Published on August 26, 2021

Caring for Your Newborn

Infant on his tummy

The "Caring for Your Newborn" video above helps you know what to expect from your newborn’s appearance and behavior, as well as how to care for your newborn in the early weeks at home.

The Golden Hours

The initial hours after birth are a time to get acquainted face-to-face with your newborn! Our hospital’s standard of care is to put your baby skin-to-skin on mom’s chest to allow them to transition to life outside the womb. During this time your baby is very alert and his senses are taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the outside world. Your newborn will have periods of activity interspersed with periods of rest as he explores his immediate environment, culminating with his first breastfeed and drifting off to a deep sleep. Your nurse will observe your baby but will not remove him from the breast until he has finished his first meal unless medical need dictates. Following the Golden Hours, mom and baby will be transferred to the Mother-Baby Unit, where you will room-in together with the same nurse caring for both.

Newborn Appearance & Behavior

Your newborn’s skin may appear pale or blue at first but will pink up quickly as he opens his lungs to breathe. His head may appear cone-shaped due to the molding of the skull bones as he moves through the birth canal. He may have lots of hair or very little on his head. Some babies have very fine hair called lanugo all over their body or a white cheesy substance called vernix on their skin. Your baby’s genitals, whether boy or girl, will be swollen due to the influence of mom’s hormones while in the womb. This will go away in a few days. Your baby will demonstrate six different behavioral states throughout the wake-sleep cycle:

  • Deep sleep
  • Light (REM) sleep
  • Drowsy
  • Quiet alert
  • Active alert
  • Crying

Becoming familiar with them will help you to know the best times to feed or interact with them. Drowsy, quiet alert and active alert times are good times to try to feed your baby. Watch for feeding cues such as smacking/licking lips, hand-to-mouth movements, fidgeting and rooting. Crying is a late feeding cue when others have been missed. You’ll have to calm a crying baby before he will feed effectively.

Feeding & Diaper Counts

Your baby’s stomach is very small at birth but expands rapidly within the first few weeks. Therefore, your baby may want to nurse often during the first few days until mom’s milk comes in. Colostrum is present at birth in mom’s breast and is considered ‘liquid gold’ for its immune properties and nutritional value, but the volume is small at first. By nursing your baby often, you stimulate milk production while satisfying your baby’s need for nutrition and comfort. Your baby will need a minimum of eight to 12 feedings during the first weeks to provide adequate nutrition. Since breastfeeding mothers can’t measure their baby’s intake, diaper counts are a good way to gauge intake. By Day 5 of life, your baby should have at least six wet and three to six dirty diapers each day. We encourage you to continue feeding/diaper log for the first month to ensure baby is getting adequate intake to grow!

Cord Care & Sponge Baths

The cord clamp will be removed from the umbilical stump the day you are discharged from the hospital. The stump itself will fall off between seven to 10 days after birth. Observe the belly button for any signs of infection and sponge bathe your baby every two to three days until it has had time to heal (at least three to four days after stump falls off). Use whatever unscented baby bath product that you prefer, bathing a section of your baby at a time keeping them covered to prevent chilling. Begin with the hair, and move from head to toe, ending with the diaper area. Only use water for the face but all other areas of the body, use baby wash and rinse. (Watch the "Caring for Your Newborn" video above for a demonstration).

Crying & Comfort Techniques

Crying is your baby’s way of communicating a need. This may take some "troubleshooting" from Mom or Dad. Is he hungry, soiled diaper, hot/cold, in pain or tired?

If those basic needs are met, use comfort techniques to calm your baby: swaddling, sucking, side lying, shushing, swinging or skin-to-skin. (Watch the "Caring for Your Newborn" video above for a demonstration of swaddling).

Pediatrician Visits

You should select a pediatrician and make the first appointment for approximately two weeks following birth. Your pediatrician will follow your baby's growth and development, as well as provide vaccinations against childhood diseases.

Signs of Illness

Signs of illness to report to your pediatrician include fever, feeding issues (including insufficient feedings or inadequate output), respiratory issues, jaundice, behavioral issues (excessive sleepiness or fussiness, poor muscle tone), or signs of infection of belly button or circumcision.

      You're heading home from the hospital with your newborn baby... now what?!