Your 1 Week Old Baby
After forty long weeks (give or take a few), your precious baby has arrived!
Outside the safe confines of the womb, he has mastered breathing, is getting used to the idea of feeding, and is feeling the new sensations of his digestive system in action for the first time.
Until now, everything was done for him, in a temperature-controlled womb where hunger, thirst or even the urge to poo did not exist.
The amazing development of your infant over these past nine months is just the beginning of a journey he now continues outside your body.
Over the next 25 years, he will develop into a mature human adult.
But right now, in these first days of life, you and he are starting to work out that birth is not the end, but the beginning of the incredible transformation he will make.
This series will describe what you can expect to happen each week in the first year, as your baby moves from helpless infant to burgeoning toddler. From feeding and sleeping, to leaps and milestones, follow along with the typical development of a human baby.
The First Hour
Weighing an average of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds) and measuring around 51 centimetres (20 inches), your full-term baby, born vaginally without intervention, is capable of amazing things immediately after he takes his first breath.
When placed directly on his mother’s belly, a newborn unaffected by drugs will drag his body towards her chest, the slippery amniotic fluid easing his way. Over the next hour or so, he will progress through a series of nine instinctive behaviours before attaching to the breast and having his first breastfeed. These instinctive behaviours are laid down deep in the primitive brain and are present in all newborn mammals.
By allowing a mother and her baby to be together, uninterrupted, in the first hour, we can utilise these natural instincts to improve breastfeeding outcomes and enhance bonding. Read more about the 7 huge benefits of an undisturbed first hour after birth.
If your baby was born by c-section, your first opportunity for skin-to-skin contact might have been while still in the operating theatre, while in recovery, or once you were back in your room, depending on your circumstances and hospital policies.
The First Feeds
Once attached to the breast, your baby takes the first precious drops of colostrum, which will seed his digestive system with vital bacteria, support his vulnerable immune system, as it’s exposed to the outside world, and activate his digestive system. Over the next 36 hours or so, the small amounts of colostrum will gradually stretch his stomach, stimulate his bowel to expel the sticky, black meconium, and slowly introduce his body to digestion. Your baby needs nothing more than what your body provides.
The First Nappies
Your baby is supported by extra fluid which has been stored to hydrate his body in these first days of life, as well as special fat stores to fuel his body until the breasts transition to producing mature breastmilk (often known as your milk “coming in”). Your baby’s kidneys, liver, bowel and bladder will take their first steps in processing his food and excreting his waste.
In his first 24 hours, he may urinate just once, but you will see his wet nappies increase by one more each day, until he reaches at least five heavily wet disposables in 24 hours.
The First Sleeps
After the physical demands of labour and birth, your baby will sleep for much of his first 24 hours, perhaps only waking once or twice for small feeds. He is in recovery mode, and might even develop the common condition of jaundice, which makes him even sleepier. Ideally, by day two or three, he will be sleeping less and feeding more. He will quickly move into a stage of frequent feeding and unsettled sleeping, which accompanies your milk coming in.
The First Fussiness
It’s likely you will be at home with your baby when a marathon of feeding begins around days three to five. It can be alarming, especially if those around you doubt you have enough breastmilk to satisfy your baby. It’s really important to understand that frequent feeding is how your baby stimulates this transition – so much so, if your baby is sleepy from jaundice and won’t wake properly to feed, you will need to pump your milk to mimic the typical feeding pattern at this stage.
Most babies lose weight in the first week – and regain it in the second. This is not anything to be concerned about unless he loses more than 10% of his birthweight. If you had IV fluids during labour or birth, that’s also worth taking into consideration, because it can artificially inflate a baby’s birthweight, meaning a larger newborn weight loss need not be of concern.
At this stage, those caring for you will want to see that he is attaching well and removing milk efficiently, waking often enough to feed frequently, and producing enough wet nappies and bowel motions for this stage.
Although it might be suggested that you begin topping up with formula, increasing breastfeeds and complementing with your own expressed breastmilk are usually all you need to do. You can find out more in our article, Newborn Weight Loss – 6 Things You Need To Know
The First Poos
You will know these changes are underway as you will see the colour of your baby’s bowel motions begin to change. The last of the meconium turns a greenish-brown, and you’ll begin to see greenish-yellow transitional motions. Around day four, mustard yellow, liquid stools are typical of a breastfed baby.
Your 1 week old baby is likely to be feeding at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, with feeds taking as long as an hour.
Get the low-down on baby poo – here are 11 interesting facts parents should know.
The First Nights
With no circadian rhythm to guide him, your 1 week old baby will behave much the same day and night, and you can expect this is the way things will be for the next few months. By feeding around the clock, he is programming your milk production to meet his growing needs and fuel his rapid recovery from birth. It is the start of intense growth in the first three months of life. Find out how this happens and how you can help, in our article, baby has night and day mixed up? Here’s what to do.
Still very immature compared with other mammals, your 1 week old baby will undergo a huge development in these next weeks, taking him from a foetus to an infant. Many refer to this period as the ‘fourth trimester’ and there are ways you can ease the transition for him. Learn more in our article the fourth trimester – 8 ways to create a great one for your baby.