The first few days of your baby's life are very exciting, and pretty tiring. A lot happens. Your new baby will need to sleep about 4 hours, feed and sleep some more. They need to be kept dry and clean, and bathed every day or so. Your birthing staff will run health checks on your baby and offer vaccinations.
This page outlines what you can expect as you welcome your healthy, full-term baby.
Feeding and sleeping patterns
Most babies sleep for less than 4 hours at a time then they wake to feed. Most newborns will sleep for about 16 hours every 24 hours.
Every baby is different so you shouldn’t impose rigid schedules in the first few months. This helps your baby get what they need. It also helps you establish your milk supply by feeding whenever your baby wants to feed for as long as they want. The ‘feed, play, sleep’ cycle is better for you and your baby than following a rigid schedule.
Make sure you always sleep the baby on their back with their head and face uncovered. The safest place for them to sleep is in a safe cot next to your bed. Never let the baby come into contact with cigarette smoke.
Bathing your baby can be a real pleasure, even if it can be nerve-racking at first. Bathing your baby in the evening can help calm your baby and settle them.
But you don’t need to bath your baby every day if you don’t want to. A bath every few days is enough. Just make sure their nappy area is kept clean and dry. You’ll soon find what you and your baby prefer.
Your baby will have part of the umbilical cord still attached. Keep it clean and dry, and allow it to heal naturally.
If you haven’t bathed a baby before, Raising Children Network has some handy illustrations to guide you.
Hearing and blood tests
You will be offered some tests for your baby in the first week. You’ll be asked for permission before these tests are done. Your baby will have a non-invasive hearing screening test and a heel prick blood test — the neonatal screening test (NST).
Weighing, measuring and baby health check
Your baby will be examined and weighed by maternity staff soon after birth and a few days later. This is to make sure that your baby is healthy and has not lost too much weight. Normally babies lose some weight during the first few days, then start to regain weight. They should be back to their birth weight within about 2 weeks.
If your baby loses too much weight in the first few days, you may be offered extra help.
Your baby will have a full examination to check the shape of their head, their eyes and ears, the roof of their mouth and tongue, their genitals, skin, hands and feet, spine and hips. In the rare event that any problems are found, the doctor or midwife might order further tests.
Infant Health Record
All babies in Australia are issued with an Infant Health Record at birth. Each state has a different coloured cover of the Infant Health Record. Eg. ‘Blue book’ in NSW, ‘Green book’ in Victoria. This will be your baby’s main health record until they start school.
Your baby’s first health check is usually in the first 1 to 4 weeks, with a follow-up at 6 to 8 weeks. At these appointments, your doctor or maternal child health nurse will check your child’s development including their height, weight and head circumference growth and examine their body.
The first dose of your baby’s hepatitis B vaccinations will be offered to you in hospital. The hepatitis B vaccination is an injection in baby’s thigh. Your local child health nurse will help you schedule the next round of vaccinations — due at 6 weeks to 2 months of age.
What’s in a nappy?
Your baby’s poo changes quite a bit in the first week. Monitoring these changes is one way to see whether your baby is healthy and well nourished. Baby’s poo gradually changes from black and sticky on the day of birth, to mustard yellow by the time your breast milk comes in on day 3 to 5.
Your midwife will check to see if your baby has weed and pooed at least once on day 1. After that you can expect two wet nappies on day 2, three wet nappies on day 3, four wet nappies on day 4, five wet nappies on day 5 and six wet nappies a day after that. Frequent poos are common in the first week.
You can aim to change your baby’s nappy every time you feed them unless you notice that the nappy is very wet or dirty in between feeds.
What to prepare to take your baby home
To take your baby home you will usually need some nappies, a set of clothes (a singlet, a grow-suit and perhaps a warm hat), a warm wrap and an infant restraint for the car. Ask your hospital for a list of the things for your baby in hospital and for going home.
Young babies do not need very many belongings. Mainly, they just want to be fed, kept warm, have their nappy changed and to spend lots of time with you. A simple cot or bassinet that is set up safely, nappies, 6 changes of clothes and some wraps is a great start.
Listen to Dianne Zalitis, midwife, talk about what to expect when you bring your baby home on the Babyology podcast.
You can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby, 7 days a week on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse to find out more.
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Last reviewed: September 2022