First Week With Your Newborn: Pediatrician’s Guide to Navigating Early Days

New parents looking at their newborn child while he sleeps.

Seeing and holding your newborn for the first time is a thrilling moment, but worry can kick in almost immediately. That worry only increases as you get ready to take your baby home, especially if you’re a first-time parent.

To help you navigate the stressful first week with your child, a newborn doctor offers tips and guidance that can make a difference.

Feeding Your Newborn: Breastfeeding, Formula, and More

Breastfeeding is still the best option for newborns. Your baby may want to eat as often as every one to three hours at the start because their stomach is small, leading them to become quickly full. These frequent feedings can give the baby practice at sucking and swallowing.

Breast milk offers the exact nourishment your baby needs, along with essential ingredients that help boost their immune system and can help prevent the development of certain allergies. Remember that you should wake your baby up every few hours for breastfeeding. They can be very sleepy during the first few days.

Breastfeeding a newborn can take between 15 and 20 minutes. As the baby drinks, massage your breast to allow the milk to reach the nipple more easily.
After breastfeeding, you have to burp the baby. Some babies require more frequent burpings than others.

Newborn doctors often encounter parents who are concerned about nipple confusion. Parents may worry that switching the baby from breastfeeding to using a bottle can confuse the baby. This is not always the case, but it is often a good idea for the baby to become skilled at nursing before switching to a bottle.

Breastfeeding isn’t always possible, and the alternative is using formula. There are lots of formula options, from those that come in powdered form to those that are ready for the baby to drink. No matter which you choose, opt for a formula that is iron-fortified.

Never dilute the formula by adding more water than the package directs. During the first month, most babies will eat about three or four ounces every three hours, but every baby is different.

Caring for the Umbilical “Stump”

The umbilical “stump” causes concern for many parents, who think it is very fragile. But don’t worry — the belly button doesn’t have pain receptors, so it’s not painful for the baby. It takes about one to three weeks for the stump to fall off.

It’s important to sponge bathe the baby while they still have the stump attached. Once it falls off, you can begin using a baby bathtub. If you see any type of oozing from the area of the stump, turning to your newborn doctor can help.

Caring for the Baby’s Skin

It’s not uncommon for a baby’s skin to look dry and even somewhat scaly. This can make you think that you need to apply lotion, but it’s better if you don’t. Your baby was submerged in liquid for nine months, so the skin has to slough off to allow newer, hydrated skin to take its place.

If you want to use any kind of skin care product, try Vaseline or Aquaphor. Avoid anything with fragrances since these can irritate the baby’s skin. Keep in mind that skin rashes are normal at the start, but if you’re concerned, reaching out to your newborn doctor is a good idea.

Bowel Movements: What’s Normal?

Lots of things are normal when it comes to bowel movements in newborns. That’s why, most of the time, it’s easier to speak about what’s not normal. Bowel movements that are red, black, or white are not normal. Bowel movements that are shades of yellow, orange, tan, brown, and even green are normal.
Some babies have bowel movements a few times a day, while others might not. You may see your baby scrunching up their face and legs before a bowel movement, and this is also normal. Babies don’t spend the day walking, so they don’t experience the natural muscle contractions that help push gas and stool through the intestines.

This means that babies have to generate enough force on their backs to push stool down the intestines. If you’re not certain about what’s normal for your baby, reach out to your newborn doctor for assistance.
Newborn Sleeping Patterns

Perhaps one of the most common questions newborn doctors get is about sleeping patterns. How much and how often should a newborn sleep?

Newborn babies should sleep 14 to 17 hours per day, and that should remain the same for about three months. Each sleep interval can be one to three hours long.

During the first week, your baby may be extra sleepy, and you may have to wake them up every two to three hours to eat. Don’t let your baby go more than four or five hours without eating — even if they’re sleeping peacefully, wake them up.

You may also notice that your baby gets sleepy while they breastfeed. You can gently wake them so they continue eating. Always put your baby on their back to sleep.

How to Tell if Your Baby Is Ill

Being able to quickly spot the signs of an ill newborn is essential so that you can get them the help they need. You need to have a rectal thermometer. To use it, put a little Vaseline on the tip and then slide it in the anal opening about the length of your fingernail.

If the temperature reads 100.4 Fahrenheit degrees or more, your baby has a fever. It’s essential to call your newborn doctor immediately to find out what the problem is.

Think of your baby’s behavior on a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum is a baby who wants to sleep for hours and doesn’t want to eat. At the other end is a fussy baby who is crying inconsolably. If your baby’s behavior is at either of these ends, get a temperature reading.

Listen to their breathing as well. If you notice wheezing or coughing, you should reach out to your pediatric doctor.

Visit Newport Children’s Medical Group

If you have a newborn or are about to have one, turning to the right newborn doctor is essential. At Newport Children’s Medical Group, we offer the guidance and care that your baby needs.

Call us today to make an appointment with our team.