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The first weeks

1 week old baby

What to expect in week one with your newborn baby

One week old – Newborn Tests, coming home and reflexes

Congratulations – you’ve finally met your beautiful new arrival! Here’s what to expect in the (slightly crazy) first week of your new lives together.

At a glance

  • The Apgar test is carried out one minute after birth then again at five minutes
  • You’ll also be encouraged to breastfeed in the first hour
  • They will grip your finger tightly if you put it into their palm, and they also have powerful sucking and rooting reflexes

Your baby’s development at one week old

Your baby will always be beautiful to you, but lots of mums are surprised by how their baby looks right after the birth, especially if they were expecting the clean, plump, pink newborn babies you see in TV shows.

The reality is somewhat different. They may look a bit squashed and wrinkly (as would we all if we’d been trapped in a confined watery space for nine months). They may be covered in a whitish yellow, waxy substance called vernix, especially if they were a bit premature, and they may also have a fine covering of hair called lanugo, which will disappear in a few weeks.

Their skull might be a strange shape – squashed or elongated – because of its journey through the birth canal. Don’t worry – this will sort itself out in a few days. As will other odd things you may notice such as white spots on their face, swollen genitals and breasts and blue-ish skin. A new born baby will also look scrunched up; their legs will remain in the same position as they were in the womb for a while. They’ll straighten out gradually over the next few weeks.

Newborn Tests

As soon as they’re born your baby will be given a series of health and development checks.

The Apgar test is carried out one minute after birth then again at five minutes (and at 10 minutes if necessary). It scores your baby from 0-10 for colour, breathing, responses, muscle tone and heartbeat. Most babies score 7-10.

Their weight, height, head circumference and temperature are also measured. And before you head home from hospital (or at home if you’ve had a home birth), your baby will be given a full examination: their tummy will be pressed to check the organs, their hips and bottom will be checked, plus their heart, eyes and (in boys) testicles.

The first day with your baby

Within an hour of the birth you should be offered skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which helps bonding. Don’t be upset if you don’t feel a sudden rush of love, though: sometimes bonding can take weeks or months. 

You’ll also be encouraged to breastfeed in the first hour, and to offer your breast whenever your baby seems hungry. It’s difficult to know when they’re hungry at first but you’ll soon understand a bit better what their different cries mean. As a rough guide you’ll be feeding eight times in 24 hours in the early weeks. 

Back at home with your baby

Lots of mums say they can’t quite believe the hospital has let them go home with this precious bundle-in-a-car-seat – shouldn’t you have to sign on the dotted line, like a parcel?

Arriving home can be unsettling – it’s exciting but slightly unnerving to have another presence in your house. You’ll probably find your mood yo-yos between elated and tearful in the next week – this is completely normal. Most mums get the Baby Blues, which usually strike three or four days after the birth when your milk is coming in and your hormones are swinging wildly.

As the week goes on and you both get used to your new life, it pays to take it easy: don’t clean the house for visitors (get them to do it instead!), don’t feel you have to hold your baby all the time – put them down when they’re asleep. Try to rest when your baby sleeps as you’ve got a minimum of eight to 12 weeks of broken nights ahead of you so it’s important to pace yourself! A newborn baby sleeps an average of 18 hours a day, but it may not feel like it right now because they don’t necessarily choose to sleep at night-time yet.

Don’t rush to give the first bath if you don’t feel confident: they’ll be fine with top and tail washing for the first week.

Above all, take time to relax and enjoy simply holding your baby. It can be so busy in that first week with visitors coming and going, flowers arriving and the postman knocking on the door with yet more presents that your forget to have a few minutes a day to simply ‘be’ with your baby, just the two of you.

Weight gain and body shape at one week old

Your baby may look a bit scrunched up, but they’re already highly intelligent: they know your voice, can see 25cm in front of them and they recognise your smell too. If you lean in close and stick your tongue out you might find they try to copy, even in the first week.

Babies are born with certain reflexes, which will disappear by six months when they gain real co-ordination over their movements. But for now you will notice that if their head/neck are not supported they will throw their arms wide out (the Moro reflex). They will grip your finger tightly if you put it into their palm, and they also have powerful sucking and rooting reflexes. If you stroke their cheek they will instinctively turn their head and open their mouth for food. It’s a useful way of knowing if they are hungry in the first eight weeks.

Don’t be surprised if you baby loses 7-10 per cent of their body weight this week, especially if they are breastfed; they should regain it within 10 days. Two-thirds of babies also get jaundice in their first few days of life: their eyes and skin may look a little yellow. Make sure they get some sunlight and feed often.

During the first week, your midwife will probably visit to give a heelprick test. This tests for cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, thyroid deficiency and other rare conditions.

At a glance

  • The Apgar test is carried out one minute after birth then again at five minutes
  • You’ll also be encouraged to breastfeed in the first hour
  • They will grip your finger tightly if you put it into their palm, and they also have powerful sucking and rooting reflexes
Within an hour of birth you should be offered skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which helps bonding

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