Becoming a parent is one of the most wonderful and rewarding experiences you can have. It’s also exhausting and worrying, and you’ll find you’re constantly asking yourself, “Is this normal?” No two babies are the same, but if you’re waiting for your first to be born, we can tell you a little about what to expect during the first few weeks.
Your newborn’s needs are simple
It’s time to focus on the essentials. All your new baby really needs are regular feeds, plenty of sleep and a safe place to rest, a clean nappy, and lots of love. It really is that simple.
If you’re particularly house-proud, we can understand it might be hard to let things slide. But honestly, this is the time to settle into parenthood and enjoy your newborn. She won’t notice if you’ve forgotten to dust the bookshelf or are wearing yesterday’s shirt.
Put the chores to one side. Ask for help from friends and family if you need it. Don’t feel bad about buying in some ready meals.
What will my newborn look like?
You’d be forgiven for expecting a plump, rosy-cheeked cherub with a cute button nose. After all, newborns always look so perfect in the movies. The reality is usually a bit different.
If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, your baby has just been squeezed through a tight – albeit stretchy – tunnel. Maybe she needed a little assistance, like forceps. Her head will be a weird shape. If you had a C-section, her head might be round – or it might be flat, mimicking the shape of the womb.
Either way, her skin will be a dark red, maybe even purple. She’ll have a big head, little legs, and her torso might look distended. Her skin could be peeling or cracked, especially if she’s over her due date. In short, your newborn baby will look like ET. And she’s beautiful.
You might notice your baby’s sexual organs are swollen. This is common and nothing to worry about – it’s due to the hormones swirling around your baby’s system. There may be some milky discharge from the nipples (male and female) or some vaginal discharge. This will all go away in a week or two.
Babies are born with certain reflexes designed to protect them and help them survive. You’ll notice her rooting around for the breast or bottle, and she’ll quickly be able to suck to ensure she can feed. She’ll grip your finger if you put it in the palm of her hand, and jump (the Moro reflex) when startled.
The foetal position
After being curled up in the womb for so long, it’s not surprising your newborn will stay a little scrunched for a while. Her hands will be little fists, and she’ll keep her arms and legs tucked in closely to her body. She’ll stretch out more as her muscles start to relax.
Don’t be surprised when your baby loses weight at first. Post-delivery fluid loss means newborns drop five to ten per cent of their birth weight. This should stop by around five days old, and by ten to 14 days she’ll be back up to her original weight (and maybe even over it). As long as she’s feeding well and often, there’s nothing to worry about.
To begin with, you can expect eight or nine wet nappies a day from your newborn. That’s a good indication she’s feeding well and getting enough milk – especially reassuring if you’re breastfeeding.
Her first bowel movements will be black and sticky. This is called meconium, and it’s what was in her intestines in the womb. After a couple of days, this will change to greenish-yellow. A few days after that, her stools will be anything from mustard yellow to green or brown and will look pastier.
It’s not uncommon for breastfed babies to produce five or more dirty nappies a day in the first month. Formula-fed babies usually have fewer. By around six weeks, this tends to reduce – your baby might only have one dirty nappy a day or even skip a day or two.