Congratulations! After nine months of waiting you’ve finally met the new little person in your life.
You and your newborn are probably still recovering from what’s been an exhilarating, yet exhausting, time—your body is tired but your brain is working overtime. You’ve got a million questions and unfortunately babies don’t come with a how-to guide. The best you can do is make sure you’re getting plenty of support and as much sleep as possible.
How’s baby going?
These early weeks will be filled with sleeping, pooping, crying (sometimes the baby, sometimes you!) and feeding…not necessarily in that order.
Your baby doesn’t understand that they’re separate to you and will take comfort from being close to you. They move their arms and legs around but they don’t know how they’re doing it or even that all those bits belong to them.
Your baby can see but not very clearly—they will be able to focus best on objects that are about 20-30cm away—and when they’re about two weeks old they’ll be able to recognise their parents’ faces.
In the first few weeks babies generally sleep about 16 hours (14-17 hours is recommended) over the course of the day and night—interrupted by feeds every 2-4 hours. Babies have a shorter sleep cycle than adults and usually stir every 40 minutes. Newborn babies cannot stay awake for very long at a time—usually an hour maximum.
Some newborns seem like they have night and day confusion. This is normal and will settle down within the first few weeks. We have this article on newborn baby sleep patterns that might give you some idea on what else you can expect this month.
Make sure you are familiar with the Red Nose Australia Safe Sleeping Guidelines.
Newborns feed slowly and frequently so make sure you’ve got a ‘feeding station’ set up with everything you need for feeding—including a drink of water for you! If you’re breastfeeding, your milk supply will take a while to sort itself out, in the meantime you should feed your baby when they’re hungry rather than according to a strict feeding schedule (unless advised by your health care provider, due to your own individual circumstances).
We have a very handy article on breastfeeding in the first few days which will answer many of your breastfeeding questions.
Your newborn doesn’t need toys—they will be happy to watch the curtain, the trees or your face. At this age high-contrast and black-and-white objects/toys will catch his attention.
When baby is awake try to give them some tummy time. Tummy time helps strengthen their neck muscles and gives them a new perspective on the world. And it doesn’t necessarily mean lying them belly down on a floor or bed. You can lie them on your chest, upright over your shoulder or across your knees. Babies should be put to sleep on their backs so it is a good idea to vary their position when they are awake—this can help prevent your baby developing flat head syndrome.
How are you going?
The first few weeks with a new baby can be daunting–watch our for the baby blues and act quickly if you recognise any of the signs of perinatal depression and anxiety. Remember that fathers can also have PNDA.
In these early weeks you’ll be bombarded with advice from well-meaning people – everyone from your mum to some random woman at the supermarket will have something to say about you and your baby. Surround yourself with people you trust, filter all the other advice you receive and trust your instincts.
And REMEMBER—sleep when your baby sleeps and let the housework slide just for a little while. These early weeks will go by in a sleep-deprived haze. Make the most of your cuddly newborn because they won’t be this little for long.
5 things to do when you’ve got a newborn
- Learn how to settle a crying baby
- Check your paperwork is up to date with our new baby paperwork checklist
- Pack the perfect nappy bag with our checklist
- Worried about your newborn’s skin? Read our guide to newborn skin conditions
- Babies are slippery little suckers! Read these tips on bathing your newborn
Please note: All babies are different, these are generic guides and aren’t a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider.