9 Must-know newborn facts

Posted on March 11th, 2014

The first few days with your newborn can be both amazing and terrifying. Here’s a guide to what’s normal – and when to seek help.

Breathing and colour

Babies breathe in different ways, depending on what they’re doing. During feeding, you might find that he snorts and snuffles, with either quicker or slower breaths than normal.
When he’s sleeping soundly, his complexion may look pale. You’ll probably find yourself checking to make sure he’s still breathing.
If your baby is having difficulty breathing, is making grunting noises or is blue, mauve or grey in colour, always seek medical help.

Feeding

In the beginning, babies’ tummies are small and empty quickly, so don’t be concerned if all he wants to do is eat. Breastfed babies may feed eight to 12 times during one day and night, and bottle-fed babies may feed every one to three hours, but this isn’t set in stone.
Some feeds will take longer than others, and may vary in the amount taken.

Posseting

This is where babies bring up milk during or after a feed. This is not unusual. Some babies do this regularly, while others don’t.
As long as your baby’s gaining weight, then ‘posseting’ after a feed isn’t something to worry about.
Slowing down feeds with little breaks, and sitting him up after feeds can help.
Occasionally, if breastfeeding is causing very sore nipples, blood may be indigested with breast milk and appear in your baby’s vomit. This will settle when the nipple recovers and isn’t a concern.
If there’s blood in vomit at any other time or if your baby’s violently sick, seems to be in pain, or you’re worried, call your GP.

Temperature

Overheating can be dangerous, but letting your baby get too cold isn’t good either – the ideal room temperature for a baby to sleep in is 16°C to 20°C.
Check your little one’s warmth by feeling the skin around the nape of his neck. The normal temperature of a baby’s body should be 36.4°C to 37°C, which should feel tepid to the touch. If your newborn has a temperature, see your doctor.

Peeing and pooing

Wet and dirty nappies are a sign that feeding is going well (expect six or more wet nappies in 24 hours).
Pooing is a little more varied. As a general rule, in the early days, it will resemble yellow, grainy mustard or a putty colour.
A bottle-fed baby’s stools will be darker and more solid. Don’t get too hung up on colour though – it’s what’s normal for your baby that matters.
Breastfed babies may have a soiled nappy after every feed, or only poo once a week. Formula-fed babies may poo a couple of times a day, or once every two to three days. You’ll soon learn your baby’s pattern and notice changes.
As long as your baby isn’t in discomfort, is passing wind, isn’t vomiting unusually and the stool is passed fairly easily, then relax.

Sleep

Some babies sleep more than others; some may sleep for long periods at a time, while others will nap for shorter bursts. In the beginning, each day may bring a different pattern. If your baby does have a long period of sleep, say five to six hours, then he’ll need to feed more frequently for the next few feeds to catch up.
If he won’t settle, take him out for a walk or a drive, as motion can often help.

Rashes and spots

Babies can develop skin rashes and spots which typically look like pimples on the face, neck or upper body. The spots look worse if he gets too hot or cries. There’s no need to do anything about them – they should diminish and disappear completely by around eight to ten weeks, leaving no marks. Milia, or milk spots (tiny white/yellow spots appearing across the nose and chin), are caused by overactive oil glands in baby and maternal hormones. These are harmless and will disappear on their own.

Jaundice

Jaundice (yellow) skin in newborns is common in the first two weeks. If it persists, your doctor will arrange a blood test, just to check that all is well.

Caring for the umbilicus

The little bits left around your baby’s navel – or umbilicus – from where the umbilical cord was cut will gradually dry and shrivel, before falling off about ten to 14 days after the birth. You may feel squeamish about cleaning it, but it won’t hurt your baby.
Clean the area with cooled, boiled water twice a day, and keep it dry, folding the nappy underneath it.
If it becomes red or smells very offensive, alert your midwife or doctor.

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Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.