Jun 10, 2024
June 10, 2024

What to expect during your newborn's first week

The first week with a new baby is packed with major life changes. Your routines, sleep schedule, and pretty much everything else will be drastically different. Whether you’re reading this before your baby’s arrival, or living it right now, here is what to expect during your newborn's first week.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Marcy Borieux

What happens during a hospital stay with your newborn

Typically, you and your baby will stay in the postpartum ward for 24-48 hours with an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, or up to 4 days if you had a c-section. While you might be eager to get home and settle in, the hospital stay is an important time for you and your baby to get to know each other and for you to learn the basics from the medical team around you.

Your baby’s first pediatric visits will include medical checks to ensure they’re healthy, free of jaundice, and routine tests and shots for a healthy transition to home life. Your recovery also starts at the hospital, along with follow up care from your ob-gyn or midwife and the rest of the hospital team. Many hospitals offer lactation consultants, and if you’re breastfeeding, they can teach you how to express breast milk by hand or how to operate your breast pump.

Bring your infant home

When leaving the hospital, you must have a car seat installed correctly for the trip home to ensure your baby is safe, secure, and comfortable. A member of the hospital staff is required by state law to ensure the car seat is rear-facing, installed correctly, and that your baby  is dressed appropriately for the trip home.

If you’re still waiting for your baby’s arrival and plan to drive to and from the hospital, here are a few ways to prepare for that ride with your baby:

  • Install the car seat a few weeks before your due date. This way, you won’t be scrambling with the product manual while you’re in labor or at the hospital recovering.
  • Bring a lightweight, snug onesie or bodysuit for your baby to wear on the car ride homeYou don’t want them to overheat or be uncomfortable during the journey.
  • If you need a blanket for the car ride, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends placing the blanket over the car safety seat straps. Secure the blanket underneath your baby because loose blankets can cause suffocation.

Newborn safe sleep tips

Safe sleep is a priority when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Your newborn must sleep on a firm, flat surface alone on a mattress that fits snugly inside the crib or bassinet without any gaps between the mattress and the frame too.

Here are a few more safety tips for baby sleep:

  • The only thing in the crib or bassinet should be your baby: They should not contain blankets, pillows, bedding, bumper pads, stuffed animals, or toys. Avoid attaching toys or pacifiers to the crib slats as they can pose a suffocation or strangulation risk.
  • Use a swaddle: Opt for a snug-fitting swaddle instead of blankets to keep your baby cozy. Bonus: it can help them sleep too.
  • Don’t bed share: Your baby should always go to sleep in their own crib or bassinet. Multiples should each have their own space.
  • Back to sleep: Always put your newborn baby to sleep on their back. Placing them on their belly or sides increases the risk of suffocation and SIDS.
  • Room share for the first six months: The AAP suggests sharing a room with your baby, ideally for the first six months, because it reduces the risk of SIDS. Placing your baby's crib or bassinet near your bed makes watching and hearing your baby during the night easier, and makes middle-of-the-night feeds more manageable.

Feeding your ravenous newborn

Your baby will probably want to eat a lot and frequently during their first week of life. A newborn’s stomach is very tiny, around the size of a grape at birth, so feed them on demand. The sucking motion while they breastfeed or drink from a bottle helps relax and comfort them too. Remember, feeding is a new skill for you and your baby, and it might take time and practice for both of you to get it right.  

To get feeding off to the right start, here are tips from the Summer Health lactation team:

  • Stock a feeding cart. Feeding takes a surprising amount of stuff, whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding. To stay organized, set up a rolling cart to move from room to room that is stocked with all your feeding essentials. You can include items like bottles, formula, burp cloths, diapers, wipes, and extra clothing so you can feed your baby in any room.
  • If you’re breastfeeding, wear a loose-fitting or buttoned top and a nursing bra. Your breasts will grow after birth as they fill with milk, and the support from a nursing bra (no underwire if a non-nursing bra) is helpful. Having a shirt that is loose or opens in the front means you can feed more easily in public, and will not need to change or remove your clothing every time you need to breastfeed.
  • If you’re bottle-feeding your newborn, have a few extra bottles on hand so you don’t need to clean them after each use. Ensure you’re using the newborn-size nipple to get the right flow and be prepared that it may take a few different models to find one your baby likes.
  • Practice responsive feeding and offer milk when your newborn shows hunger cues. These cues can include smacking their lips, sticking out their tongue, or rooting.
  • The thick breast milk that comes in during the first few days is called colostrum. Colostrum is rich in nutrients and has a viscous, thick consistency. Once your breast milk comes (usually 3 to 5 days after birth), it will have a thinner consistency and be closer to white in color.

Lactation consultants can help you establish a good feeding rhythm from the start, which will set your baby up for successful feeding. They’re also a huge help if you suspect your baby has a poor latch or trouble breastfeeding, speak to a lactation consultant locally or contact Summer Health’s lactation team.

Bathing your newborn

The umbilical cord stump shouldn’t be fully submerged in water, so offer your newborn a sponge bath until the stump falls off, which is usually around the two-week mark.

Diapering your newborn

You’ll get the hang of diaper changes quickly since newborns go through so many of them. In the first few days, expect to see a black, sticky substance called meconium in their diapers. This is normal and is just the poop your baby had in their intestines while in utero. Once your baby starts feeding, their poop will become soft, seedy, or pasty and will turn various shades of yellow and brown.

When it comes to wet diapers, in the first few days, your baby may only have a few, depending on whether they are breastfed or formula-fed. By around the 3 to 5-day mark, your baby should have about eight wet diapers every 24 hours.

Always keep a pack of wipes and diapers handy in your diaper bag or on your changing table to make diaper changes quick and easy. And until the umbilical cord stump falls off, fasten the diaper below it so it has a chance to heal.

Pediatrician visits with your newborn

Your first pediatrician visit will happen within two days of discharge. At the beginning of the appointment, a nurse will measure your baby’s weight and height. Then your pediatrician will come to complete a physical body check and talk to you about feeding and sleep. This appointment is the perfect time to ask all of your burning newborn questions with your pediatrician. These can include questions about newborn sleep, breastfeeding, baby milestones, and baby care. And don’t worry—if you leave the appointment and don't have a chance to ask all of your questions, Summer Health's team of pediatricians is just a text away.

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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