Most babies are born healthy and stay healthy in the postnatal period. Being the parent of a newborn is exciting but, especially if this is your first baby, it can feel scary too.
Your midwife and health visitor will support you in the early days and weeks while you and your baby are getting to know each other.
Your baby’s umbilical cord will be securely clamped, usually with a plastic clip. You should keep the cord clean and dry, and outside the nappy area. There is no need to use wipes or put powder or creams on it. The cord stump will dry and fall off between five and twelve days. As part of normal skin care we recommend that you clean around the stump with tap water only and dry the cord.
You may notice that we encourage skin-to-skin contact as soon as your baby is born. This is because it helps to keep them warm and calm and regulate their breathing. It also helps to bond you and your partner with your new baby.
Skin-to-skin is holding your baby naked or with only a nappy on against your skin, usually with a blanket or towel over you both.
We recommend skin-to-skin straight from birth for at least the first hour. This is a really great time to start your first breastfeed as your baby will be alert and keen to feed. After birth you can hold your baby like this as often as you want to. It can be a lovely way for your partner to hold your baby too.
In the first 48 hours your baby is likely to have only two or three wet nappies. Wet nappies should become more frequent (at least six a day by day 5 onwards).
At the beginning your baby will pass a black sticky poo called meconium. By day 3 the poo should change to be lighter, runnier and greener and by day 5 should be yellow in colour.
If you baby is breastfed, they should be passing about two yellow poos from day 5. If your baby is bottle fed, they should be passing about two yellow/brown poos a day. It is normal for breastfed babies to pass softer, looser poos.
Jaundice is caused by the build-up of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance produced when red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body, are broken down.
Jaundice is common in newborn babies because they have a high number of red blood cells in their blood, which are broken down and replaced frequently.
Also, a newborn baby’s liver is not fully developed, so it’s less effective at removing the bilirubin from the blood.
Your newborn baby should be checked for signs of jaundice in the first 72 hours. This will include looking at your naked baby in natural daylight to see if they appear yellow. Babies who develop jaundice in the first 24 hours should be checked straight away by a healthcare professional.
If your baby has jaundice, it is usually harmless and clears up without treatment after 10 to 14 days. If treatment is not needed, you should make sure you keep them hydrated. Breastfeed or bottle feed your baby regularly, waking them up for feeds if necessary.
A few babies will develop very high levels of bilirubin, which can be harmful if not treated. In very rare cases, it can cause brain damage. If you think your baby is jaundiced, the doctor or midwife will be able to advise if they need treatment.
Safer sleep for babies
Caring for a young baby who wakes up in the night can be exhausting and sometimes this can make following safer sleep practices difficult. No matter how hard it seems now, don’t worry, it won’t last forever!
Read the safer sleep guidance and how to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for your baby (The Lullaby Trust)
Video animations on safer sleep (Lullaby Trust)
Coping with a crying baby
The first few weeks and months with a new baby can be challenging and it can be especially overwhelming when you are struggling to soothe a crying baby. It can be difficult and stressful to cope when your baby is crying, especially when you are feeling very tired.
Crying is normal behaviour for babies, and it will stop. Crying is the only way that your baby can tell you how they feel or what they need. Common reasons that a baby might cry include:
- Dirty or wet nappy
- Being too hot or cold
- They need your touch and comfort
- Being unwell.
If you’ve checked that your baby isn’t hungry or thirsty and has a clean nappy and but still can’t stop crying, try:
- Cuddling or skin-to-skin – remember you cannot ‘spoil’ a baby by giving them too many cuddles and close contact
- Taking your baby for a walk in a sling or pram
- Playing music, humming or singing
- Gently rocking your baby in a cradle.
These techniques may not always work. It may take a combination or more than one attempt to soothe your baby.
Tips for staying calm
If the crying feels too much and you are feeling unable to cope you can try:
- Putting your baby down in a safe place like a cot or pram and going into another room for a short time – go back and check on your baby if they go quiet
- Sit for a few minutes, take some slow deep breaths and try to take your mind off the crying. When you feel calmer, go back to your baby
- Ask a relative or friend to take over for a while
- You can talk to the NSPCC 24/7 on 0808 800 5000 for help and advice
- Visit ICON Parents Advice 2022 | ICON
- A small number of babies have problems with their health. Contact a midwife if:
- Your baby is jaundiced and is sleepy, not feeding or the yellow colour is getting worse
- Your baby is sleepy and feeding less than six times in 24 hours
- Your baby’s stool has turned from yellow to green
- Your baby’s cord looks red and inflamed
- Your baby is disinterested in feeding and seems lethargic.
- If you are worried your newborn baby is unwell, remember telephone triage is open 24 hours a day if you have any questions or concerns or you can call NHS 111.
- If you or your baby are seriously unwell call 999.
- Is your baby or toddler seriously ill? – NHS
Health and development checks
You will be offered regular health and development reviews (health visitor checks) for your baby until they are 2. These are to support you and your baby, and make sure their development is on track.
Find out more about the newborn blood spot (heel prick) test.
A health visitor will do a new baby review within 10 to 14 days of the birth.
They can also give you advice on:
- safe sleeping
- feeding your baby (breastfeeding and bottle feeding)
- adjusting to life as a new parent
- your baby’s development.
If for whatever reason you go back to smoking after you have given birth and want to try stopping again you can still get free NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapies) until your baby’s first birthday.
We recommend keeping your baby out of smoky areas. Don’t let people smoke near your baby and keep your home and other places your baby spends time, smoke-free.
If you or your partner smoke, don’t share a bed with your baby as this greatly increases the chance of SIDS even if you don’t smoke in your bedroom.
- Your newborn baby | First few days after birth (sussexlmns.org)
- Newborn Baby Guide (sussexlmns.org)
- Caring for a newborn baby – NHS
- Special care: ill or premature babies – NHS
- Newborn jaundice – NHS
- Washing and bathing your baby – NHS
- Baby parenting tips | NSPCC
- Skin-to-skin contact – Baby Friendly Initiative (unicef.org.uk)
- Building a happy baby: A Guide for Parents Leaflet – Baby Friendly Initiative (unicef.org.uk)
- Your baby’s health and development reviews – NHS