newborn baby

Your Newborn’s First Week: What to Expect

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The first week with a newborn baby is a bit of a beautiful disaster. All the preparations you made over the last nine months just don’t seem to be enough once you get home. Or at least that was the case for me! Thankfully there are only 4 things you need to focus on to survive the first week with your newborn baby!

  1. Making sure your baby is fed
  2. Keeping baby warm and care for their body
  3. Making sure your baby sleeps in a safe space
  4. Your own postpartum care

I know it seems simple written out like that, but trust me it isn’t quite that simple. When you have just gone through labor, are exhausted, recovering and trying to take care of a newborn, these things can seem down right daunting.

You can make these tasks much easier on yourself by preparing your home and yourself for your newborns arrival.

newborn care tips
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Check out my post on ALL THE SMART THINGS YOU NEED TO DO TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BABY for a list of all the things you didn’t think of doing before baby arrives!

How to care for your newborn baby in the first week

Before we dive into this let me just start by telling you there is no point of trying to get any schedule in the works. Trying to stick to some sort of routine with your baby at this point will only stress everyone out.

The best thing you can do is accept that things are going to be a little chaotic schedule wise for at least the next few weeks.

You can however make a very loose routine by using the following tips. Just know that you will have to be very flexible, and it may change day to day. Its more the concepts your looking at achieving here.

Help your baby figure out their day and nights

Did you know that your baby will be born having no clue what day and night is? Often new parents find that their baby might even have them mixed up because they will sleep all day and be awake all night.

Don’t worry though, you can help your baby figure this out! Keep it bright and loud in the day and dark and quiet at night. Now, don’t do extremes here, but whatever noise level and lighting level you have in your house during these times, keep doing that.

A sound machine when your baby sleeps such as the Hatch Baby Rest might actually help your baby get a better sleep! It is not quiet in your uterus so your baby might find white noise soothing.

The whole idea here is to help your baby adjust to their new environment. So do whatever it is you would normally do – as long as it is safe for your baby.

Is your baby fussing a lot or crying uncontrollably in the evenings? Get these easy tips to soothe your baby so everyone can get sleep!

Keeping your baby healthy

The first week home with baby sometimes lulls new parents into thinking that their baby is a good sleeper. Don’t be fooled, your baby is just adjusting and will perk up after the first week or two.

This sleepiness can make it difficult for your baby to stay awake long enough to take a full feed. If you aren’t careful this could lead to your baby becoming dehydrated or not receiving adequate nutrition.

Your babies tummy is super tiny at birth so they need to eat quite frequently to get all the calories they need to stay healthy. There are some signs you can look for to ensure your baby is staying healthy after you return home.

Signs of a healthy newborn baby in the first week

Your baby will be weighed at birth. This weight is really important to know because most babies will loose up to 10% body weight within the first 48 hours of birth.

This weight loss is normal and isn’t cause for concern unless it is over 10% of their birth weight, or they are not gaining weight after the initial loss. Your baby should be close to their initial birth weight by about two weeks old.

signs of a healthy newborn baby

As you can see from the above chart, your baby will be asleep a lot. This means that you might have to wake your baby to make sure that they are eating adequately.

Paying attention to the number of wet diapers is a good indication of your babies hydration status.

Your doctor will likely ask you about how your baby is sleeping, eating, and how many wet and dirty diapers they have at your appointment so it is good to make note of these things.

Feeding your newborn baby

Most of your babies awake time will be spent with you feeding them. They are often pretty slow at eating at this age and fall asleep frequently so you might have to get creative with how to keep them awake.

Tickling their toes, undressing your baby, unlatching from your breast or changing positions can help your little one stay awake.

Both formula and breastfeeding come with their own challenges during the first week that you need to be prepared for.

Breastfeeding your newborn in the first week

There is no way to sugar coat this for you, breastfeeding in the first week is hard. In fact, the first 6 weeks will be the hardest, but the first week will be the worst of it. Prepare yourself for that.

My post on BECOMING A BREASTFEEDING EXPERT DURING PREGNANCY will help set you up for success on your breastfeeding journey.

First, you are going to be exhausted after birth and when you breastfeed you don’t exactly get time to relax and recover. Your tiny little human is going to be demanding to mow down on your boob quite frequently, at least every 2-3 hours.

Cluster Feeding

Some babies even cluster feed as soon as the first week. Cluster feeding is when your baby constantly wants to feed and usually occurs in the evening. Your baby does this to soothe themselves and to increase your milk supply. You have to just roll with the punches on this one.

This period of cluster feeding can be difficult because it feels like you are feeding your baby 24/7, but it doesn’t last forever! It is actually a good thing and is crucial to your milk supply. It is also a way for your baby to soothe themselves and bond with you.

Milk supply

Before your milk comes in, you will be feeding your baby colostrum. The switch from colostrum to breast milk usually occurs somewhere between day 2 and 5.

When I was pregnant I often wondered how I would be able to tell when my milk came in. Trust me, you will know. Your breasts will likely be engorged or full feeling, sore and may even leak milk.

You will get relief from the engorgement and discomfort by feeding your baby. Don’t worry, it wont always be like this. After the first 4- 6 weeks or so your breast milk will be more established and your body will produce only what your baby needs!

Sore, Cracked nipples

So I think it is safe to assume that prior to breastfeeding, your nipples never had quite that much action. It is going to take a little bit for them to adjust.

You might experience sore, chapped, bleeding or even bruised nipples. Don’t worry they will toughen up after the first few weeks. Use a good nipple cream or ointment before every breastfeeding session for prevention and to help heal them.

breastfeeding sore chapped nipples

Personally I love the lanolin ointment and it is safe for baby. I would apply it before and after a feed and never once suffered from chapped or bleeding nipples. They were tender at the start but that was as bad as it got for me.

With that said, breastfeeding should NEVER be painful. It might be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. The initial latch and letdown might hurt, but this should subside after the first 30 seconds or so.

If you are experiencing pain after the first 30 seconds my biggest tip would be to check your latch. My post on BECOMING A BREASTFEEDING EXPERT has more specific tips on what you should be seeing in a good latch.

Keep In mind

The most important part during the first week is to feed your baby frequently. This can be scheduled feeds or on demand feedings. Typically you never want a newborn to go more than 3 hours without eating. This will ensure your baby gets the nutrition you need and maintain your breast milk supply.

Also, Don’t be too hard on yourself mama. You and your little one are both learning. It is a hard journey and a lot of work. There is nothing wrong with struggling through it, supplementing when you have to or switching to formula. Always do what you think is best for the well being of you and your baby.

Formula feeding your newborn in the first week

Now that we have gone through all the challenges of breastfeeding, let’s start by saying that bottle feeding is certainly not the easy way out. It comes with all its own challenges.

You are going to be feeding your formula or bottle fed baby the same frequency as with breastfeeding – every 2-3 hours. This means that you will still be exhausted mama, so prepare for that.

Have the appropriate supplies ready

Because your baby is feeding every 2-3 hours throughout the day, you need to make sure you have enough bottles washed and sterilized to accomodate this.

That’s right, you need to wash and then sterilize all those bottles each time you want to use them. That is a lot of parts and a lot of work.

We personally would use a bottle brush, then air dry all the parts on a drying rack and then would sterilize with our electric steam sterilizer.

bottle feeding supplies, formula feeding

You don’t need the fancy sterilizer that we had, although I absolutely loved it especially because it dried everything also. But, you could instead use microwave sterilizers or even boil all the parts in water for a few minutes. Just be careful if you choose to boil that you don’t accidentally melt any of the parts.

Preparing Bottles

Once you have all your supplies ready, you are still going to have to mix up the formula for your baby to eat.

Usually this involves mixing a scoop of powdered formula with a certain amount of distilled or sterile water. Always follow the manufacturer recommended directions for mixing up your formula.

Some formula does come in liquid form and ready to use, but is often more expensive.

You will need to heat your formula before you can feed it to your baby. Most manufacturers recommend not microwaving it. The best way to heat a bottle is to place the bottle with mixed formula into a bowl/ container of hot water. There are also bottle warmers that you can purchase, but I have not had luck with those personally.

There are now some pretty fancy gadgets out there like the Baby Brezza that allow you to add your formula powder and water to separate areas and then it will make the perfect temperature bottle of formula for you. Think of it like a Keurig for babies!

Your milk will still come in

Yup, even though you are not breastfeeding your breast milk might still come in due to all your hormones. You will likely become engorged with sore or tender breasts.

You need to express some of the milk to prevent any clogs in your breast which can result in an infection. To do this, hand express or use a haakaa to remove some breast milk. Only remove what is necessary to relieve the engorgement or discomfort, otherwise your body will keep producing more milk thinking that it needs to.

Sample Schedule For your newborn the first week

Now I know I told you to forget about having any sort of set schedule and I mean that! But this sample schedule might help you to put things together a bit better and give you a bit of an idea of what your baby might be doing!

how to Take care of your babies body during the first week

The one thing that amazed me when we left the hospital is that no one actually taught us what to do with our baby. Sure they talked about feedings and signs to look for in a healthy baby or when to come back to the hospital, but there were no care directions.

Thankfully we are both nurses, so we have some idea on what to do. Our prenatal course also helped tremendously. But this shocked me so I thought that I would add in here the things you need to be doing during the first week.

This list is by no means all inclusive – please discuss with your health care provider for more information.

Take care of your babies umbilical cord

By the time you leave the hospital your baby’s umbilical cord will likely look pretty dry and shrivelled up. It may or may not have a clamp on it, this will vary between certain facilities.

Keep the umbilical cord clean and dry. You will want to prevent the umbilical cord from becoming saturated in water.

You should ask your health care provider what they want you to clean the umbilical cord with. Some facilities will suggest alcohol, others will say just water and then dry it. Please follow their advice.

You will need to monitor the umbilical cord for any discharge, strange smells, or redness around the belly button. These are all signs of infection and should be mentioned to your healthcare provider as soon as you notice it.

The umbilical cord will likely fall off in the first 5-10 days of your babies life. As long as there is no bleeding or other discharge from your babies belly button, this is completely normal.

Skin Care

Babies are born with super delicate and sensitive skin. At birth they are covered with a white coating called vernix which protects their skin. Some believe that rubbing this coating in and not bathing their baby for the first week has protective properties for their skin.

newborn care first week
baby bath

If you do bathe your baby during the first week it is best to do just a sponge bath with no soap. Soap can actually dry out babies skin further. Be sure to pat your baby dry after bathing, rubbing can irritate their sensitive skin. Try not to saturate their umbilical cord or belly button.

Moisturize

If your baby has dry skin, you might need to moisturize it. Use a formula specifically designed for newborn skin. Applying moisturizer immediately after a bath can help it absorb and lock in moisture.

We personally like the baby Vaseline and applied it right after her bath each night! Our daughter had terrible eczema and very dry skin. Using this would work wonders for her.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a dry, flaky or even scaby patches on your babies scalp that may extend to their forehead and eyebrows. It is normal and common in newborns.

To treat cradle cap, apply an oil to your babies scalp at night and massage it in. Then using a comb or cradle cap brush gently comb out the flakes in the morning. It is important not to pick at the flakes as you may cause a small sore that could get infected.

If your baby’s cradle cap worsens you may need to purchase a special shampoo designed to treat cradle cap.

diaper rash

Protect those precious little bottoms! I always say the best thing you can do is prevent a diaper rash in the first place. This can be done by

  • changing your babies diaper frequently
  • avoiding use of harsh products (scented wipes or diapers, soap or scented lotions)
  • use a barrier cream at every diaper change

If your baby does get a diaper rash, treating it ASAP can prevent it from getting worse. Airing out your babies bottom is very effective at helping. There are many diaper rash creams out there containing zinc that can also help – we have Penaten.

Personally I like the old school nursing trick: Mix equal parts corn starch and baby Vaseline then apply to your babies bottom. Seriously, its a miracle worker.

Nail Care

There is nothing scarier than clipping your babies nails. Seriously, I was terrified and made my husband do it. He accidentally clipped her little finger and that was the end of that. We now use an electric nail file.

It is easy, quick and painless for all of us. I won’t ever go back to using clippers until she is old enough to sit still.

Ear care

DO NOT USE Q-TIPS IN YOUR BABIES EAR. Instead, use a washcloth and a finger to get out any wax. Don’t forget to clean the folds of their ear and behind their ears as well.

Nose care

Newborn’s cannot blow their nose. You may need to suction out any boogers for them. Because babies are obligate nose breathers this is extremely important to keep on top of.

The hospital will likely provide you with a bulb suction. They work well for many, but my personal favorite product was the nose frida. It is a disgusting concept, but honestly the most effective way to suction out everything, and I promise it wont go through the filter!

How To Take Care of Your Body during the first week

There are a lot of changes that happen to your body after you have a baby. There are also a lot of emotional changes. Luckily for you I have several resources that outline ALL of those lovely postpartum changes.

You can check out my COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE POSTPARTUM PERIOD HERE.

My guide to PREVENT POSTPARTUM HAIR LOSS HERE – seriosuly, check it out, you will be happy you did when your hair starts coming out in clumps!

And Lastly, WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.

Other tips to help make it easier during the first week with a newborn baby

  • Stay hydrated – it helps you heal and is extra important if you are breastfeeding
  • Get comfy – loose fitting clothes and a comfy location to relax are must haves during the recovery phase
  • Learn to say no – limit visitors if you need to until you are ready
  • Learn to say yes – to help, when its offered, and only if you want to
  • Lower your expectations – these tiny little humans will turn your life upside down in the best way possible, accept that it will take you a bit to sort out your new routine and that you might feel like you have no idea what you are doing

There are all my tips on how to survive the first week with a newborn!

Do you have any other tips to pass on? I would love to hear all of them in the comments below!

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