What to expect the first week with baby

Here’s how to take the panic out of the first week home with baby. By Sister Lilian

Raising babies is challenging, but draw on age-old wisdom and instinct and keep this guide close.

Day 1

You may feel as though you’re on a hormonal high for the first day or two. Babies either sleep a lot or look around in puzzlement at the big wide world. Take each moment as it comes and rest with Baby tucked up close. Unless you or Baby aren’t well, rooming-in from the first moment helps you to understand her better. She might suckle frequently or seldom today, depending on many factors like medication during labour, length of labour and Baby’s size.
Baby will pass sticky green-black stools, called meconium. It’s best cleaned using baby oil first and then washing Baby’s bottom with soapy water.

Day 2

Baby will still be quietly alert today. You’ll feel tired, but deep sleep may elude you. If you gave birth in a clinic and you’re feeling well, you may even go home today. One often feels more relaxed at home, and recovery and adjustment are easier. Don’t worry if you still feel unsure or clumsy. Clean Baby’s navel at each nappy change to prevent infection – use calendula lotion or surgical spirits on cotton wool, and clean the clamp, the cord and around the base. Wrap an icepack in a facecloth and place it against your perineum to reduce swelling and pain, or use a gel pad especially for this purpose.

Day 3

This is often the day when reality hits, tiredness gets the better of you, your milk starts to flow, and Baby finds a voice. The third-day blues may strike but will usually pass once you’ve had a good sleep, your hormones have stabilised and you’ve given vent to your emotions. Your breasts may be tender, but just feed frequently and this will subside. Baby may become a bit jaundiced and you may need to have phototherapy treatment to help break down the bilirubin (the yellow pigment found in bile, an excess of which can lead to jaundice). Feed Baby more frequently as she’ll need plenty of fluids to help wash out the yellow pigment. If jaundice is mild, expose Baby to sunlight for five to 10 minutes while protecting her eyes.

Day 4

Keep pacing yourself and think about how much you’ve already learnt. You may wonder how you’ll ever cope, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, so be gentle with yourself and your little one and do only what’s essential.

Day 5

Baby focuses at about 25 to 30 cm, the distance between your face and Baby cradled at your breast. She’ll also still curl into the foetal position. Notice any pelvic pain, especially if accompanied by a malodorous vaginal discharge and fever, as this may signal retained placenta or an infection. Call your midwife or doctor if these are present.

Day 6

Keep the navel and stump of the cord clean – clean the crevices with a cotton bud dipped in surgical spirits. The cord will soon fall off or hang by a thread only, which you can snip.

Day 7

Baby is a week old and may well be making her presence felt. Babies are very self-absorbed because that’s all they know. They expect their parents guide them in the dos and don’ts of life –a tall order when you, too, feel you need a guiding hand! Observe your baby for recurring patterns of behaviour and self-expression, as these will give you clues on how to handle her.

*Originally published in September 2011

Click here to find out what to expect the second week home with baby.

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