What to expect in the first 7 days with a newborn

Midwife, Lactation consultant (IBCLC), Child and Family Health Nurse, Babywearing consultant and mum of two, Bel Moore, shares her personal experience (and what to expect) during the first 7 days with a newborn 

Taking a newborn home from hospital without an instruction manual is pretty scary…so here’s a run down of my first week to try help you through all the weird and wonderful things that go on!

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The Newborn Diaries: What to expect in the first 7 days with a newborn

Will was born at 0125 on Father’s Day after a beautiful two  hour labour in the bath.

Regardless of how ‘easy’ the birth was day one was a slight struggle due to lack of sleep and the afterbirth pains that hit me like a truck.

After birth pains

After birth pains are caused by the uterus contracting back to normal. The uterus contracts, clamping down on the area where the placenta was once attached, preventing you from bleeding out.

I found regular panadol and heat packs made them somewhat bearable. When breastfeeding, the body releases a hormone, oxytocin, to help eject the milk, but this also causes an increases the intensity of the contraction so before sitting down for a feed in the first few days, I made sure I had taken some pain relief, had a hot water bottle handy and used my hypnobirthing breathing techniques to reduce the discomfort.

Nailing breastfeeding

Being a lactation consultant and having previously breastfed for 18 months, breastfeeding is something that came quite easily to me. But it doesn’t always come naturally so make sure you ask lots of questions and get the right support to enable you to reach your breastfeeding goals!

With Will being 5.1kg at birth (he’s basically made of 75% Nutella), I needed to make sure he was getting enough colostrum to ensure he didn’t have low blood sugar levels.

I had stored expressed colostrum in the freezer from 36 weeks to give him incase he had any drop in sugars so I could avoid any pressure to top up with formula, but he didn’t need any and I just fed on demand.

Feeding on demand is the best way to bring in your milk, so give free access to the breast, watch for feeding cues and do lots of skin-to-skin cuddles to get the hormones flowing and help give yourself the best start to breastfeeding.

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Stinky nappies

Regardless of how cute and squishy babies are, the first few nappy changes remind you that they can be kinda gross too.

Meconium is composed of materials ingested during the time the infant spent in the uterus and is dark green/black in colour and very sticky. They transition in the first few days to doing more of a mustard yellow colour poo with little seeds or curds in it.

Colostrum helps move the meconium through the system so feeding on demand is super important in those first days to bring in the milk, help flush the system and reduce the risk of jaundice.

Stock up on nappies, as once the milk is in, it’s completely normal for breastfed babies to have about 5 dirty nappies a day for the first 6 weeks or so.

Postpartum bleeding

After thinking 9 months without a period is pretty damn rad, you will experience postpartum bleeding or lochia for up to 6 weeks. The first week is like a heavy period but it does start to taper off.

Stock up on giant surfboard like pads (maternity pads) to avoid having to ask hubby to run down to Woolworths and get you some (trying to explain wings/ no wings to my partner was just as painful as childbirth).

It’s also pretty sore and tender down there, so having a couple sets of soft gel ice packs in the freezer to rotate was perfect to reduce the pain and swelling.

Even if you escape with only grazes like me, it can be fairly painful to wee (but you have to remember to keep weeing, as a full bladder can inhibit your uterus from contracting and cause a postpartum haemorrhage), but sitting super forward on the toilet and using a peri bottle with some witch hazel in it, helps reduce any stinging feeling.

Bathing your baby

We waited until day 2 to give Will his first bath, as I wanted to let all the vernix sink in.

It is super moisturising and as he was born a week overdue, his skin was already a little dry.  My tips for bathing are to have everything ready to go and in arms reach, you don’t want to be scrambling around for a towel or a washer.

Try to make the room nice and warm or bath them during the day as if babies become cold, they use a lot of energy to try to keep warm.

Sore boobs

On day 3, I woke up feeling like they’d wheeled me in for an over night boob job!

Physiological engorgement is a normal part of the breastfeeding journey. Your boobs will get larger, heavier and usually tender to touch. Try your best not to over stimulate the breasts, just let baby feed as needed and you can take the edge off by hand expressing a small amount.

If you remove too much milk, the breasts make more, leading to a bit of a cycle.

Ice packs can also help with the pain and swelling. Will also got his newborn screening test  (NST) taken on day 3. The NST tests for a range of different diseases, such as cystic fibrous, by taking a small blood sample from the baby’s foot and placing it on a special card. You are only notified if there is an issue with the sample. You can feed during and after the test to reduce any pain your baby may feel and having warm feet will make the test easier.

Weighing your baby

On day 5, your care provider will usually weigh your baby to check for weight loss. It is normal for them to have lost some weight (less than 10% of birth weigh) as they burn their brown fat they have been storing while inside.

Will had only lost 150grams on day 5 so I felt very proud of my boobies! If they have lots more than 10%, seek advice from an IBCLC and set up a breastfeeding plan. If you had lots of IV fluids in labour, in can give the baby an inflated birth weigh and make it appear they have lost more weight than normal.

The umbilical cord will become black and shrivelled in the first few days and will usually fall off around day 7 to 10, becoming the belly button.

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Fold down the nappy to keep it clean and dry. If it’s smelly, there is discharge or the area around it becomes red, contact your health care provider immediately for advise.

We used a cotton cord tie that my mum made instead of a plastic hospital tie, as I had heard anecdotally that the umbilical cord falls off quicker when using a cotton cord tie, and Will had a cute little belly button by day 5.

We got through the first week with a little bit of sleep, a lot of poo and chuck, minimal tears and a lot of love.

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