The first days with your newborn can be wondrous and exciting. Parents often describe it as the most joyful, memorable, and sometimes even terrifying times of their life. For nine months you’ve been waiting for your little one to arrive. So now that you’ve got him or her here, what do you do with them?
Newborns have four basic behaviours. First of all, you’ll notice that they sleep. In the first month or two of life, your baby will need roughly three naps a day- around seven and a half hours sleep during the day and eight and a half hours at night. Note that they are usually awake for stretches not longer than an hour or two.
Getting to know your baby.
Babies also need to feed. Particularly early on, breastfeeding should be ‘on demand’, whenever your baby is hungry. Expect this to be every three and a half to four hours. Ensure that your baby doesn’t go for more than four hours without feeding, even at night. The midwives at the hospital will give your help and support with feeding.
So where does all this milk go? This third behaviour is of course one of the most infamous yet integral aspects of parenthood: babies poop and pee. In the first few days after birth, the baby may have four or five dark, tarry stools as you are still developing mature milk. Following this, the first six weeks should see your newborn passing at least two bowel movements every 24 hours, plus you’ll change around four wet nappies.
Finally, your baby will communicate, mainly by crying but also by watching your face. Crying could indicate hunger, having a wet nappy, or wanting to be picked up and cuddled. You will quickly learn to recognise your own newborn’s cries and how to respond to them.
As important as it is to care for your newborn’s physical needs, it’s equally important to begin to get to know your baby and provide for their psychological and emotional needs. Babies need attention and affection; they need to feel safe and loved. It is important that you spend time in bonding activities such as holding your baby skin to skin, looking into their eyes, talking and singing to them, and cuddling them. This allows your baby to learn to love, trust and feel secure around you; emotional milestones that are the foundations for development into a psychologically healthy human.
Taking Care of Yourself
In this exhausting, overwhelming, exultant time of your life, it is easy to forget that you yourself need looking after as well. Caring for yourself will help recover from childbirth and care for your baby. Organise to have someone to help you out around the house, to cook and clean and offer support. Eat sustaining and nourishing foods, drink plenty of water, sleep when you can, get outside when you can. If you’re feeling stressed or sad, practise relaxation exercises or talk to a friend or your family doctor about it, your baby will become anxious if they feel the same emotion in you. Give a little love for yourself and it will be that much easier to give the same to your newborn.
Newborn Screening Tests
Why screening tests are important
Although the majority of newborns are perfectly healthy, a small minority have disorders or illnesses that aren’t always recognisable at birth. There are three primary screening tests that are recommended in order to assist your doctor in identifying signs of these. If the disorders or diseases are picked up early with screening tests, most of these infants can be treated and will do well.
3% of children present with abnormality at birth
Heel prick (Neo-Natal Screening Test)
The heel prick test is typically done within the second or third day post birth. A few drops of blood will be collected via a small prick on the baby’s heel. If you’re concerned about our baby experiencing pain during the test, it might be a good idea to contrast the short time minor discomfort with the potential long-term benefits of picking up on an illness immediately. The primary aim of this blood test is to detect up to 40 certain rare genetic disorders.
One in 500 children are born with a clinically significant hearing loss, making it the most common disorder that we screen for. These tests are extremely reliable at detecting moderate to profound hearing loss. Without the test, these same deficits would only be picked up at two to three years old, by which time the child has already lost the ability to properly develop language. During the examination, specific sounds are played to the baby and the baby’s neurological responses are recorded via small sensor pads on the head.
Heart Disease Test
A probe is put on the newborn’s fingers to check that oxygen levels are normal. This is typically done on day two.
Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)
DDH can affect roughly 1 in every 700 babies, with higher risk in some circumstances such as a family history. Your doctor will check for DDH within the first day or two after birth by feeling around each hip for signs of dislocation. Sometimes a baby may have DDH but it doesn’t present at birth- hence the doctor will examine for it again at your six week check.
Six Week Check
The six-week check is a good time for your Paediatrician to examine your baby’s vision and developmental progress. This is highly recommended in order to ensure that the newborn is growing normally and developing a reasonable routine.
Infant development begins at birth. It helps to know normal infant development milestones from birth to 3 months if something's not right it can be picked up early.
A lot happens during your baby's first three months. Most babies reach certain milestones at similar ages, but infant development isn't an exact science. Expect your baby to grow and develop at his or her own pace. As you get to know your baby, consider these general infant development milestones.
What to expect
At first, caring for your baby may feel like an endless cycle of feeding, nappies and soothing. But soon, signs of your baby's growth and development will emerge.
- Motor skills. Your newborn's head will be wobbly at first. But within the first few months, most babies can face straight ahead while lying on their backs and lift their heads while lying on their tummies. Although newborns aren't likely to roll over, your baby may soon turn from side to back. Your baby's stretching and kicking are likely to get more vigorous. If you offer a toy, your baby may grasp it and hold on tight for a few moments.
- Hearing. Within a few weeks, your baby may respond to loud noises by blinking, startling, frowning or waking from light sleep. Even everyday household sounds — footsteps on the floor, water running — may elicit subtle responses, such as increased limb movement or slowed sucking rhythm. Expect your baby to respond to the sound of your voice.
- Vision. Your baby will probably focus on your face during feedings. Soon your baby may begin to examine more complex designs, along with various colours, sizes and shapes. You may notice your baby studying his or her hands and feet. By age 3 months, your baby may be easily distracted by an interesting sight or sound.
- Communication. Newborns are sensitive to the way you hold, rock and feed them. By age 2 months, your baby may smile on purpose, blow bubbles and coo when you talk or gently play together. Your baby may even mimic your facial expressions. Soon your baby may reach for you when he or she needs attention, security or comfort.
Promoting your baby's development
Your relationship with your child is the foundation of his or her healthy development. Trust your ability to meet your baby's needs. You can:
- Hold your baby. Gentle caresses and tender kisses can help your newborn feel safe, secure and loved. Hold and rock your baby. Allow him or her to study your face. Let your baby grasp your little finger and touch your face.
- Speak freely. Simple conversation lays the groundwork for language development, even before your baby can understand a word. Ask questions and respond to your baby's coos and gurgles. Describe what you see, hear and smell around the house, outdoors, and when you're out and about. Use simple words that apply to your baby's everyday life. Remember that your tone of voice communicates ideas and emotions as well.
- Change positions. Hold your baby facing outward. With close supervision, place your baby on his or her tummy to play. Hold a colorful toy or make an interesting noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head. Many newborns get fussy or frustrated on their tummies, so keep these sessions brief at first — just a few minutes at a time. If drowsiness sets in, place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
- Respond to crying. For most newborns, crying spells peak about six weeks after birth and then gradually decline. Whether your baby needs a nappy change, feeding or just simply warm contact, respond promptly. Your attention will help build a strong bond with your baby — and the confidence he or she will need to settle down without your help one day.
When something's not right
Your baby may reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is perfectly normal. There's typically no cause for concern. It's a good idea to be aware of the warning signs, however. Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or you notice any red flags by age 3 months:
- No improvement in head control
- No attempts to lift the head when lying facedown
- Extreme floppiness
- Lack of response to sounds or visual cues, such as loud noises or bright lights
- Inability to focus on a caregiver's eyes
- Poor weight gain
Remember that every baby is unique — but your instincts are important, too. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated.