Unreal, right? After all the waiting and anticipation, your baby is finally here! Your world is utterly changed forever, in the best way possible. You’re likely feeling every emotion right now, from exhaustion and disbelief to enormous love. It’s all normal, sped along by the proximity of a beautiful little baby and a surge of hormones that can take you from tears to euphoria in mere minutes.
Some things may be going smoothly (the skin-to-skin snuggles, now those you can do), while others are a rocky road of doubt and desperation (is the latch right, is that poop normal, is it supposed to hurt so much down there?). Support from family and friends is crucial now, and that means something different for everyone—whether it’s helping with day-to-day tasks so that you can bond with your baby or pitching in with the little bean so that you can get some sleep. Both of you need a lot of rest this week, and having your baby in your arms after nine months of bonding in utero is a lot to process. Snuggle up, stay in your PJs and be gentle on yourself—it’s a steep learning curve and a wonderful week of getting to know your baby.
1-week-old development & milestones
Check out baby’s amazing features
What unbearable cuteness—and what a strange little creature! It’s impossible to stop looking and touching, isn’t it? That’s what this week is all about, so settle in and learn a little bit about your baby’s special features as you get to know each other.
5 weird things about your newborn that nobody talks about Hats off to your little one! Your baby’s head may still be a bit squashed and bumpy after the journey down the birth canal, while a C-section baby may be a little ahead of the game in the looks department. Either way, the growth and fusion of the skull will gradually smooth your baby’s head over the weeks and months to come. For now, your baby has soft spots, or fontanels, on their skull, which allow the skull to squeeze through during delivery. Don’t worry about injuring your baby’s soft spot—there is a tough membrane underneath that protects your baby’s brain while their skull grows in. And that hair! It comes in all colours and thicknesses and often won’t look the same for long—babies with lots of hair may gradually go bald, brunettes can turn blonde, and straight hair may become curly. Are you shocked by your baby’s hair colour or texture—what recessive gene did that come from? You may be equally surprised by how different it will look in a few months, so take some photos and a little snip to save.
Silky skin? (Or, OMG, how wrinkly and peely can one baby be?) Often it’s a little of both as your newborn’s skin transitions from a wet environment to a dry one. Your baby’s feet and fingers may be especially wrinkly, and rashes, splotches and dry spots are perfectly normal. Talk to your doctor or midwife about what lotions are best for your baby—strong scents are a no-no and, in many cases, no creams are needed because your baby’s skin will slough off and renew itself without any help.
Well endowed? Not necessarily. Newborn genitals often appear swollen and red, but it’s temporary as mama’s female hormones from the birth process enter and leave your baby’s bloodstream. You’ll spend the next several years getting to know baby’s nether regions as intimately as your own—there’s a lot of bum wiping ahead—and this isn’t the first time you’ll wonder if you should ask someone about what things look like down there. Rest assured, there’s a wide range of normal.
Um, let’s talk about the umbilical cord. It may seem a bit intimidating, but your baby is oblivious and unbothered by the little stump, and your newborn diapers are likely made to accommodate the spot by fastening below the navel (or they can be folded down). Within one to three weeks after birth, the stump will dry out, turn black and fall off, and soon baby will have the cutest little innie (or outie!) to tickle.
The 5 senses and the start of communication
Your baby: 1 week old After months of muffled sounds and cushioned bumps, oh baby, what a sensory overload the world can be! All of your baby’s senses are working at birth and, compared to the womb, the world is noisy, bright and probably cold. It can be hard for your baby to take all of it in at once—cue the need to communicate! Yep, we’re talking about crying, for the most part, and lots of other mysterious sounds as well. This is your chance to get to know what your baby is feeling, and there’s definitely going to be some guesswork involved. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. You may even find that your body is biologically tuned to respond, spurting milk in response to baby’s cries and lurching awake when baby calls.
Baby’s got eyes for you! There’s a reason why you can’t stop looking at your baby when you’re cuddling: That’s about as far as your baby can focus, so they really do only have eyes for you (or anything within eight to 10 inches of their face). A baby’s vision is blurry and their focus is off, so there’s no need to worry about those flashcards yet (no, not even those high-contrast black-and-white toys you got as a gift). Face-to-face cooing will do just nicely! And your baby sure can hear sounds: They may startle when a door slams or the dog barks or be soothed by the familiar beat of your heart when you’re chest to chest or the murmur of voices that they recognize from their time in utero. Your baby’s nose is working well in the first week, too, and babies prefer the smell of their mother’s bodies very early on. Smell also helps them find milk, which is where the sweet taste of your baby’s favourite drink also comes in. But it’s touch that is probably the most important sense for both of you. Babies thrive on touch, so don’t worry if you can’t stop cuddling—your warmth, smell and voice are the perfect transition from womb to world.
A weighty issue?
Your baby isn’t going to get plump in the first week and will often lose weight instead, which can induce fear in any mom, particularly if you’re breastfeeding and not sure how much milk your baby is getting. But resist the call of the baby scale! It’s normal for breastfed babies to lose seven to 10 percent of their birth weight, which most regain by the time they are 10 to 14 days old.
Feeding your newborn
Oh, the feeding questions, concerns, worries and drama! If anything dominates your baby’s first week of life—and your first week of motherhood—it’s worry over feeding. If you’re breastfeeding, there may be blood, sweat and tears—quite literally! The latch can be lovely or toe-curlingly painful, so nipple cream (or some breastmilk right on your nipple!) and lactation advice are both must-haves in the early days. Whoever said breastfeeding comes naturally? (And can someone tell your baby that?) There can be many bumps (and bottles) along this road, so definitely keep your goals flexible and your bra off—feeding can feel like a constant demand that first week, and there’s little point in straying too far from the curved pillow and burp cloth. It can be messy, confusing, discouraging and wonderful, often all within the same feeding session.
Breast or bottle, your baby’s greatest joy is drinking their fill, and feeding on demand during the first week is the best approach. Woe to the mama who misses the first cue of a hungry newborn! Your baby can quickly work up to a full roar, which can be a scary thing if you’re trying to latch them onto the bottle or breast. In the first week, breastfed babies may feed every two or three hours, while bottle-fed babies might go three or four hours between meals. But there’s no sense trying to schedule it in the first week. Offer early and often and you and your baby will soon get the hang of what’s hunger and what might just be a need to suck. Frequent nursing will also stimulate your milk supply, which can take almost the entire first week to come in.
It might be too soon to think about pumping (it’s typically advised to wait until your baby is six weeks old, after your milk supply is well established), either to get a break and give your family a chance to bond with the baby or to reassure yourself that milk truly is making its way into your baby. But if there are breastfeeding issues, your healthcare provider or lactation consultant might recommend pumping sooner rather than later.
Your baby’s stomach is tiny during the first week, and it only takes a small amount to satisfy the little lamprey. Of all the dozens (hundreds?) of photos you take of your baby in those first days, the milk-drunk baby, passed out at the nipple, is a favourite. The contented sleep of a full-bellied baby is the best sleep of all for an exhausted mom and baby.
Logging your baby’s diapers
Another sign of a well-fed baby isn’t quite as pretty: wet and dirty diapers. There should be lots of them this week: between six and 10 a day if your baby is getting enough to eat. Some breastfed babies will produce dirty diapers after (or during!) every feed, while bottle-fed babies may not go as often. And, oh, the Google searches involving newborn poop. The consistency and colour are not what you might have expected, but chances are, it’s all normal and a healthy sign that your baby’s digestive system is kicking into high gear. The tarry black or green meconium of baby’s first poop may last up to three days—and it’s sticky stuff! By the middle of the first week, the stools will turn yellow and can be very loose. Don’t worry, it’s not diarrhea. Your baby’s poop, particularly if she is breastfed, may remain runny for months—all the better to overflow diapers and stain the cutest outfits you have. Baby blowouts can be truly bewildering—where does all that come from?! You’ll soon develop solid theories about the best diapers for your baby and the best techniques for diapering, along with a whole new appreciation for your washing machine.
Sleeping like a baby
Like feeding, newborn sleep can provoke a lot of questions. Don’t even think about trying to find a schedule or set good sleep habits—none of that is going to happen in the first week. That’s OK—40 weeks of pregnancy taught you how to cope with terrible sleep, right? The most important thing for both of you is safe sleep, with baby on her back and away from pillows and blankets that could impair breathing. Some babies love to be swaddled, and almost all of them love the warmth of a body to cuddle.But make sure that your baby is safely held by an adult who won’t fall asleep—everyone in the house may be pretty exhausted this week! Remember the old adage “Sleep when baby sleeps”? A baby who has fallen asleep should be your cue to stumble into a horizontal position yourself.
So, just how much sleep should your baby be getting? There is a wide range of normal, but most newborns will sleep for 16 to 18 hours a day, often waking just to eat again.
Your life after baby
Ups and downs
28 self-care hacks for newbie parentsIs there life after baby? Well, not in the first week. But this is when you really do need to start thinking about how you’ll get some me-time in the weeks ahead. In the early days, you can carve out personal space between the time your baby falls asleep and the moment (sometimes minutes later) they wake up for a cuddle. Your big needs during the first week may be pain management, emotional support and some time away from your baby and visitors. Something as simple as a trip alone to the drugstore may bring blessed relief (alone at last!), but it may also induce panic and a need to reunite with your baby (biology is weird). Embrace the emotional ups and downs—you’ve earned them!
Postpartum recovery is different for everyone. Some new moms are in considerable pain, either vaginally or at their C-section incisions (oh, the unmentionable agony!), while others may find recovery easier than expected. You may have been given meds to help cope with the pain and find it hard to decide whether to take them or not because they can be passed to your baby in breastmilk, so talk to your doctor or midwife. Discomfort is one thing, but agony is another, and your friend’s advice to sit on frozen maxi-pads soaked in witch hazel might not cut it. Be honest with yourself, your partner and visitors about what you can and can’t manage. Some women find it hard to stand up, while others find sitting much worse. Your incision may mean that you can’t lift or carry your baby as planned, and you may be bleeding more than expected. (Fun fact: A newborn diaper is very similar to a full-coverage maxi-pad in a pinch!) Hang onto your elastic undies and that squirt bottle for as long as you think you may need them—the healing process is more of a marathon than a race.
There is no set timeline, but generally every day should get marginally better and you should be well on your way to a complete recovery by your six-week postpartum appointment. In addition to ice packs in your underwear, don’t be too proud to try the little rubber ring cushions they sell at the drugstore. It’s not dignified, but everyone’s looking at baby anyway.
Stuff no one tells you
25 baby-care hacks for first-time parents How to cut those tiny fingernails? How to tackle the first real bath? Why does only one outfit fit properly, and why won’t any socks stay on? The first week of your baby’s life is shockingly overwhelming at times, and the good news is that very little of it really matters in the first seven days. The first bath can wait until you’re ready, the fingernails can be covered by mittens if you’re still too nervous for the clippers, and the cute outfits can wait. Feeding, sleeping, diapers and self-care are the vital tasks, and everything else is extra. A week ago, you were just a pregnant lady; suddenly you’re the mom of a newborn and nothing is the same. Were you a big planner? Did you have definite ideas about what you would and wouldn’t do as a new parent? If only you’d known, right? How quickly one tiny person can change it all, and exhaustion can change your mind.
If you are ready for the first grooming milestones, pick a time when you’re not expecting visitors, your baby is fed and well rested and the camera is ready. And remember, whether it’s cutting baby’s toenails or giving them their first bath, you can always stop halfway and save round two for another day. There’s no rush. Everything you need to know about baby grooming is right here.
Falling asleep at the breast
There are some genuine things to worry about during your baby’s first week of life. The two biggest hurdles are eating and sleeping, and both can be a roller coaster ride for mom and baby alike. Some babies eat and then sleep, while others wake because they’re hungry, so it can be hard to know if a sleepy baby is getting enough to eat. If your baby consistently falls asleep at the breast soon after starting to feed, he may not be getting enough calories and it can be the start of a cycle that’s hard to break. If this is a concern, talk to your baby’s doctor, your midwife or a lactation consultant and ask for tips on how to keep your baby awake long enough to have a full feeding.
Every babe is different
Have you already broken a few self-imposed rules? Done a few things you swore you’d never do? Offered a soother to spare your cracked nipples, fallen asleep with your baby or eaten a tray of brownies brought by that nice neighbour? It’s all good. Be gentle with yourself and take it one day at a time—rules are meant to be rewritten with experience. Your baby isn’t the same as your friend’s baby, and mothers are different, too.
Just for fun
If it wasn’t already, your phone will be your best friend in the early days with your baby, both to capture all those adorable moments and to help track feedings and diaper changes. Here are some of the best mobile apps for new moms.
Wishing you had more moms to talk to and hang out with? This app has been dubbed the “Tinder for moms” because it connects you to mamas near you, letting you swipe each other’s profiles. It also launched a new community discussion feature called Peanut Pages to ask questions and crowdsource the minds of other moms who have been there, as an alternative to Facebook groups and other social platforms.
Take your own newborn photos
Hashtag babiesofInstagram? Ordering canvases for your walls or just trying to capture every moment? Some professional baby photographers believe that the best time for newborn photos is when your baby is five to 10 days old. That’s old enough to have lost the red-and-wet look of a newborn, yet your baby is still so exhausted from birth that he will fall asleep in ridiculous poses and outfits. If you want to try it yourself at home, wait until your baby is fed before you start and make sure that you have everything ready before you bring your baby onto the scene (they are rarely patient models). Zoom in to keep the focus on your baby, and crank up the thermostat if the room is cold—all the better for naked baby photos. Natural light is always best. Here are some more clever tips for capturing newborns at their best.