Your Newborn Baby: The First 4 Weeks

New parents, welcome to motherhood and fatherhood. Although your newborn baby has brought along joy and excitement in your life, you might still feel a little exhausted and overwhelmed. But, worry not; we are here for you! We will take you through your baby’s development milestones from birth till the first month. We will discuss with you how often and long your little one may feed and sleep in this month.

We will also review vital information about your newborn’s health. So, without further ado, let us see what is in store for you in this first month.

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Baby Development Milestones

In the first four weeks after your little one’s birth, your baby is getting used to life outside the womb. With all the growth and changes you are seeing you may feel amazed! So, here are some highlights:

Growth and Physical Development: It is totally ok for a Newborn to Look a Little Odd

After birth, most babies can lose a little weight in their first few days. This weight loss is nothing but excess body fluid. However, most babies also regain weight quickly, so by the 10th day, they reach their ideal birth weight. Your doctor will keep track of your little one's growth while also measuring the length, weight, and head circumference (the distance around the head) at every check-up. As time progresses, your doctor will keep a record of these measurements to notice trends in your baby's growth rate. Read on to know about how your doctor uses the baby growth charts

Most of your time will be spent looking at your newborn baby, and you will love every bit of this time, but you might also notice that your baby looks a little funny at first. This is because your baby has just entered the world, so his body is still adjusting. Here are a few of the unusual physical features you might notice in the first few weeks:

  • Your baby’s body may be covered in fine hair called lanugo, and in a few days or weeks, it is shed.

  • Your baby’s skin may also peel a little.

  • You might also notice some redness on your baby’s face or neck called salmon patches or stork bites. But these patches will likely disappear within a few months.

  • Your little one’s genitals may also be swollen. But, do not worry; it will return to normal soon.

  • There are two soft spots called the fontanelles that you may have felt at the top of your baby’s head. A thick membrane is protecting his brain, but this is where his skull bones are still fusing.

  • In case of vaginal birth, your baby may have an elongated skull, as the plates of his skull adjust to allow an easier passage through the birth canal. Your little one’s head should return to a normal shape very soon.

  • You may notice your baby spending some time curled up in a tight little bundle like he was in the womb. By the end of his first month, your baby will begin stretching and unfolding from this position.

Your Baby’s Senses

One of the most important senses is touch for your baby. So, he will be able to sense your mood by the way you touch him. When you hold and carry him, it will make him feel secure and comfortable. Make sure you always support your baby's head and neck so that his head doesn't move much. You can gently rock him to make him feel calm and quiet. Moreover, massaging your little one may help you both bond. For more information, read this wonderful article on baby massage benefits.

Did you know? Babies can only see about 8 to 12 inches away, so this means that your little angel can see your face when you hold him. The movements of his hands will also interest him. By this stage, your baby can see the difference between light and dark. However, he can't see the full range of colours. Know more about visual development of babies in their initial months

Newborn babies usually hear high-pitched sounds and the ‘baby talk’. So, when you talk to him, he will ideally turn his head to face you.

Your Baby’s Movement

In the first few weeks, your little one’s movements may seem very jerky. However, in the later months, the movements will slowly become more controlled. Here are a few of the common reflexes that your baby will have at birth:

  • Rooting: Your child will turn his head toward your finger when you stroke his cheek or mouth.

  • Sucking: Your little one can instinctively suck, but since coordinating sucking, breathing, and swallowing needs quite a bit of skill, it may take some time for your baby to get used to it when nursing.

  • Moro reflex: When your baby is startled by a noise or if his head shifts the position suddenly, you may notice that he reacts by extending his arms and legs suddenly and bringing them close together.

  • Strong grip: On touching your little one’s palm, he will grip your finger. Avoid supporting him with this hold, as he has no control over this grip and may let go suddenly.

  • Stepping: When you hold your baby in a standing position where the soles of his feet touch a surface, he will do a stepping motion.

Your Baby’s Personality

At the beginning of this month, you might notice your baby smiling in his sleep. Although experts are not sure why these reflexive smiles happen, they feel it could be because of an internal impulse your baby responds to. By the end of this month or in the second month, you will start noticing the real deal. You will see that he smiles when he is awake, responding to your smile when you smile at him or the sound of your voice. He will slowly realise that smiling is a way of communication.

Babies usually cry to communicate their hunger, discomfort or to release tension. If your little one is crying but needs no feeding, burping, or diaper changing, then he might be looking for a little attention. So, comfort him by cuddling or soothing him with your voice. These ideas may work to settle him. However, keep in mind, persistent crying could indicate a problem in some cases. So, if you are worried, speak to your baby’s doctor to ward off any concerning doubts.

You may get a few hints about your baby’s personality even in these first few days and weeks. Look for signs like:

  • Whether he cries on wetting the diaper or seems perfectly content

  • Whether he is startled easily, or he takes things in stride

  • If he has older siblings, you may even notice the differences in your baby's and his older siblings' temperaments at this early stage.

For more information, refer to our articles on baby’s development month by month.

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How to Support Your Baby’s Development

Although your little one’s paediatrician will provide you with lots of personalised advice, here are some things that you can try:

  • Skin-to-skin contact: It is good to practice placing your naked baby against your uncovered chest from right after your baby’s birth and during the first few months after. Also known as kangaroo care, this skin-to-skin contact has benefits, such as enhanced bonding between you and your baby and regulating your baby’s breathing and heart rate.

  • Tummy time: Place your little one on his tummy for a short period every day. This helps strengthen his neck and shoulders. Read more about tummy time here.

  • Tracking practice: Your baby’s vision is developing, so he will slowly start following moving objects with his eyes. You can try moving an object like a rattle slowly in front of him to help him practice.

You can track your baby’s development with the help of a baby milestones chart. You can also read a few articles on baby milestones to know more about infant milestones.

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Feeding Your Newborn Baby

You won’t have to set a rigid feeding schedule. Simply watch out for your baby’s hunger signals, as it will help you know what is normal for him. In the first month, your baby may show hunger by rooting, lip-smacking, or sucking on his fist. Your baby might even cry when hungry; however, it is best to feed your baby before waiting till he gets really upset. Your baby will likely feed at least eight times throughout the day and night. Do you know there are multiple benefits of burping your baby? Learn all about benefits and the right way to burp your baby.

Your baby may be hungrier than usual during growth spurts, which usually occurs, by the end of the second week and between the third and sixth week. Remember, growth spurts happen at different times for different babies. When your baby is full, you may notice that he looks tired or falls asleep. While breastfeeding, if you have any concerns about your milk supply, your baby not latching or nursing properly, speak to your doctor for help. Read more about newborn baby feeding to know more about breastfeeding tips.

Does Your Baby Need Dietary Supplements?

Irrespective of your baby is breastfed, formula-fed, or a combination of both, it is a good idea to speak to your baby's paediatrician about getting supplements for your baby’s nutrition. For example, the doctor may recommend vitamin D and iron supplements till your baby turns a year old.

Tracking Wet and Dirty Diapers

It is normal to wonder if your baby is eating enough. One way to note this is to keep track of the diaper changes. Check for the number of times you change the diaper and also the way the diapers look. Don’t be surprised if the baby’s poops are thick and dark green or black in the first few days, as these are the normal first bowel movements, which are made up of meconium. Once this meconium has passed, your baby’s stools switch to a yellow-green colour and are softer and runnier. Although every baby is unique, you can probably expect at least six wet diapers and at least three to four poopy diapers a day. Given all the diapering going on, keep in mind that your baby’s fragile skin needs soft, comfortable diapers — such as Pampers Premium Care diapers for newborn.

Other signs to know if your baby is eating enough are - you can hear your baby swallow, or your baby seems content for a few hours after nursing. For a longer period, your baby’s doctor will monitor his growth to check if he is getting enough nourishment.

Worry not! Those first few diaper changes might be challenging, but you will soon become a pro! So many diaper changes will make you feel like you deserve a prize. And indeed, you do! Download the Pampers App and earn rewards to turn diapers and wipes into fun toys for your baby or useful coupons that you can use on your next Pampers purchase.

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How Much Sleep Does a Newborn Need?

Your baby is likely to sleep for about 16 hours every day in blocks of about three or four naps during the first few weeks. Since your baby’s stomach can only hold so much milk, you will have to wake him for feeds even during the night if he doesn’t wake up naturally. As your baby doesn’t know the difference between day and night, you can teach him by keeping the night-time feeds low-key. Avoid turning on bright lights, keep diaper changes brief, and put him back to sleep on his back without playing.

Safe Sleep

During your baby’s first year, always make sure that you put your baby to sleep on his back in the crib. Also, ensure that the crib is free of clutter, so avoid keeping loose sheets, bumper pads, blankets, pillows, and toys. Always place the crib in your room. These essential steps minimise the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) that is the unexplained death of a healthy baby in the first year of life. Read on to find out how to prevent SIDS and remember the ABCs of safe sleep. Your baby should always sleep:

  • Alone

  • On his back

  • In a crib

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A Day in the Life of Your Baby

You can’t set a fixed routine for a newborn baby, but here is a small example of a daily routine for feeding, sleeping, bathing, and play:

A Day in the Life of Your Baby

If you might be wondering how to play with your little one at this early stage, take a look at these short video guides. They will guide you on general playtime tips, games, and tummy time tips that will help develop your little one’s senses of sight and touch.

Going Outside

You can take your baby outside when the weather is nice, but make sure your little one is dressed appropriately. Since your newborn’s ability to regulate the body temperature is still not fully developed, the key is to add an extra layer of clothing than what you are wearing. If it is sunny, keep your baby in the shade to avoid him from getting sunburned easily. In case of very cold or rainy weather, it would be a good idea to head out for only a short time. However, ensure that your baby is wearing a warm hat and has enough extra layers and blankets. You can check if your baby is comfortable by making sure his chest is warm and that his hands and feet are a little cooler than his body.

Diaper Changing

Changing your baby’s diapers will be one of the fixtures of his daily routine. So, ensure you have all the supplies ready for the diaper change within your reach before you begin. Place one hand on your baby at all times while changing the diapers. Always make sure you don’t leave your baby alone on the changing table or any higher surface, as he can easily fall. Change wet or soiled diapers as soon as possible to prevent diaper rash. After taking out the dirty diaper, clean the area with a gentle wipe, and put on a fresh diaper. Read on to know more about how to change a diaper, and you will surely get the hang of it. You can also check the ultimate diaper bag checklist for you newborn baby.

Newborn Bath Care

During the first few weeks, sponge bathe your baby to keep the umbilical cord stump dry. Continue doing this till the stump completely falls off. After the cord area has healed, you can begin bathing your baby in a baby bathtub or a sink. However, remember that your little one may need bathing only three times a week for the first year, especially if you clean the diaper area thoroughly during every diaper change. Here are a few tips that will help you during the first few times you bathe your baby:

  • Ensure the water is warm but not hot to the touch on your wrist or elbow.

  • Keep all the supplies you will need ready beforehand so that you don’t ever have to leave your baby unattended during bathing.

  • Make sure you bathe your baby immediately after undressing him so that he doesn’t catch a cold.

  • Support your baby’s head and neck while placing him in the tub or sink and also while you bathe him. Make sure you keep your baby’s head and most of his body above the water level for safety.

  • Use a soft cloth and mild baby soap to wash your baby's face. You can add shampoo once or twice a week for your baby’s hair.

  • If you have a boy, clean his genitals with soapy water like you would clean the rest of the diaper area. Your baby’s doctor will inform you when the foreskin separates properly, and then the foreskin can be retracted and cleaned safely.

Read on to learn how to bathe your baby, and you will no longer find it to be difficult!

Umbilical Cord Care

It is important that you keep your baby’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry till it shrivels up and falls off. It will happen usually by the time your baby is 3-weeks old. Once the stump falls off, gently clean any raw spots using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. If there is bleeding or signs of infection like a smelly, yellowish discharge or red skin around the stump, contact your baby’s doctor. Read more on how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord in detail.

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Your Baby’s Health

Here is a list of some typical baby health conditions and common concerns that you need to be aware of:

Is it safe to have visitors?

We understand that you may want to have close family members and friends visit you and your baby in the first few days of birth. But it is best to limit it to only a few people and keep the visits low-key. This way, you and your baby can rest and recover. In the first month, try to stick to a small number of visitors, making sure none of them is sick so that your baby doesn’t catch an infection. Also, make sure you ask all the visitors to wash their hands before touching your baby.

Jaundice

If you notice that your baby’s skin has a yellowish tinge, it may be because of jaundice. It is a condition in which your baby’s liver hasn’t started removing a chemical called bilirubin from his blood. Your baby’s doctor will diagnose and treat this condition.

Fever

Most babies get a fever at some stage; however, sometimes, it can be tough to understand when a newborn has a high temperature. If your baby has a fever in the first 12 weeks, he might need urgent medical attention. Your baby will feel warm or will be unusually cranky, so check his temperature using a rectal thermometer. If his temperature is about 38 degrees Celsius or higher, get medical help right away.

Did you know, your baby’s poop can tell a lot about your baby’s health? Learn all about baby poop with this ultimate baby poop guide.

How to care for a circumcised penis?

It is crucial that you keep the area as clean as possible with the help of mild, soapy water. It is probably normal if the area has redness and a yellow secretion in the first week, but if there is swelling, crusty sores, or a cloudy, fluid secretion, inform your baby’s doctor immediately.

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FAQs at a Glance

  • About 80 per cent of babies born at full term (40 weeks) weigh between 2 kgs 594 gms and 3 kgs 783 gms.

  • A mobile with contrasting colours and patterns that can be safely hung over the crib is a good option. You can also get a music player that plays soft music. A soft, brightly coloured toy that makes gentle sounds is also an ideal toy for babies at this age.

  • As per experts, babies ideally don’t need vitamin supplements except for daily vitamin D drops. However, it is only if your baby is not already getting vitamin D in his formula. It is best to consult your baby’s doctor for advice.

  • Talk to your baby's doctor before giving anything except breast milk or formula to your 1-week-old baby for constipation. Normal bowel movements vary from baby to baby and are different at different ages. Having said that, for newborn, firm stools less than once a day can be a sign of constipation. So, talk to your baby’s doctor for advice, as sometimes, bowel movements schedule can also be normal for some breastfed babies.

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Your Life as a Parent: An Emotional Rollercoaster!

After delivery, you might feel a mix of happiness, pain, and exhaustion. Plus, your emotions may be heightened due to stress and hormonal changes. At the same time, you are also getting used to some new routines like feeding, changing diapers, and putting your baby to sleep. Moreover, your sleep cycle may be affected, as you might be getting much less sleep than earlier. You are not in this alone; it is quite normal to feel overwhelmed at this time and natural to cry. But, in case you feel severe emotions of sadness, emptiness, detachment, or distress, you may be going through postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor and let him or her know how you are feeling. Remember, there is always help available!

Keep in mind that physical recovery after delivery, whether vaginally or through a caesarean section, takes time. Here are a few physical effects that you can expect around this time:

  • Bleeding: After delivery, you experience a vaginal discharge known as lochia, where you shed the blood and tissues that lined the uterus. In the beginning, you might have heavy bleeding, but over the next few weeks, it will lighten. Contact your doctor if you bleed through two sanitary pads in an hour, for two hours in a row.

  • Uterine contractions: You may experience afterbirth pains for about 10 days post-delivery, as your uterus goes back to its normal size.

  • Perineal pain: During vaginal birth, the perineum, which is the skin between your vagina and anus, stretches so that your little one’s head can fit through. Sometimes, this perineum can tear and either heal on its own or require stitches. You can apply cold packs to this area or try sitting on a soft pillow to help ease the swelling and pain.

  • Stretched abdomen: Even after your baby’s birth, your tummy may still look pregnant. This is because the abdominal muscles don’t recover right away. So, give your body enough time to recover, and always ask your doctor before you get back to exercising.

  • Constipation: In the first few days after birth, having a bowel movement may be tricky. You might be either afraid of the pain or have sluggish bowels due to pain medication or just because you didn’t eat during labour. Speak to your doctor for advice. You can also drink more water and eat high-fibre foods.

  • Feeling tired: Given the huge job you’ve done both physically and emotionally, it is not a surprise you feel tired. Take some time to recover your energy levels. Meanwhile, limit visitors, ask for help with any household chores or tasks and sleep as soon as your baby sleeps.

Consult your doctor for how to treat any symptoms that are bothering you. To know more, read our article on post-pregnancy healing after childbirth, especially if you've had a caesarean section. The key is to rest as much as possible and eat healthily. Once your doctor gives you the all-clear, you can start with gentle exercises daily.