When you have a new baby, everything is so new, and it’s a steep learning curve. And the stakes feel insanely high.
Plus, you’re exhausted. The first month or two with a baby is hard. But with a few newborn tips and some support, you can do it!
So what’s normal for your little one, and what is actually something to be concerned about? Continue reading to learn more about what to expect with your newborn baby.
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1. Skin-to-skin contact is one of the best things you can do for your newborn.
Seriously. Remember, this little person is the same as the one who just weeks (days? hours?) ago was having a boxing match with your rib cage (and winning). He’s still used to literal 24/7 contact with your body, it’s just that now he’s on the outside instead of the inside.
There are so many benefits to practicing skin to skin with your baby. Skin-to-skin with your baby helps him regulate his temperature, his breathing, his blood glucose, and his heart rate. Skin-to-skin contact also lowers babies’ cortisol (stress hormone) levels. In fact, skin-to-skin contact, sometimes called “kangaroo care,” can be life-saving for some premature babies, particularly those in poorer regions where incubators simply aren’t available.
Skin-to-skin baby-to-mother contact also raises the chances for successful breastfeeding. So if you’re trying to nurse but either you or your baby isn’t getting the hang of it yet, try this: take off your shirt and bra, strip your baby down to a diaper, and then lie with him on your chest for a while (make sure you are on a firm mattress away from any gaps near walls). Cover the two of you with a light blanket and just relax.
Another option? There are shirts specifically designed for skin-to-skin snuggling with newborn! This is a great idea if it’s winter and just too chilly to be topless all the time.
Even though skin-to-skin is recommended primarily to help with breastfeeding, it’s also great for Dad to hold baby skin-to-skin. So even if you only finally mastered the blanket swaddle, unwrap your baby, cuddle him up for a while, and just drape that swaddling blanket over the two of you instead. You’ll both be happier for it.
2. Babies suddenly eat/nurse constantly sometimes. That doesn’t mean something is wrong.
If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, you may have finally hit a rhythm after about a month or so, and you’re starting to feel comfortable. You’ve got this!
But all of the sudden about six weeks in, your baby is wanting to nurse every hour. She’s fussy, she won’t sleep, she just wants to eat all the time.
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You freak out. Did your milk supply tank? Is she getting enough to eat? Do you need to start supplementing with formula? After all, that’s what your Dear Aunt Sarah is telling you to do…
If you’ll just wait this disruption out for literally a day or two, your baby will go back to a normal feeding schedule (around every 3-4 hours). In fact, her feeding might space out a little more than usual because it’s like she crashed and is sleeping a lot to make up for the time she lost. And in fact, now your boobs are getting engorged, so you know you have to be making milk!
Nothing was ever wrong with you, your supply, or your baby. She was simply going through a growth spurt. Growth spurts are expected around 7-10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and 9 months. There might even be one around a year of age, where if you’re still nursing your almost-toddler will seem to have the demand of a newborn again!
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And if you did get engorged breasts after a growth spurt, don’t worry. Just keep nursing your little one on demand and your supply will adjust where it needs to be.
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These growth spurts last just 1-3 days. Afterwards, you may even notice that your baby is bigger. Often, I’ll wake up in the morning, pick up my baby, and he literally feels heavier than he was the night before. He had a growth spurt!
Need more details on how to know if your breastfed baby is eating enough in cheat-sheet form? Sign up for Breastfeeding 101, where you can get my best breastfeeding tips, a newborn diaper tracker, and more.
3. Sometimes newborn breathing sounds scary, but it’s fine.
Really. I remember all
three four of mine would sometimes breathe really rapidly for a few breaths, and then pause for a second or two and wait before taking another breath. You better believe that the first few times I heard that with my oldest daughter, I held my own breath waiting to hear her next inhale!
But this weird breathing pattern is really just part of their developing respiratory system. If your newborn is sleeping and breathing fast for a few moments and then waiting before her next breath, it’s okay.
In fact, newborn fingers or toes may even be a little blue sometimes. That’s just because their circulatory system is still so new. As long as it’s just the fingers and toes occasionally and not any other body parts, there’s nothing to worry about.
4. Your baby doesn’t actually have to have a daily bath.
Unless that’s something you want to do. For some people, having a routine of bathing their little one daily is really soothing and pleasant, but for others, it’s just one more thing on the list that you don’t have time for.
And some babies really don’t like baths. One solution? Draw a lukewarm, shallow bath and get in the tub with your infant. You holding her will be really comforting, and she’ll do better.
Some of my favorite memories are of taking baths with my babies. As they get older and start to play in the tub, it can be a really sweet, fun time for you both. Make sure you choose a phthalate-free baby wash like this one (our current favorite).
5. Sometimes babies have skin rashes, but it’s usually not a big deal.
After a few weeks, it may look like there’s some kind of skin rash across your little one’s nose or cheeks. Sometimes it looks like a bunch of tiny whiteheads. It’s actually a perfectly normal condition called milia that doesn’t hurt anything. And there’s really not much you can do about it, so just be patient and it will clear up within a few weeks or months all on its own. Don’t pick at the milia since this could lead to scarring.
Another potential skin issue is cradle cap. Cradle cap looks like yellowish, scaly skin underneath your baby’s hair (if he has hair yet!). Even though it looks a little gross, it’s harmless.
Fortunately, there’s an easy, natural remedy for cradle cap. If cradle cap is really bothering you (although I assure you it’s not bothering your baby), you can put olive oil on his head and leave it for about fifteen minutes before gently combing his hair. The oil will soften the scales, and then you should be able to comb them out. Just make sure to wash his hair a few times afterwards with a baby shampoo to remove the excess oil!
To be honest, just doing this treatment one time probably isn’t enough to remove the cradle cap completely. You’ll need to repeat this trick a few times to completely clean up his scalp.
6. Newborn babies get clogged tear ducts.
Does your baby have yellowy, goopy stuff in the corner of her eyes? Fortunately, it’s not an infection!
And it’s not too hard to take care of either. Wash your hands, then place your finger in her inner eye corner, and gently press and sweep around towards the outer eye corner. Doing this a few times a day will squeeze the “stuff” out of her tear duct and clean it out.
Be aware, if you quit this routine after her eyes get better, they’ll likely get clogged again. But no big deal, just start clearing her ducts again like you did before. She’ll eventually grow out of it.
Another tip that can help: Use a few drops of breastmilk to help loosen the gunk from your baby’s eyes (yes, it sounds crazy, but it works). Wash your nipple and hands before doing this. You’ll likely need help from someone to hold your baby’s head still, but the milk can help clear up your child’s eyes (NOTE: Breastmilk is not a substitute for antibiotic eye ointment for pink eye or an actual eye infection. If your baby’s eye red, take her to the doctor!).
7. You’re probably going to have some long nights from about 6-12 weeks.
Sorry for the bad news, but at least you’ll be prepared…
For some reason, babies have this period where they cry at night pretty much constantly, no matter what you do for them. It’s called purple crying, and while tends to start around six weeks old, it’s definitely worst around eight weeks, and then it starts tapering off by ten weeks or so.
I won’t lie, this stage sucks. Just hold your baby and be there for him.
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A stretchy wrap is a great way to keep your little barnacle baby with you in these times, just make sure you know how to use it.
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8. Your job isn’t to “fix” your baby’s crying, but to support him through it.
This goes right back to Point 7. You’ve fed your baby, you’ve made sure his diaper is good, you’ve got him at a comfortable temperature, and he’s still wailing. It’s enough to make you lose your mind.
In fact, when my oldest went through this stage, I freaked out. Oh my gosh, why is she crying? What is wrong with her? Why can’t I fix it? I must not be good at this. I have to be doing this all wrong.
After having gone through this stage three times, I know that it’s just what a new baby does. And yes, you absolutely are responsible for helping your baby with his upset, but not in the way we’re often trained to expect.
When your baby cries, once you’ve checked on his physical needs, it’s your job to simply hold him. You are letting him know, even as a brand-new person, that he is loved, that he is known, and that he is accepted, even when he is expressing unpleasant emotions.
Is this hard? Of course! Can you do it alone? Not easily. Your baby probably won’t sleep well at this time either, (no matter what sleep tricks you try), which means you won’t sleep well, so you’re going to be worn down physically too. So do what you can, put him in a wrap or baby carrier if that makes it easier, and just be present. If you’ve reached your limit; that’s fine, you’re human. Hand him off to someone else and go for a walk, get some fresh air, heck, go to the grocery store if that makes you happy, just find some sort of release.
I hope these tips give you an idea of what to expect from your baby. If you’re dealing with any of these issues from your baby right now, I hope this post gives you some clarity about what to do.
Still having a hard time adjusting to life with a newborn?
I’d love to help! Please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!
This was really helpful. Thank you!