While every baby is different, thankfully there are some basic guidelines for Your baby's first four weeks that can help. Those first blurry weeks at home with your beautiful baby are usually a cocktail of elation, exhaustion and emotional overload.
Your baby – 0-4 weeks
After months of anticipation and excitement, there finally here. Now what?
Your baby is brand-spanking new and doesn’t do very much except sleep, cry, feed and fill nappies. You can expect to spend a lot of time staring in awe while they do absolutely nothing.
What your newborn is capable of at first
- Your Baby won’t have many facial expressions and isn’t able to help you figure out what they want.
- While they can only see in black and white at first, they can see between 20-30cm in front of themselves. This means your face when breastfeeding is in the ideal position.
- They start responding subtly to the sound of your voice. (Watch to see if they wriggle when you talk to them and stops when you stop).
- If you touch their cheek they move their head in that direction and make sucking movements with their mouth. This is called the rooting reflex and helps baby breastfeed.
- If they feel suddenly unsupported (as if you might drop them!) they’ll spread their arms and legs out and start to cry in what’s called the Moro reflex.
Your baby's first month milestones
- By four weeks they can fix and focus on objects.
- During the first week they lose up to 10 per cent of their birth weight and it can take them up to 14 days to regain it.
- They has several tests (which makes you feel really cruel, but be brave, or get your partner to hold them/help, because they’re recommended for their ongoing health and wellbeing). The ‘heel prick’ (or Guthrie) test is voluntary and you’ll be asked for your permission before it’s carried out. This screens for phenylketonuria (PKU), thyroid deficiency, cystic fibrosis, galactosaemia and metabolism disorders. They'll also have a hearing test, and be checked for ‘clicky hips’ (developmental dysplasia of the hips).
- They have a growth spurt between two and three weeks, so they may be hungrier.
- You may see gorgeous smiles by six weeks.
Feeding and sleeping
It’s often hard to know how many times a day to feed your baby or how long they should be awake between feeds.
- Your baby will sleep for about 17 hours a day. They should be awake for between one and 1.5 hours between feeds.
- Feeds can be between every two to five hours.
- Feed your baby as soon as they wake up.
- After feeding and winding, give them a little bit of time in the rocker, on the floor or in your lap (this is all the ‘play’ they need at this stage). Then it’s back to bed approximately one hour after the start of the feed.
- After play time, change their nappy, wrap your ababy in a lightweight cotton or muslin wrap (this helps your baby feel safe if they startle) and put them to bed awake.
- Make the early evening feed (around 6pm) their bedtime feed and put your baby straight to bed while still awake.
- For night feeds the routine is to feed and then put straight back to bed.
If baby doesn’t go to sleep on their own, try rocking or patting. If this doesn’t work, you can try walking them around in the pouch or pram or just giving them a cuddle.
If your baby is feeding what seems like around the clock and you are beyond exhausted, a good way to figure out if you can cut back is to check if he’s gaining weight.
If the answer is yes, that gives you permission to space the feeds out a bit more. When they cry, it doesn’t always mean they’re hungry.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your baby. Some days will be good, others less so. You will get there in your own time, your own way. Focus on feeding and sleeping, and nurturing yourself with a good diet and doing as little as possible around the house.
- Limit visitors to those who don’t mind being self-sufficient or who will bring food and help out – ask them to empty the dishwasher, hang out the washing, make a salad, run the vacuum around, watch the baby while you have a bath/nap/walk... They will be happy to help.
- Remember well-rested mums are less susceptible to post-natal depression and will find it easier to cope with the demands of being a new mum.