After nine months of waiting for your baby to arrive, it’s finally here! Caring for a newborn baby can be a daunting experience, especially for new parents, but it is also a rewarding and fulfilling experience that creates lifelong bonds between you and your child.
If you feel overwhelmed by all the information that is available about caring for a newborn baby, don’t worry. This article is the first in a series about month by month newborn care. Read on to find out about baby feeding schedules, average baby weight, and other baby milestones month by month.
Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash
Newborn Baby Development
Your newborn baby’s first month in the outside world will be an eventful one, for them and for you. Your baby develops in many ways during the first weeks, as it adjusts to life out of the womb.
A common development is that your baby may lose weight. This is because they lose some of the extra birth fluids during the first few weeks, and the average baby weight of newborns can even decrease by up to 10 per cent.
Your newborn’s appearance will be characterized by fine hairs, called lanugo, that cover the entire body. It usually falls out within the first few weeks but can take a bit longer, too. The hair on your baby’s head (if any) will not stay for long, either, and is usually replaced by hair of completely different color and texture.
Average Baby Weight and Physical Health
The first few weeks for both you and your newborn should be about resting. During the 9 months of pregnancy, your body probably went through a rollercoaster of emotions and physical ailments and will now need time to recuperate. This is also an important time for your newborn’s physical health, as it adjusts to its new surroundings and prepares to utilize its newly developed features.
At birth, the average weight of newborn boys is 7.4 pounds, whereas the average weight for girls is 7.1 pounds. This can fluctuate greatly, though, depending on the baby and, to some degree, the parent; if you were overweight during the pregnancy, your baby might be slightly heavier, and vice versa. The average length of a newborn is around 20 inches but this, too, can vary.
Your baby is born with reflexes that enable it to respond to light and touch when exposed to them. If you put a finger around your newborn’s mouth, it will make a sucking action. Conversely, placing a thumb or finger in your newborn’s hand will likely cause them to grasp it.
It is these reflexes that are essential for nourishing your baby – your baby will instinctively and reflexively suckle on food when a breast or bottle is placed in its mouth. Your baby also has something called the Moro reflex, otherwise known as a startle response. This means that when a newborn baby hears a loud noise, it will automatically respond by throwing out its limbs in shock.
Babies develop their sight over a period of time. A newborn baby is at the start of this development phase and, therefore, won’t be able to process visual information to a very high level. For a baby, learning to see is very much like learning to talk and walk – it takes time and practice.
At birth, babies see very little. When they are 1 month old, however, their sight will have significantly improved, with progress continuing until they reach the age of 2.
If you are worried that your newborn baby has eye problems, there are a few signs that you can look out for: Excessive tearing may mean they have blocked tear ducts; red eye lids could signify an eye infection; extreme sensitivity to light might be a sign of high pressure in the eye; and constant eye turning could be a sign of muscle control problems in the eye. More often than not, however, your baby will be perfectly fine, and its lack of sight is a normal part of development.
Newborn Sense of Smell
Sense of smell plays an important role in a newborn baby’s development. It is related to taste and, thus, dictates what they will like to eat. It is also connected to emotions and has an important role in facilitating the bonding between a parent and child.
Your baby’s nose began developing as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, and they used their sense of smell in the womb to identify the amniotic fluid that they breathed and swallowed for sustenance. This scent is similar to that of breast milk, and your baby will recognize this when it’s time for feeding.
As a newborn baby’s sense of sight is limited, they will use smell to identify their parents. This also triggers the production of oxytocin, or the “love hormone”, for both the mother and baby and increases the level of connection between them.
Newborn Eating Schedule
Wondering how much a newborn baby should eat is a common question among new parents. As a general rule, newborns should be fed between 8 to 12 times a day, if breastfeeding, and slightly less if your baby is formula fed. This is because breast milk is digested at a faster rate than formula and passes through your baby’s system more quickly. As your newborn develops, it will require nursing at less frequent intervals, but at birth they need to be fed regularly and should not go more than 4 hours without feeding, including the night.
Crying is often regarded as an indication of hunger and, although this is true, it is actually a late sign of hunger and may not always be related to food. There are a number of ways to tell if your newborn is hungry. They may require feeding if:
- They open their mouths.
- Stick out their tongues.
- Place their hands in their mouths.
- Move their heads from side to side.
- Make sucking motions with their mouth and tongue.
The amount of time it will take to feed your baby will vary depending on certain factors, including how fast your milk flow is, how much milk supply is available, position of the baby, and how hungry your baby is. Typically, nursing takes between 10 to 20 minutes.
Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash
Newborn Sleep Schedule
At birth, your baby will sleep for between 14 to 17 hours per day, on average. This is done in an intermittent sleeping pattern, with newborns typically staying awake for no longer than three hours (usually less) at a time. While this will inevitably have an impact on the amount of sleep a parent can get, it is essential to try and establish a sleeping pattern for your newborn that teaches them the difference between day and night. This can be as simple as opening the curtains and stimulating your baby’s senses during the day, and creating a sense of calm and relaxation during the night.
For the first few weeks, your newborn will set their sleep schedule by themselves, and it is best to follow your baby’s lead. The sleep that your baby gets comes in two different forms – rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement – and they will usually spend around 45 to 50 minutes in each of these stages of sleep.
In the early stages of your baby’s life, it will be hard to pin down a regular routine, as they will be sleeping and eating intermittently on a basis of necessity. That being said, it is still a good idea to follow a loose schedule so that your baby can get used to patterns in a day, though, at this stage, the schedule will predominantly comprise of eating and sleeping at regular intervals.
It can be scary being a new parent, especially when it comes to identifying symptoms and signs that your baby may be sick. It’s common to immediately fear the worst and activate the panic button after hearing an innocuous cough or even a sniff. Yet, there are a few newborn symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. These include jaundice, blue lips, dehydration, green bile, and difficulty breathing. Details of each of these symptoms are outlined below.
Newborn jaundice is characterized by the yellowing of the skin and eyes and is a common condition among babies. It is caused by high levels of a yellow pigment – called bilirubin – that is produced during the breakdown of red blood cells in the system.
It can often occur in newborn babies due to their liver not being mature enough to evict bilirubin from the body – at birth, your baby’s liver is still undergoing development.
Babies most at risk of jaundice are premature babies, babies who aren’t nourished sufficiently, and babies whose blood type is not compatible with their mothers. It can also be an indication of liver problems, infection, and enzyme deficiency.
Most cases of jaundice, however, are harmless and usually pass within 3 weeks of onset.
When to See a Doctor
If your newborn’s symptoms are worsening, you may have to schedule a visit to see a doctor. The following is a list of symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored and may require further assistance.
Baby Has Blue Lips
Blue lips, sometimes referred to as cyanosis, could mean that your baby is not getting sufficient oxygen. If your notice that either the tongue or lips of your newborn are blue, you should immediately seek emergency medical advice.
Baby Has Trouble Breathing
A lot of babies breathe hard and fast and often make grunting noises that can keep a parent on edge. If these symptoms are consistent and intense, however, your newborn baby may have respiratory problems. It is advisable to consult a doctor should you notice these abnormalities in your baby’s breathing pattern.
A fever isn’t an illness but is a symptom of an illness, and it can be extremely worrying when a newborn baby experiences it. There are a few things that may cause a fever in an infant, including a reaction to a vaccination, viral infection, and being overdressed for too long. It is important to monitor a newborn’s temperature to look out for signs of a fever and, although it is usually sign that your baby’s immune system is working well, you may have to contact a doctor if the symptoms intensify.
As mentioned above, most examples of jaundice in newborn babies are harmless. Yet, on rare occasions, the condition may require further attention. You should seek medical advice if:
- Your baby develops a fever.
- Your baby is feeding poorly.
- The jaundice is spreading.
- The yellow color is deepening and becoming bolder.
Dehydration in a newborn baby means that they have lost too much fluid. It usually occurs as a result of diarrhea, excessive sweating, vomiting, or malnourishment. This can be a serious condition for a newborn baby, as they need sufficient hydration in order to develop properly. Signs that your baby may be dehydrated include sunken eyes, dry mouth, and a dry diaper for 6 hours or more.
Newborn Vomiting Green Bile
Green bile in a newborn baby may indicate problems in the bowels. If you notice that your baby is experiencing this symptom you should seek medical advice immediately. You should also be alert for other problems with a baby’s vomit, including the presence of blood or projectile vomiting.
Newborn Baby Checklist
Caring for a newborn baby can feel like a mammoth task at times, but if you have all of the necessary items and preparations in place, you can make it as easy and as smooth as possible for yourself. The following are a few things that you may want to have ready for your newborn baby:
Stocking up on clothes is essential. You will need onesies, undershirts, nightgowns, pants, hats, socks, cardigans, and anything else that will help to keep your baby at the right temperature.
Having an extra blanket or two can make your life easier when caring for a newborn. Whether being used as a makeshift bed, or to keep your baby snug, it is a good idea to invest in a few extra.
- Feeding accessories
For breastfeeding mothers, you may want to purchase a breast pump, nursing pillow, milk storage containers, and nursing bras. For formula fed babies, bottles with nipples and thermal devices may come in handy.
Whether using reusable or disposable diapers, you will want to purchase waterproof covers, washcloths, a changing pad, and a baby safe ointment to prevent rashes.
There are no concrete rules as to when you can take your baby outside. It is more important to pay attention to circumstances. If it is too hot or cold outside, you may want to avoid it. Additionally, avoid places where your baby may be exposed to viruses or illnesses. Otherwise, you should take your baby outside to enjoy the fresh air as much as you see fit.
Managing a newborn baby may feel like a daunting task. It is often represented as a period of time when you will get little sleep and be constantly fatigued. While that may be true to some degree, caring for a newborn can be relatively simple. As long as they are fed and rested on a frequent basis, things will go as smoothly as possible.
A 1-week old baby will still have difficulties in processing visual information. They rely, instead, more on their sense of smell to navigate their surroundings. A 1-month old baby, however, is already starting to improve their visual information processing abilities.
A newborn baby typically sleeps between 14 to 17 hours, though this can vary and depending on the child.
A newborn baby will poop at least 3 times a day, though you can expect bowel movements as frequently as 4 to 12 times a day for some babies.
This depends on the baby. It is more than acceptable to bathe your newborn baby 2 to 3 times per week. If your baby loves the water, however, you can bathe them once a day. Just pay attention to your baby’s skin, as washing too often can cause dehydration in the skin.
A newborn baby should be fed, on average, about 8 to 12 times a day. The amount your baby eats, and the time in between nursing, will increase as they get older.
At each feeding, a newborn baby will take in around 1 to 2 ounces of nourishment. This amount will increase as they get older.