on lactation resources and services that are covered.
If you are feeding your baby formula, it is usually best to start with a standard formula to see if your baby tolerates this well. Standard formulas will have all the nutrition that your baby needs and you will often be given samples in the hospital. You should not switch formulas too hastily or very frequently if you feel your baby is having an issue. It takes time for your baby's body to get used to a new formula and switching too quickly or too often can lead to problems for your baby. It is best to speak with your baby's doctor if your baby is having an issue to decide together if your baby needs a formula change.
When mixing your baby's formula, make sure to read the instructions on the can or bottle on how to properly mix your baby's formula to ensure they are not getting too little or too many calories. If your baby was born prematurely, was born with a low weight, or has had trouble gaining weight, your baby's doctor may have you mix your baby's formula differently to provide additional calories.
Always wash your hands before preparing your baby's bottle and use the recommended type of water. You may need to ask your baby's doctor what water sources are okay to use depending on where you live and what water sources you have access to.
Newborn (full-term) babies have a stomach only about the size of a ping-pong ball. This means that your baby will only need about 1-2 ounces (30-60 mL) in the first several days to weeks of life. Be careful not to overfeed your baby as this can lead to more spit-ups, vomiting, constipation, and even trouble breathing. It is best to start low and make small increases of half an ounce to one ounce at a time if your baby does not seem satisfied.
Signs that your baby is satisfied may include falling asleep after feeding for a period of time or stopping sucking on the bottle. Signs that your baby is not satisfied may include still seeming fussy after finishing a bottle or rooting (turning head from side to side with mouth open, looking for the nipple/bottle).
It is important to discuss feeding with your baby's doctor and to have their weight checked at routine appointments to help determine if your baby is getting enough (or too much).
It is normal for your baby to lose weight in the first week of life. Your baby's doctor will monitor his/her weight to make sure they are not losing more than 10% of his/her body weight. Your baby should be back to their birth weight by the time he/she is 2 weeks old, which is a time your baby's doctor will usually want to see them in the office to check.
Your baby may have only a few wet diapers in the first couple of days of life. This is normal but should increase to at least 6-8 wet diapers a day during the 1st week of life as your baby eats more. This means you will be changing your baby's diaper a lot, usually at least one wet diaper with every feed.
Your baby’s first stools will be black and sticky, like tar. This is called meconium and is normal. This will change once he/she feeds more and will eventually become more yellow and seedy or grainy. Newborn stools are usually very loose and may resemble diarrhea. This is normal. It is also normal for your baby to have several poopy diapers a day, especially if your baby is breastfed.
A normal newborn stool can vary somewhat from baby to baby. Color, consistency, and frequency may be slightly different depending on whether your baby is breast- or formula-fed, among other things. What is most important is that your baby's stool is soft, even if your baby does not poop every day. Find out more on my post called "Let's Have the Poop Talk!"
You should notify your doctor if you notice blood in your baby's stool or if you are concerned that they may be constipated. Signs of constipation may include a hard belly that seems painful to touch, fussiness or crying with stooling, or hard balls for stools.
It is normal for newborn babies to sleep most of the day in the first few weeks of life. Your baby may wake up only to feed and then go right back to sleep. As your baby gets older, he/she will begin to stay awake for longer stretches but this happens gradually.
Your baby will swallow air as he/she feeds, so you will need to burp him/her after, and sometimes during, feeds. Your baby may get fussy if he/she needs to burp and will often need help getting the burp out. Put your baby in an upright position. This is usually easiest over your shoulder. Make sure you have a good hold on your baby, then firmly pat his/her back to help air bubbles to rise so he/she can burp more easily.
It is normal for babies to get hiccups. Hiccups are related to the fact that your baby swallows a lot of air when he/she feeds. However, hiccups do not hurt your baby and tend to be more bothersome to us as parents, then it is to your baby. You do not have to do anything to try to stop them as they will go away on their own after several seconds to minutes. You should never give your baby water or any home remedies in an attempt to stop hiccups.
Many babies spit up and this can be normal. If your baby spits up and is still happy or sleeping, this is usually nothing to worry about, especially if your baby is still gaining good weight. This means that although the spit-ups may seem large at times, your baby is holding down far more milk than they are spitting up, evident in the fact that they are still growing appropriately. If your baby seems very fussy, agitated, or very uncomfortable when he/she spits up, talk to your baby’s doctor. For more detailed information, check out my post on "Reflux vs Normal Spit-up: How to Tell the Difference & What to Do".
Many babies will have some gas. If your baby has gas but does not seem bothered by it or fussy with it, this is nothing to worry about. If your baby is very fussy with gas and it seems painful, try these things to help improve your baby's gassiness:
- Pause every five minutes during feeds (if he/she will allow you) to frequently burp your baby. This will allow air that has been swallowed to escape through your baby's burp and create less chance of the air moving into your baby's stomach.
- Prop your baby up at a slight angle after feeds (using a baby chair, swing, or carseat, or a pillow under supervision) rather than laying them flat right away to help air bubbles move upward rather than downward.
- Remedies such as gripe water and/or gas drops may be helpful but should not be overused.
- Sometimes, changing your diet (i.e. eliminating or decreasing dairy products), if your baby is breastfed, or changing your baby's formula may help resolve or improve gassiness. However, if your baby is not bothered by his/her gas, these changes are not usually necessary. Discuss with your baby's doctor first before making these changes.
Coughing & sneezing
Your baby may occasionally cough or sneeze in the first few days to the first week of life. This is usually normal and is their body's way of clearing residual secretions from being inside the fluid in your uterus. If a cough persists past a week, talk to your baby's doctor.
Congestion is very common in infants and is often due to slight overfeeding or overeating. If a baby's stomach is overfull, they may spit up, or some of their milk may come up just enough to sit in the back of their nose or in the back of their throat and cause them to sound congested. This type of congestion may seem like it's lingering on for weeks and months and may seem like it was present since birth or very close to birth. However, if your baby is still eating and sleeping comfortably, this is usually no cause for concern.
You can attempt to improve you baby's congestion by using saline drops and nasal suctioning with a nasal suction bulb or similar device. However, if the congestion is very far back in your baby's nose or throat, you may not be able to relieve the congestion or get anything out. Be careful not to suction too much as this can cause trauma, and sometimes bleeding, to your baby's delicate nose.
You can also run a cool mist humidifier while your baby is sleeping to help with congestion. However, remember that if your baby is still eating and sleeping comfortably, you likely do not need to do anything but know that your baby is fine. Your baby is too young for any cold or cough medicines so do not give your baby anything over-the-counter.
If your baby's congestion is new and is affecting their ability to eat or sleep comfortably or they seem more fussy than usual, talk to your baby's doctor.
It is normal for newborn babies to have peeling skin. This is dead skin that will come off with time. You do not have to put any lotions or creams on it. However, if you notice that the peeling is starting to crack the skin or you see bleeding, you can use a thick moisturizer like petroleum jelly, to help heal the skin and prevent further cracking. Otherwise, this dead skin will slowly come off each time you clean your baby's skin and especially once you can give your baby a full bath after his/her umbilical stump falls off.
There are many normal newborn rashes. Most of these rashes go away on their own over time and will not cause your baby any problems. Check out my post on "Baby Rashes. Acne & Nevi & Milia. Oh My!" for more detailed information.
Umbilical cord care
You do not need to put alcohol or anything else on your baby’s umbilical cord. This will fall off on its own in 1-3 weeks. Do not give your baby a full bath immersed in water until the umbilical cord falls off. You want to keep the area clean and dry. You can give gentle sponge baths or wipe your baby's skin with a slightly moist rag and a gentle soap until this happens.
You should use petroleum jelly on your baby’s circumcision with diaper changes until it has completely healed. A “beefy” red color and some yellow drainage are normal for a well-healing circumcision. Your baby’s doctor will check to see that it is healing appropriately.
Immunizations are extremely important to protect your baby from serious preventable diseases, diseases that can kill. Vaccines and the recommended vaccine schedule have been shown to be safe for babies and children.
Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules for more information about vaccines. For detailed information about each vaccine and what disease it is protecting your child against, visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/index.html
Your baby’s doctor’s appointments will mostly follow the recommended immunization schedule until they are 3 years of age and old enough for yearly checkups only. In addition to vaccines, it is important to take your child in for each visit to discuss important topics, such as feeding, growth, and development, and to address any questions or concerns that you may have.
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All content on this website, including medical opinion and any other health-related information is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this website and the information contained does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor before starting any specific treatment plan.