You’ve waited a long time for your baby’s arrival. Before birth, your baby was comforted 24/7. He was curled up in darkness and warmth, received nutrients automatically, and was lulled by the constant sound of your heartbeat, your voice and your movements. Now that he’s on the outside, he must learn how to cope in a brightly lit world, quell his hunger, and get his needs met by you. It is a joyous time, but you are likely affected by exhaustion and the learning curve of figuring out how to meet your baby’s needs. Here are some changes you can expect to see in the newborn first month.
They Grow So Quickly
Babies are born with extra fluid in their systems, so it is typical to see up to a 10% loss of birth weight during the first few days of life. They typically regain the lost weight by the second week then gain a half-ounce to an ounce each day while growing 1 in to 1.5 in by the end of the newborn first month.
Eat and Sleep, Eat and Sleep
If it seems like your baby is mostly eating and sleeping during the first few weeks, you’re on the right track! Newborns sleep up to 16 hours a day and eat eight to twelve times each day. So the newborn first month is all about eating and sleeping – lather, rinse, repeat!
Sleep patterns vary most days during the first month. You may wonder why your baby is wide awake at night. If you think back to when you were pregnant, you’ll remember he was rocked to sleep by your movements during the day and active when you tried to sleep at night. It will take a while for your baby to change this pattern and learn the difference between day and night.
At birth, your baby’s stomach is the size of a marble and holds 1 to 1.4 tablespoons of milk. At day three, his stomach has grown to the size of a walnut (.75-1 oz); at one week of age it is comparable to an apricot (1.5-2 oz); at the end of a month, your baby’s stomach has grown to the size of a large egg and holds 2.5 to 5 oz of milk. Knowing this, is it any wonder why a newborn must eat so often, especially during the first week?
To fill such a tiny stomach during the first month, your baby will be eating every two to three hours. If your baby is very sleepy, you will need to wake him to eat to ensure he gets the nutrition he needs. He will take about 15 to 20 minutes for each feeding and often fall asleep once satiated. Your baby will have a growth spurt sometime around day seven and again between three and six weeks. At these times, you will notice your baby will want to eat more and with greater frequency.
Baby’s Changing Appearance
If your baby was born vaginally, his skull’s cone-like appearance will resume a normal shape within a few days. You will notice your baby has two soft spots on his head, called fontanelles. Eventually these will close as the bones of the skull fuse together.
The umbilical cord stump will dry up and fall away within a few weeks. Your job will be to keep it clean and dry to prevent infection.
Your baby may be born with a full head of hair or very little. Over the next few weeks, he may develop a bald spot where his head rubs against his bed. This is temporary and will grow back within a few months. Your baby may also have fine hair covering his body. This hair, called lanugo, will eventually fall out.
Growing Awareness of Surroundings
Although newborns are able to use of all of their senses, some are more pronounced than others. At birth, your baby’s sense of smell and touch are strongest. His sense of touch around his mouth is particularly sensitive, which can be observed when he moves his head toward the breast to eat. He responds positively to skin-to-skin contact with caregivers and is often comforted by being in the bathtub with you.
While your baby’s sight is likely the weakest of all the senses, it is strong enough for him to see you clearly when you are cradling him in your arms. He learns to recognize your scent and the sound of your voice too. Early on, you will notice that your baby responds to high-pitched and loud sounds. In fact, white noise like that from a hair dryer or vacuum will likely put baby to sleep, as those sounds remind him of the sounds he heard in utero.
Your baby grows by leaps and bounds in those early weeks. Get as much support as you can so you can rest and enjoy this time. It will go by so fast!