Your Newborn Baby
What to expect during those first few weeks
Congratulations – your life has just changed in the most amazing way! Your baby is here, and you can finally have those cuddles you’ve been dreaming of.
Straight after birth
One of the most important things after birth is to have some skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as you can. In many cases, your new born will be lifted onto you as soon as they are born. Skin-to-skin contact is where you hold your baby naked, or just in a nappy, against your skin, under your top or blanket. It helps keep your baby warm, makes them feel safe and helps to steady their breathing. It’s a wonderful bonding experience for you both and provides the perfect opportunity to have your first breastfeed, with a midwife on hand to offer any help you need. If you can’t have immediate skin-to-skin with you baby, don’t worry – you will still be able to bond and breastfeed your baby later on.
The umbilical cord will then be cut and clamped, your baby will be dried, and a midwife or paediatrician will examine, weigh and measure them. They will run through a little test called the Apgar scale one minute after birth and again at five minutes, to quickly asses the health of your baby and how well it is adjusting to the outside world. A tiny band with your name on will be placed around their ankle or wrist and then baby will be passed back to you for more cuddles and warmth.
When some babies are born, they may have a bit of mucus in their nose and mouth. This is completely normal, and your midwife will help clear this out.
Early health checks
Within the first 24 hours, usually quite soon after birth, you will be offered an injection of vitamin K for your new born. This is to prevent a rare but serious blood disorder; however, it is your choice whether your baby has the injection or not.
Before you leave hospital, a paediatrician will give your baby a new born physical examination, to check their eyes, heart, hips and testicles (for boys) for any possible problems.
The umbilical cord
Your baby no longer relies on your placenta for nourishment, so the umbilical cord will be cut and clamped after birth. There will be a small stump of cord left, with the clamp attached, and it will stay like this until the cord dries out and drops off around a week later. Make sure you keep the cord clean and dry until this point. If you notice anything unusual, like bleeding or discharge, tell your midwife, health visitor or GP straight away.
The soft spot
When your baby is born the bones of their skull haven’t fully fused together. On the top of baby’s head, near the front, you’ll notice a soft diamond-shaped spot, as well as one further back on their head– these are called the fontanelles. A tough protective membrane cover these soft spots, so it’s completely safe to wash and touch them. You should expect these bones to fuse together after a year or so.
Your baby’s skin
A baby’s skin is very thin and delicate for the first month. At birth, they may be covered in something called vernix – a white, waxy substance that works as a natural moisturiser to help protect your baby’s skin. You should always leave this to absorb naturally.
New born babies only need to be bathed in plain water – try to avoid skin lotions, medicated wipes or soap/bubble bath for at least the first month.
Your baby’s eyes
Babies can see from birth, however their vision isn’t very sharp or focussed to begin with – this is something that develops over the first few months.
After about two weeks you might notice that your baby’s eyes follow your face or a bright object, held around 20cm away. If not, bring it up with your health visitor. Some new born babies have a squint – where their eyes roll away from each other occasionally. It’s quite normal and should stop by 3months. Again, if it doesn’t do talk to your health visitor or GP.
Bruises and marks
Depending on what kind of birth you’ve had, it’s common for new borns to have bruises on their head and possibly some swelling. It’s all temporary and will disappear quite quickly.
A lot of babies are born with little pink or red V-shaped marks on their forehead, upper eyelids or neck. These are common birthmarks, often called ‘stork marks’ or ‘salmon patches’ and they will gradually fade over a few months.
Your baby’s senses
From birth, your baby will be able to use all of their senses. They will feel soothed by a soft touch or voice and may be startled by loud noises or bright lights. Babies love to take in their new world, especially staring at people’s faces – you might even catch them trying to copy your facial expressions. Even from very early on, no one beats their parents and your baby will learn to recognise your voices and smell very quickly.
Your baby’s reflexes
New borns are clever little things – they are born knowing how to suck and will automatically turn towards a nipple or teat if it touches their face. Another natural reflex in new borns is to grasp a finger with their hands or toes – cue the cutest new baby photos.
You may have heard of some parents’ incredible stories where they claim their new born can walk – although this isn’t exactly true, if you hold some babies upright, they will make little stepping movements across a flat surface. Not bad for a few days old!