Although you may feel prepared for
your baby, the reality of the constant care a newborn needs can shock many
parents. A newborn affects your life in ways that simply can't be anticipated.
It is only through experience that you can fully understand the impact of
these new responsibilities and how your expected roles change. It is normal to
shift frequently between feeling confident and ecstatic one minute, and
drained, scared, and unsure the next.
When you realize that your
baby is physically completely dependent on you, you may worry whether you are
giving your baby the best care. Common concerns in this first month
Umbilical cord care. Basic care of your
baby's umbilical cord is keeping it clean and dry. Gently clean the umbilical
cord stump and the surrounding skin at least one time a day and as needed
during diaper changes or baths. Gently pat the area dry with a soft cloth. The
stump usually falls off within a couple of weeks.
Your newborn's sleepiness. Especially in the first few
days after birth, your baby may seem to be in a distant world, only pausing
long enough in this one to wake you up for a little snack or a diaper change.
Your baby will become gradually more alert throughout the month. By the end of
the first month, your baby will likely begin developing sleeping and eating
patterns. In general, your baby will likely have periods where he or she is
awake for 2 or 3 hours straight. Around 3 months of age, the patterns will
become more predictable.
Your exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
Although newborns sleep a lot, they also wake up a lot for brief periods and
need feeding, diapering, and attention. Nights of long, restorative sleep can
seem a foggy memory to parents. This may be especially true for mothers, who
start with a deficit after the physical exertion of and recovery from giving
birth. Be sure to ask for help when you need it. Don't hesitate to ask a family
member, friend, or neighbor to help you with daily tasks, such as laundry,
cleaning, or making meals. This can help you to nap while your baby sleeps
instead of doing chores.
Worry over whether your baby is getting
enough to eat. This is especially a common concern among
breast-feeding mothers. As long as your baby feeds
regularly (every 1 to 3 hours in the first few weeks, then 2 to 4 hours over
the next few weeks), he or she should be fine. Sometimes you may need to
wake a sleepy baby to eat. It's good to check your baby's diaper for
signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk. For example, your baby may have about 3 wet diapers a day for the first few days. After that, expect 6 or more wet diapers a day throughout the first month of life. During
well-child checkups, the doctor will monitor your
baby's weight gain and growth.
Newborn jaundice. Many babies get
jaundice (also called hyperbilirubinemia) in their first few days of life.
Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and the whites of a baby's eyes
appear yellow because of a buildup of
bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown
substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. Although jaundice
should be monitored, it most often does not require medical treatment. Usually,
increasing the number of feedings helps reduce jaundice.
Phototherapy, in which a baby is placed under special
lights or fiber-optic blankets, may be used if bilirubin levels are too high.
Keep your baby's well-child appointments with your doctor, or call anytime if
you are concerned about jaundice or your baby's skin. For more information, see
Jaundice in Newborns.
misshapen head. Right after birth, especially after lengthy vaginal
deliveries, your baby's head may look misshapen. This is normal, and your
baby's head will most likely take on a more normal shape within a few days to
weeks after delivery. In rare instances, a misshapen head can be a sign of
an abnormal condition, such as
craniosynostosis. After your baby is born and during
your baby's well-child checkups, your doctor will monitor your baby's head
shape and skull growth. If you are concerned that your newborn's head has not
returned to a normal shape within several weeks of delivery, talk with your