So, the birth is over and you’ve got your baby home, but now what? Blind panic, probably! But don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural to have concerns about this little person who’s come into your life, and whether you’re worrying about sleeping, feeding or pooing issues, it can be a scary prospect being in charge of such a small human being. In fact, two thirds of new parents worry they’re not looking after their baby properly, so you’re certainly not alone with your concerns.
“It’s mainly the fear of the unknown that worries new mums,” explains Dawn Grey, maternity nanny from Tinies. “It’s also instinctive to worry, so you just need to draw the line between worrying a healthy amount and worrying too much unnecessarily.”
To help you out, here’s the lowdown on what to expect from that new teeny, tiny person in the first few weeks.
How much should she be sleeping?
You can expect your newborn to sleep roughly 16 hours a day, in three to four hour stints before waking for a feed.
“Babies need lots of sleep as they’re constantly growing and developing. While you can leave her to sleep as much as she wants, the only thing to worry about is if she’s not staying awake long enough to feed, in which case ask your health visitor for advice,” says Dawn. By the six-week mark, most babies (but not all) will be sleeping for longer periods at night, around five or six hours, as they start to tell the difference between day and night.
“I was worried about Molly’s sleeping right from the day we brought her home, especially as she didn’t seem to settle unless she was in my or her dads’ arms! To help we invested in a swaddling blanket and a baby monitor that featured a sensor pad to detect her heartbeat. This gave us the peace of mind needed to set her down in her own bed, which made for much better nights all round!” said Nichola St. George, 31, from Sussex, mum to Molly, 11 weeks.
Can she eat too much?
“During the first few weeks, let her eat whenever she wants,” advises Dawn. “Little and often is best, and if you’re breastfeeding, try to feed every two hours. This not only keeps her satisfied, but stimulates your milk supply too.” If she’s crying for milk, it indicates a late stage of hunger so demand feeding is best. Babies are pretty clever little things, and will soon regulate their own intake.
If you’re bottle-feeding, start by filling the bottle up to a certain point and note how much she feeds, and after a while you should be able to distinguish an average intake she’s happy with.
“When Tom was a newborn, he seemed to eat so much more than my other ‘mummy’ friends’ children, and I was worried he was overdoing it. He seemed to slow himself down and regulate his own intake within a couple of weeks, but that didn’t stop me ringing my health visitor in a panic! I found visiting online forums and asking other mums’ advice really helpful, but had to be careful not to compare Tom’s experience too closely to anyone else’s children,” said Helen Smith, 29, from Plymouth, mum to Tom, 3 months.
What’s a ‘normal’ amount of tears?
There’s no standard amount on this one, but as time goes on you’ll be able to read your baby by working out what sort of cry it is, the time of day and what works – for example a feed, cuddle, wind, etc. It might sound like an impossible task, but believe us, as time goes on you could just become a mummy mind reader.
How much should she poo?
Despite what you think, the amount she eats doesn’t affect the amount she poos. Instead, it’s all to do with the efficiency of her gut. The amount can vary a hugely. In fact, even if she goes from pooing several times a day to once every other day, this is still considered to be ‘normal.’
“The only time you need worry is if her tummy is hard or she appears to be in a lot of pain, in which case, consult your doctor or health visitor,” reassures Dawn. The colour of her poo can also differ, from green, black and sticky, to a mustard yellow colour if you’re breastfeeding. If you’re bottle-feeding, expect a much darker yellow.
How many nappies should she get through?
In the first few weeks, you can expect to get through around eight nappies a day, and each one will be heavy and full from her urine. It’s estimated in the first year alone, parents will have around 2,000 nappy changes to contend with, so while it might be tempting to bulk buy nappies, don’t stock up on one size only. Babies grow and change shape pretty rapidly so it’s best to have a few different sizes on hand.
When will she start playing?
How much energy your newborn has can depend on the birth you had. If you had an anaesthetic, for example an epidural, she might appear to be sleepier at first, but with a natural birth, you can expect her to be active after about two weeks.
“It’s hard to say when you might expect her first reaction or expression, but after two or three weeks, expect to see eye contact staring to occur,” explains Dawn. At six to eight weeks she should be able to smile and follow a moving object with her eyes well.
What should her weight be?
All babies are so different but on the whole, in the first week, your newborn’s weight might drop initially, but shouldn’t go down more than 10 per cent of her original body weight. After the first 10 days, she should start gaining it again, at roughly around 6-8 ounces per week.
6 easy steps to stop you panicking
1) Don’t overdo it. Avoid reading too many books. You’ll only get lots of conflicting information and feel confused.
2) Ask others. Join an online forum and speak to other mums.
3) Take your time. Don’t think you need to master every mummy activity perfectly all at once. Remember to take one step at a time and don’t punish yourself if something goes wrong.
4) Don’t be scared. Ask your doctor or health visitor if you have problems or queries.
5) Keep a record. It helps to note down any changes in her habits so you can easily explain to your health visitor what’s worrying you without getting stressed.
6) Trust yourself. You brought her into the world and you know her best, so take other mums’ advice on board, but with a pinch of salt too.
“Everything fell into place when she came along”
“As a first-time mum, my worries were multiple and I had constant doubts: What if I can’t feed her properly? How will I know if she’s too cold or too hot, and how would I remember all those things I read about before she was born? But when little Alana arrived everything seemed to come so naturally. She took to breastfeeding straight away, which was very comforting, and I seemed to soon instinctively know the differences in her crying and what soothed her. Having reassurances and support from family and friends was a big help, and of course the routine first check-ups made me realise all was well.”
Tammie Crawford, 30, from New York, mum to Alana, 6 weeks