After forty long weeks (give or take a few), your little one has arrived and is now a 1-week old baby. The first week is full of joys and struggles as both of you are adjusting to new life.
Outside the womb, your baby has mastered breathing, and is getting used to the idea of feeding and feeling the new sensations of his digestive system in action for the first time.
In this first week after giving birth, you’re adjusting to sleep deprivation and the overwhelming feelings of new parenthood. You’re also learning your baby’s cues, and dealing with feedings and diaper changes.
Before birth, everything was done for your baby in a temperature-controlled womb, where hunger, thirst or even the urge to poo simply didn’t exist.
The amazing development of your infant over these past nine months is just the beginning of a journey that now continues outside your body.
Over the years, your baby will develop into a mature human adult. But right now, in these early days of his life, you realize birth is just the beginning of the incredible transformation you’ll both make together.
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 developmental milestones, follow along as your baby grows.
The first hour after birth
Weighing an average of 3.5 kgs (7.7 pounds) and measuring around 51cm (20 inches), your full-term newborn baby is capable of amazing things immediately after he takes his first breath.
When placed directly on the mother’s belly, an alert and uncompromised newborn will use an in-born ‘stepping’ reflex. This reflex simultaneously massages the uterus to help it firm up and propels him to the breast.
Over the next hour or so, he will progress through a series of 9 Magical Birth Instincts That Will Amaze You, before attaching to feed. Breastfeeding within the first hour of your baby’s life is recommended by the World Health Organization.
These instinctive behaviors are laid down deep in the primitive brain and are present in all newborn mammals.
By allowing the new parent(s) and baby to be together, uninterrupted, in the first hour, we can utilize these natural instincts to improve breastfeeding outcomes and enhance bonding.
Read more about this in 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 snuggles might have been while still in the operating theatre, or recovery, depending on your circumstances. But don’t worry, it’s never too late to start those baby cuddles and skin-to-skin time.
Be sure to read Gentle C-Section | 11 Ways To Have One for ways to make the experience as positive as possible for both you and your baby.
Your newborn baby from head-to-toe
Your baby’s head might have been slightly misshapen (sometimes affectionately described as a ‘cone-head’) from his trip through the birth canal. It can be a tight fit through the pelvis, so it’s no wonder your baby’s head can get a bit squashed.
The fontanels or ‘soft spots’ allow the bones of the baby’s skull to mold and overlap to fit through the maternal pelvis.
This will mostly resolve within the first few hours of birth and be completely resolved within the first few days.
You can read and see pictures in What Happens To Your Baby’s Head During Birth?
The soft spots will remain and are important, not just for birth, but as part of your baby’s development as his brain continues to grow. The fontanels usually close by 18 months.
Newborn babies can have lots of hair and it can be dark or light. They can also be born with very little hair or even bald.
It’s very common for baby hair to fall out and grow back a lighter color. Some babies keep their hair and it might also stay dark. What happens depends on the family’s genetics.
Newborns might also have what’s known as lanugo. This is a fine downy hair that grows all over the fetus’ body while in the womb, to help protect the delicate skin from being soaked in amniotic fluid.
Babies start to shed this hair as they near 40 weeks gestation. But there might still be some of this ‘peach fuzz’ on your baby’s shoulders, ears, and back. It will fall off naturally over the next few weeks.
Most babies’ eyes are a dark grey-blue color at birth. They might change color over the first few weeks, but some infant’s eyes take up to a year to settle on their permanent color.
The whites of your baby’s eyes could have some broken capillaries from the squeeze through the birth canal. These appear as bright red spots and can take a few weeks to resolve. They are normal and nothing to worry about.
There can also be a yellowish tinge in the baby’s eyes due to jaundice. You can read more about this common condition later in this article.
Your baby’s skin is sensitive after birth and it’s common for rashes to appear in this first week.
Baby acne and erythema toxicum – a rash seen in up to half of all healthy newborns – are common. Contact your midwife or doctor if you have concerns.
Vernix is a white, waxy substance most newborns have at birth. It protects the baby’s delicate skin in the womb and also has some other important functions, including helping your baby maintain his temperature. There’s no need to wash it off your baby as it has many beneficial properties.
Read more about vernix in Should You Delay Your Baby’s First Bath?
Dry and peeling skin is also a normal skin condition seen in newborns. It is especially common if your baby was overdue. You might see some peeling skin right away or as the first week progresses.
If the skin looks particularly dry, use a natural oil such as coconut, olive, or jojoba oil to moisturize your baby’s skin. However, avoid any lotions containing alcohol, perfumes, or scents, as baby skin is very sensitive.
Petroleum jelly is made from petrochemical by-products and best avoided for sensitive newborn skin (or any skin really).
Find out more in our article Newborn Skin Peeling-7 Simple Tips To Manage Skin Peeling.
The nipples of both newborn boys and girls could be swollen and might even secrete a milky substance. This is normal and is due to leftover hormones the fetus was exposed to while still in the womb. It will resolve within a few days.
Always contact your midwife or doctor though, if you have any concerns or questions.
The umbilical cord
Immediately after birth, the umbilical cord is still attached to the placenta and your baby. It’s a bluish color and is pulsing with blood that continues to provide oxygen-rich red blood cells, stem cells and other important resources to your baby as he transitions to using his lungs for the first time.
Shortly after birth, the cord turns white and limp, as the blood finishes entering your baby’s body and the placenta detaches from your uterus. Ideally, you’ll wait until this point before you cut the cord.
The benefits of delayed cord clamping are well-researched and this practice is supported by leading health experts, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Over this first week, the cord stump will continue to dry and turn darker in color as it heals. Somewhere between 5-14 days, the cord will detach and your sweet baby will have a belly button. Keep the area clean and dry to prevent infection.
For more detailed health information on how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord, you can read Umbilical Cord Care For Your Newborn’s Stump.
Bathing your baby is fine, as long as the area around the umbilical stump can be dried thoroughly. Some parents might feel more comfortable waiting to give the first bath. Others might prefer giving a sponge bath, as needed, until the cord falls off and is healed completely.
1-week old baby boy
Your baby boy’s testicles might be quite swollen at first. This is because of the hormones he received as a fetus in the womb. Both testicles should be descended at birth; if not, this usually happens on its own in the first few months.
You shouldn’t retract the foreskin for cleaning or for any other purpose.
Read more about the making decisions about circumcision and care of the newborn penis in our article Circumcision – Should Your Son Have A Circumcision?
1-week old baby girl
Baby girls can have what is termed ‘pseudomenses’. A bit of blood or blood-tinged mucus can be discharged from her vagina in the first week. This is a totally normal occurrence and is also from leftover maternal hormones received in the womb.
Newborn fingernails are soft and flexible. They grow quite quickly and can leave scratches on your baby’s face.
You can carefully trim them with newborn safety nail clippers or file them down with a baby emery board. It might be easier to do this while your baby sleeps, when the hands are more relaxed.
Everything about your precious baby’s abilities as a newborn is a clue about what he expects in these few days and weeks.
Being in your arms, being close to the sound of your heartbeat, and being nourished by or on your body are the things your baby is ready for, and the ways he can best learn about the world around him.
All babies feel more secure in your arms or on your chest than they do being put down. You might notice this when you try to put them down to sleep in a baby crib or Moses basket.
How do I interact with my 1 week old baby?
As babies can’t communicate using words, they have to rely on their other senses to help them make sense of the world.
Tuning in to this will help you bond with your baby.
Sight: What can a baby see at 1 week old?
- Newborns can focus best at 8-12 inches away; this happens to be the distance your baby will be away from your face when feeding at the breast. If bottle-feeding, try to replicate this distance
- New babies can see color; reds and greens are more distinct than blues. They also prefer sharp outlines and bold contrasts
- Babies prefer to look at human faces than anything else. This is why keeping your baby close is important for his developmental milestones
- Make sure to ‘switch sides’ during a feeding session, especially if bottle-feeding, as this is important for eye development and coordination. Try not to feed in the same position every time.
- New babies are calmed by soothing sounds, and the sound of a heartbeat. They’re used to these kind of sounds in the womb
- They prefer and recognize their parents’ voices
- Babies can remember stories and songs they heard in utero
- All babies respond to high-pitched voices. All people (even young children and people from all cultures) instinctively speak in higher-pitched voices when talking to babies.
- Babies use their sense of smell to help guide them to the breast. Montgomery glands on the breast secrete a substance that smells like amniotic fluid, which will be familiar to them
- Breast milk and mother’s sweat also contain some of the same odors as amniotic fluid
- Mothers can identify their babies by smell alone shortly after birth and babies prefer their mother’s breast pads, neck, and underarm odor.
- Taste buds develop in utero at the end of the first trimester
- The flavors of the foods you eat while pregnant are transmitted into the amniotic fluid
- Newborns prefer sweet flavors, and breast milk is quite sweet.
The first feeds
Once attached to the breast, your baby takes the first precious drops of colostrum.
Colostrum will seed his digestive system with vital healthy bacteria and support his vulnerable immune system, as well as activate his digestive system.
Over the next 36 hours or so, the small amounts of colostrum will gradually stretch his stomach, stimulate his bowels and slowly introduce his body to digestion.
Your baby needs nothing more than what your body provides, and very rarely anything extra.
Find out more in 6 Reasons Why Breastfed Newborns Don’t Need Formula.
If you decide to feed your baby with formula or it is necessary for your baby’s development, you can find helpful information in our article How To Get Started With Baby Formula.
How much does a 1 week old baby eat?
By the time your milk comes in (between days 2 and 4) your baby will wake to eat regularly every two to three hours; sometimes more frequently. Babies are designed to feed frequently to meet their nutritional needs.
Frequent feeding can feel alarming, especially if those around you express doubt you have enough breast milk to satisfy your new baby. Many new moms feel frequent or cluster feeding is a sign their baby isn’t getting enough milk; however, the opposite is true.
It’s really important to understand that frequent feeding is how breastfed babies stimulate the transition to greater milk production.
Be sure to read 3 Reliable Signs Baby Is Getting Enough Milk for more help.
If your baby is sleepy and won’t wake properly to feed, you might need to pump your milk several times a day to mimic a typical feeding pattern, and to support your milk supply.
Speak to a certified lactation consultant for more guidance or if you have other feeding questions.
Be aware that sleepiness and lethargy in a baby can be signs of jaundice. Contact your baby’s doctor if you’re concerned.
Most babies lose weight in the first week and regain it in the second week. Weight gain usually occurs after the initial loss, and most babies go back to their birth weight within the first couple of weeks of life.
Unless your baby loses more than 10% of his birth weight, weight loss is nothing to be concerned about.
If you had IV fluids during labor or birth, that’s worth taking into consideration, because it can artificially inflate a baby’s birth weight. This potentially means a larger newborn weight loss as your baby gets rid of the excess fluid after birth.
At this stage, those caring for you will want to see your baby is:
- Latching well and removing milk efficiently
- Waking often enough to feed frequently
- Producing enough wet nappies and bowel motions for this stage.
Although it might be suggested you begin topping up with baby formula, increasing breastfeeds and complementing with your own expressed breast milk are usually all you need to do.
You can find out more in our article Newborn Weight Loss – 6 Things You Need To Know.
First wet diapers
Your newborn baby is supported by extra fluid, which has been stored to hydrate his body in these first days of life.
He also has special fat stores to fuel his body, until the breasts transition to producing mature breast milk. This process is often known as your milk coming in.
Your baby’s kidneys, liver, bowel, and bladder will take their first actions to process food and excrete waste.
In his first 24 hours, your baby might urinate just once, but you’ll see wet nappies increase by one more every day until he reaches at least five heavily wet disposables in 24 hours.
First bowel movements
If it didn’t happen soon after birth, your baby will have his first bowel movement within the first 24-36 hours.
For the first few days, the laxative effect of the colostrum will help to expel the sticky, black meconium before your milk comes in.
This thick, black newborn poop can come as a bit of a surprise if you’re not expecting it. But don’t panic, this dark stool is perfectly normal in the first few days of life.
This poo can be hard to clean off your sweet baby’s skin, so once you have your baby home, keep some coconut oil or olive oil handy to slather your baby’s diaper area between diaper changes to make cleaning much quicker and easier.
The last of the meconium turns a greenish-brown, and you’ll begin to see greenish-yellow ‘transitional’ poo between days 2 and 4.
Around day 4, mustard yellow, liquid stools are typical of breastfed infants and you’ll change dirty diapers 5-8 times a day.
Your new baby is likely to be feeding at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, with some feeding sessions taking as long as an hour.
Get the low-down on Baby Poop | 11 Interesting Facts For Parents.
How long your baby sleeps is a big topic for new parents. A new baby’s sleep pattern might look quite different from what you were expecting.
How long does a 1 week old baby sleep?
After the physical demands of labor and birth, and the first feed, your baby’s first sleep is often a good one. Babies often fall asleep for a stretch of around four hours.
After that, your baby will be spending some time at the breast every 2-3 hours and sometimes even more often, while he’s learning the skills of feeding and nursing. At this stage, he will mainly sleep between feeds.
Many newborn babies develop the common condition of jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes) between days 3 and 7. Frequent nursing will help improve this usually normal condition.
Jaundice might make a baby more sleepy and harder to rouse. If jaundice appears in the first 24 hours, alert your healthcare provider.
Ideally, by day 2 or 3, he will be sleeping less and feeding more.
Once your milk supply has been established and your baby is above his birth weight, he can sleep for a 4-5 hour stretch in a 24-hour period without needing to nurse.
The first nights
With no circadian rhythm to guide him, your one-week-old baby will behave much the same day and night. This is completely normal and, fortunately, won’t last forever.
You can expect this is the way it will be in the early weeks and months. Having realistic expectations about your newborn sleep patterns is important. It’s common for new parents to feel some pressure to get their baby to ‘sleep through the night’.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most difficult challenges for new parents, but understanding what is normal for babies and their development can help you learn a new way to get the rest you need.
Read more in our articles Baby Has Night and Day Mixed Up? Here’s What To Do and Baby Night Waking – Is It Normal For Babies to Wake At Night?
By feeding around the clock, your baby is programming your milk production to meet his growing needs and fuel his rapid recovery from birth.
It’s the start of intense and exciting growth in the first three months of life.
Your 1-week old baby will undergo huge development in these first few weeks, taking him from a fetus to an infant.
Every nurturing experience and all the ways in which the world affects his senses are shaping your baby’s development, and he’s already learning new skills every day.
While your baby’s brain is growing and developing, your brain is changing at the same time.
Research shows the maternal brain changes to become more responsive to infants’ cues and needs. Your brain has changed in order to be a more responsive caregiver.
Many refer to this period as the ‘fourth trimester’. During this time, there are ways you can ease the transition and prepare for good self-care. Remember to get the support you need as you recover from the labor and birth and take the time to learn about each other over these first few weeks.
Learn more in our article The Fourth Trimester – 8 Ways To Create A Great One For Your Baby.