The First Day of Baby Life
New Born Baby Care
You've been waiting for this day for months: finally you get to meet your new baby. But if you're like most new parents, you may not have a clear idea of what that meeting will be like.
It's a good idea to prepare yourself for what your baby will do and how your baby will look the first time you meet.
What Your Baby Looks Like
Although you may have visions of a robust bouncing baby boy or girl, reality may not match that image. Many newborns are tiny, wet creatures when they first emerge. Often their heads are slightly pointed as a result of passing through the birth canal. This is only temporary; the head will take on a rounded appearance within a few days. It may be surprising to you that a newborn's head is big when compared with the rest of the body.
Your baby also may look scrunched up since the legs and arms have been kept bent at the knees and elbows while in the womb. After months of growing in ever-tightening close quarters, this is perfectly normal. The limbs will straighten out as your baby grows.
Look at the baby's tiny fingers and toes. You'll notice that he or she has paper-thin - and sometimes long - nails.
Your baby's skin may have one of several possible appearances. Regardless of your ethnic background, the baby will likely look somewhat red, pink, or purple at first. Some babies are born with a white coating called vernix, which protects their skin from the constant exposure to amniotic fluid. The vernix is washed of with the baby's first bath. Other babies are born very wrinkled. And some, especially premature babies, have a soft, furry appearance because of lanugo, a fine hair that develops while in the womb. Lanugo comes off after a week or two. Rashes, blotches, or tiny white spots are also not unusual on newborns. These generally clear up over the first few days or weeks after birth. Your doctor or a doctor for the hospital will examine your baby within the first 12 -24 hours of birth and make sure that any rashes or spots are normal.
Remember, your baby's appearance will change dramatically over the next weeks as he or she grows. The limbs will extend, the skin tone will probably change, and the blotches will disappear.
The minute your baby is born, he or she will be evaluated through an Apgar score to determine the baby's state of health immediately following delivery. This routine test measures a baby's responsiveness and vital signs. Five factors are checked: heart rate, breathing, color, muscle tone, and reflex response.
The baby is given a score of zero to two in each category, and the resulting five numbers are added together. This total is called the Apgar score. The evaluation is done again at 5 minutes. This quick and easy test is given mainly to see if the baby needs help breathing. A score of 7 to 10 is generally considered normal, and if your baby receives this score, no special actions usually need to be taken. A lower score means some extra measures, such as giving the baby oxygen, may be needed initially.
Your newborn will go through a few other quick procedures. Those procedures will likely include:
- Clearing the nasal passages with a suction bulb.
- Weight, head circumference, and length measured
- Eye drops to prevent infection
The medical staff or midwife will dry your baby and place a blanket around him or her. All of this happens very quickly, and before you know it your baby is in your arms for some special bonding time. After you share some quality time with the baby, it's time for a few more procedures. Because the staff like to get everything taken care of, they will usually take the baby for more procedures after 10 to 30 minutes.
While the mother rests, either in the birthing or recovery room, the baby is taken to the nursery where he or she will receive a thorough bath. Usually the father is allowed to come along. Your baby will be given vitamin K, either by injection or orally, to help your baby's blood clot properly. Your baby will probably receive a dose of hepatitis vaccine, according to the doctor's recommendations.
Other tests vary from one hospital to another. Your newborn may be given a blood test to check blood sugar levels. If the level is too low or other imbalances are discovered, he or she will receive immediate medical attention to manage the problem. Also, a newborn screening blood test will be drawn before the baby leaves the hospital to look for PKU (phenylketonuria), congenital hypothyroidism, and other diseases that need to be diagnosed early in infancy to ensure successful treatment.
The average newborn stay is about 48 hours.
What Your Baby Does on the First Day
Many parents are surprised to see how alert a newborn really is. A newborn's eyes are open quite a bit and he or she spends much time studying faces - especially the parents'. He or she may turn or react to the sound of your voices. Your baby is using all of his or her senses, including smell and touch, to further identify and become attached to you.
Your newborn will cry, sleep, and at times will look directly into your eyes. Although the vision is blurry, your baby can see you and anything that's up to about 2 feet away. Your baby will grab onto your finger if you place it in his or her palm. And of course, your baby will want to eat.
Breast-feeding or Bottle-feeding
If a mother has decided to breast-feed her baby, she can begin as soon as her newborn is placed in her arms. Although your milk probably won't fully come in for another day or two, especially with first-time mothers, the baby does receive nourishment from your colostrum, a thin, watery precursor to actual breast milk. As your baby sucks on your breast, this action triggers hormones to tell your body that it's time to produce milk. These first feedings are great practice runs for both mom and baby.
Some babies (especially smaller babies) have a hard time latching on or getting enough suction to nurse from your breast. That's where a breast-feeding counselor, or lactation consultant, comes in. That consultant is skilled in helping you and your baby overcome any hurdles you might encounter. Even if breast-feeding is going smoothly from the start, it's still a great idea to learn as much about the process as you can from a breast-feeding specialist.
Initially, you will probably be feeding your baby about every 2 to 3 hours around the clock. If you will be bottle-feeding your baby, you can usually begin within the first few hours of life.
For both parents, having a baby is a major, life-changing experience. Don't be surprised to find that you go through a broad range of feelings. You may experience everything from elation to concern to a sense of being overwhelmed to unrestrained joy. And your feelings may change suddenly and unpredictably. In addition, the mother has just been through quite a bit physically. There's a good chance she'll be exhausted. Both parents may feel some effects of sleep deprivation as well.
Every parent reacts differently. Some mothers "forget" the difficulties of labor as soon as they catch a glimpse of their newborns. Some feel high levels of energy driven by the excitement of finally having the baby. Still others feel sad and may experience postpartum depression. A physician, nurse, or counselor can help both parents understand their emotions after the baby is born.
Friends and Family
Although you want to share your good news with the world, a sound rule of thumb is to keep the first day simple. Make calls to close friends and family members, and ask them to pass the news along to other friends and relatives. Having a network of callers will free you to spend more time with your newborn.
It's fine to have your loved ones meet the baby the first day. Grandparents or siblings can meet the newest family member and start to bond with the new baby right away. But it's not a good idea to have a parade of visitors in and out of the room. Keeping the visitors down will keep the baby's first day tranquil and low-key. It is also a good idea in the first few weeks of the baby's life to limit visitors because of the possibility of exposing your baby to infection. Parents and baby need plenty of rest and quiet bonding time.
What to Do if There Is a Problem
If your baby is born with a problem, or if he or she is born prematurely, this can be a difficult time. The hospital's medical team is trained to offer professional recommendations and discuss options. If you are not up to talking with a doctor yet, don't be afraid to ask your spouse or another close relative to do so. The medical staff will be sensitive to your needs. For many parents, talking with a counselor or clergy member brings some comfort. Many support groups are available to give you the emotional backing you'll need. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
When your baby is born, you will begin an entirely new phase of your life. Take the time during your baby's first day to enjoy meeting him or her. (by kidshealth.org)
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