Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida.
The first week your baby is home is one of the most stressful for new parents. While they may only do three things — eat, sleep, and poop — it’s vital you’re making sure those things are being done right. From how often you should be changing dirty diapers to sleep expectations, Dr. Sara Connolly answers some of the biggest questions parents have about their baby’s first week of life.
Bundoo: By the end of Week 1, most babies will already have had their first checkup, usually in the hospital. What happens during this checkup and what should parents expect?
Dr. Sara Connolly: Whether born in a hospital, at home, or in a birthing center, your newborn will be examined head to toe within the first 24 hours of life. The exam will include his or her entire body, looking for any signs of normal or abnormal birth trauma, examining their skin, head, eyes, mouth, and heart—everything.
What should a normal newborn be doing this first week? Are there red flags that parents should watch out for or things that parents do worry about but probably shouldn’t?
You’ve probably heard the old adage that babies mainly “eat, sleep, and poop,” and while it’s true, making sure these three things are going smoothly is anything but easy. During that first week, everyone will still be getting the hang of meeting baby’s needs. In general, doctors like to see at least one wet diaper for each day of life — meaning at least one in the first 24 hours, two in the second 24, and three in the third. After about a week, you should be changing wet diapers with each feeding. Stools will go from sticky, thick, and tar-like to soft, lighter, and thin by the end of the first week, if not sooner.
Do you have any tips for helping both parents, including mom and her partner, bond with their new baby faster?
Much is made of the bonding that happens after birth, but sometimes the expectations are just too high. Depending on the circumstances, both surrounding the birth and between partners, bonding can take some time. Mothers may be in pain or exhausted. Partners may be overwhelmed by the physical representation of their new responsibility and may feel scared or inadequate. Bonding happens. It may take time, and it may happen faster for one parent than another, and that is fine. Spending time talking about the new transition and supporting each other is important. There is no quick fix when it comes to this one.
How much sleep does my baby need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns typically should be getting between 14 and 17 hours of sleep per day. Of course, some will get a bit more and some a bit less. However, unlike sleep in older children and adults, this sleep is fragmented into shorter blocks of time. Babies will sleep in two- to four-hour increments, wake for a short period of time to feed, and then sleep again. Matching your sleep with theirs is the tricky part.
How often should I be feeding my baby?
Newborns should be fed “on demand,” which means whenever they begin to show hunger cues and preferably before they begin to cry for food. Sleeping babies will begin to stir, opening their mouths, putting their fists up to their mouths or sticking out their tongues. If the baby is cuddled against you, he or she might “root,” or turn his or her head in search of food. If possible, feed the baby before he or she begins to cry because crying is a late sign of hunger and can make feeding more difficult.
Breastfed babies may feed 12-14 times in the first few days, eating small amounts of colostrum first and then feeding on breast milk as it begins to flow after a few days. In general, formula-fed babies can be fed on a more specific two- to three-hour schedule in the first days after birth, but feeding on demand is also recommended if they seem hungry.