What you can expect in the first week with a new baby
If you are expecting, you likely feel completely overwhelmed by the realization that a tiny person who you are solely responsible for is about to enter your life. And if you felt pretty good until you read that sentence, I apologize. You're probably on your way to being prepared with all of the newborn items that you could ever need. But this post will prepare you with a little insight about what to expect during that first week with your little bundle of joy – whether you're about to be a first-time parent, or just looking for a little refresher, you've come to the right place!
Having a baby is 100% incredible and 100% terrifying all at the same time. Incredible because you will realize just how AMAZING your body is, and terrifying because, well, how do I keep it alive?! Let me put your mind at rest here, your will. Your baby needs you and not much else! During the first few days of life, your baby is getting to know a very different environment from the one he or she just spent 9 months in...think light, noise, smells, people – a total sense overload! This means that it's a really important time to comfort your baby; bond with them, hold them, do that skin-to-skin thing that everyone talks about (it really is as amazing as it looks!!). Just be there. Bond! Bond like you've never bonded before. Cherish this time, because it's amazing.
Don't be worried if your baby is sleepy, they are equally as exhausted from birth! Babies sleep for between 16-20 hours a day in stretches of 3-4 hours, really, they sleep a lot. You, on the other hand, will not be so lucky. Unfortunately this is hard to avoid. Babies are hungry a lot, meaning that you will be feeding them round the clock until they start to recognize the difference between night and day, which is when you may be lucky enough to get 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a row! Your partner, friends and family are there to help and will likely jump at the chance to look after your baby whilst you get some rest. Do not skip on naps! They say to take advantage of all of the time that your baby spends sleeping and nap when the baby naps...I myself ignored this advice and did household chores when my newborn daughter slept in the day, it completely destroyed me. Nap when the baby naps!! Learn from my mistakes. Let your house get messy. Ask that wonderful mother-in-law of yours if she wouldn't mind coming over to help with housework. Don't be afraid to ask!
The official advice is that your newborn baby should be eating 8-12 times a day, but realistically, they will eat as much as they want to. And it will feel like they want to eat all the time, especially if you're breastfeeding, be prepared to have a tiny human limpet attached to you at all times – feeds can sometimes take up to an hour! Following all of this feeding, you can expect the diapers to reflect it! During the first few days your baby's dirty diapers will consist of meconium (a tar-like substance) which can be difficult to clean, but totally normal. Towards to end of the first week you can expect 6 or more wet nappies and 3-4 stools each day.
The umbilical cord will fall off during the first 10 days of life, keeping the area around the cord dry and clean will help this process and decrease healing time. Exposing it to air as often as possible will help the drying time, you can do this by folding the top of the nappy down to expose your baby's navel.
Until your baby's belly button has healed you will have to keep them out of the bath as this will risk the cord becoming wet. Instead, you can sponge bath your baby! Laying your baby down on a soft and comfortable surface with a bowl of warm water at hand, you can use cotton pads or a sponge to gently clean your baby's skin. Ensure that the room is warm to prevent your baby from getting chilly. A tip is to keep each half of the baby covered in turn: cover the torso with a light towel whilst you are cleaning their legs, and cover the legs whilst you are cleaning the torso. Some babies really dislike being naked and this can help! My daughter hated it so much that I think we only gave her a sponge bath once a week until she had her first bath at 3 weeks old, and that's ok!
Something that you may not have expected is that it's completely normal for your baby to lose weight during the first week of life! You can expect your baby to lose between 5-10% of their birthweight, which they likely won't gain back until they are in their second week.
Visitors. Visitors, visitors, visitors. So many of them. I could not wait to show my baby off to everyone that wanted to meet her, that feeling lasted for about 5 days. After which I realized that visitors always come just when baby is due a feed or when I was hoping to have a nap. Visitors also require conversation, hot drinks and baby cuddles. Three things that you are not up for during the first week following giving birth. Take my advice and keep visits to a minimum, there will be time for everyone to meet your new addition! Consider limiting guests to close family for the first week or two – I can say with 100% certainty that this is what I will be doing next time.
For the first week of your baby's life you are unlikely to be doing much other than feeding, changing nappies and sleeping, and that's exactly how it should be! The newborn bubble is incredible but can also feel like an emotional roller-coaster, so don't get caught up on the small stuff – revel in your first week as a parent!