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In the Hospital with Your Newborn: What to Expect

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Your baby is almost here! Home stretch! Below is a list of common questions you may be wondering about as you prepare for the hospital.

How long will I be in the hospital?

You should be in the hospital for 24-72 hours depending on how your baby was delivered, how you and your baby are doing, and sometimes on your particular hospital's or doctor's policies.

If your baby was born vaginally, you will most likely stay in the hospital for the next 48 hours. However, some hospitals have moved to 24 hour discharges after vaginal deliveries if you and your baby are both perfectly healthy. This will be up to your doctor and your baby's doctor.

If your baby was born by cesarean section, you will likely stay in the hospital for the next 72 hours for close monitoring. After all, you just had major surgery and you will need time to start the healing process while being closely monitored before going home.

When will I get to hold and/or breastfeed my baby?

As soon as your baby is delivered, if both you and your baby are doing well, you will get the chance to hold and feel your baby on your chest for at least a few minutes. If you plan to breastfeed and you have made your hospital team aware, you will be encouraged to breastfeed your baby within the first several hours after birth. Check out my post on "Breastfeeding Basics" for more info on breastfeeding.

Will my baby be in the same room as me?

In most hospitals, your baby will stay in your room with you so that you can have as much bonding time as possible. However, your nurse or doctor may take your baby out of your room briefly for some routine tests and monitoring.

What will happen to my baby in the hospital?

Your baby will be checked to make sure he/she is doing well right after being born. His/her vitals will be checked, including their weight, and he/she will be assigned what's called an Apgar score. This is assigned based on your baby's heart rate, how your baby is breathing and moving, and on if they appear well-oxygenated.

If your baby is not doing well on any of the above measures, they will require additional intervention from his/her team of healthcare providers. This all usually happens at your bedside just after delivery but your baby may need to be taken elsewhere if they require additional care for more than several minutes.

If your baby is well, your baby will get a bath shortly after birth. This helps to remove any blood, placenta, and vernix (a cheesy, white substance you may notice your baby is covered in after birth).

You will get to feed, hold, and change your baby's diapers, etc during your hospital stay, just as you would at home. Your baby's doctor and nurse will check each day and want to know how often and how much your baby is eating (how long they breastfed for or how many ounces of formula they took) and how often your baby is pooping and peeing. You will usually be given a log so you can easily record these things as you spend more time with your baby.

Your baby will also be given a few medications and will have some routine things checked during his/her hospitalization. These are listed below:

- Erythromycin ointment: This is placed in your baby’s eyes at the time of birth to prevent infections of the eye.

- Vitamin K: This is given to your baby at the time of birth to prevent bleeding problems.

- Hepatitis B vaccine: Your baby will receive his/her first vaccine in the hospital before going home. I recommend parents to have their baby get this vaccine in the hospital rather than waiting for their first appointment with their pediatrician so as not to unnecessarily delay the vaccine and throw the baby's shot schedule off.

- Jaundice: Your baby’s skin will be checked for jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and he/she will have a bilirubin level checked with a special light pressed against his/her forehead or chest. If this level is concerning, a blood test may need to be done.

Jaundice is very common and many babies will develop jaundice in the first few days of life related to slow breakdown of bilirubin in the liver at birth. However, jaundice by itself is not a concern. It is the actual bilirubin level (checked by light and/or blood) that lets your baby's doctor know if there is cause for concern.

If your baby's bilirubin level is elevated, your baby may need what's called phototherapy (or light therapy) to help the level come down quickly. If your baby's level is borderline, his/her doctor will recommend your baby have close follow-up with his/her pediatrician in the next 1-2 days.

If your baby's level is normal, the jaundice will likely clear on its own with time. However, your baby's doctor may check again at your baby's first appointment. The more your baby eats, poops, and pees, the more their jaundice and bilirubin level will clear. Also, allowing your baby to get some natural sunlight (if your baby is born in warmer months) can help to bring the level down.

- Newborn screen (also known as a PKU): Your baby’s heel will be pricked to collect a few drops of blood. This is to screen for PKU (phenylketonuria, a metabolic disease), several other metabolic disorders, sickle cell disease and other blood disorders, cystic fibrosis, hypothyroidism, and several other conditions. It is important to know if your baby has one of these conditions sooner rather than later in order to treat your baby as soon as possible if needed. If the result of your baby's newborn screen is concerning, your baby’s doctor and/or the state health department will notify you right away.

- Hearing screen: Your baby will get a hearing test before going home. If your baby does not pass their first hearing screen, they will usually be re-tested once more before leaving the hospital. If they do not pass the hearing screen a second time, your baby's doctor will arrange for your baby to get a hearing screen once out of the hospital. Sometimes, residual fluid from birth and/or other factors while still in the hospital can cause your baby not to pass their hearing screen. However, it is important to know if this was the case or if your baby has a true hearing issue.

- CCHD (Congenital Cyanotic Heart Disease): Your baby will have his/her oxygen levels checked before going home to screen for congenital heart diseases that can cause low oxygen levels, such as Tetralogy of Fallot and several others.

Now that you are well informed about what will happen in the hospital, go pack those bags and get ready for your bundle of joy!

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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.

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