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Baby Care: 1 Week Old

Feb 15, 2022 | 2 minutes Read

Congratulations on your new baby! The first week of life will be one of enormous change. Instead of having all their needs taken care of in the womb, your baby now needs to function in the outside world in a semi-independent state. Eating, breathing, eliminating, and communicating will all be very different to the way they were through the long months of your pregnancy. Your baby will still rely on you for all their physical and emotional needs for a long time to come.

At one week, your baby may still look and behave like a fetus, spending most of the time sleeping. There will be short bursts of activity, followed by time to recuperate. You will probably find yourself spending endless hours just gazing at this miracle you have created. If you feel like you’re still in a state of shock, don’t be surprised. It can take weeks for new parents to feel back to normal after giving birth and feeling utterly preoccupied with your baby is completely normal.

Feeding

If your baby is breastfeeding, don’t expect all of your feeding issues to be solved overnight. Although breastfeeding is completely natural, it also requires a series of learned skills and it takes time, practice, and patience for it to become easy. Your baby will still be learning as well. There will be times when you feel you’ve mastered it and times when you’re full of doubt. Your baby will let you know when they are hungry by fussing, searching for the nipple with their mouth. It is important to offer your baby the breast when they want it as this will help your breasts make sufficient milk for your baby to grow. The more they feed, the quicker your milk will come in.

If you are bottle feeding, make sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to mix and prepare the formula. The general amount needed for this age is 2½ ounces of formula per pound of body weight per day after the first few days of life.

This would mean an 8 pound baby would take about 20 ounces a day, about 1 to 2 ounces of formula every 2 to 4 hours. If your baby finishes this amount and still acts hungry, then give them more. As your baby takes in more milk at a time, the time between feedings may also grow longer.

Sleeping

Your baby will spend the majority of the first week sleeping. Remember to always follow the safe sleeping guidelines and place your baby to sleep on their back, ensure your baby is in their own crib or bassinet, and the sleep environment is safe. Avoid overheating, and ensure your baby is in a smoke- free environment.

It is common for one week old babies to fall asleep when they are feeding. Feeding takes a lot of energy. When your baby is sleeping, they are conserving energy and releasing growth hormones. Much of your baby’s sleep at this age will be spent in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is vitally important for their early brain development and growth.

Behavior

Your baby may be very quiet this week, with only occasional crying or fussing. Newborns sleep between 16 and 17 hours each day. They will wake up for feedings, stay alert for a while, and then doze off again. They may have periods of alert wakefulness when they will gaze and stare at you. They might respond to you or your partner’s voices, familiar music, or the voices of your older children.

When your baby is awake and alert, place your baby on their stomach for tummy-time. It is important that babies always sleep on their back, but it is also important for them to have time on their tummies. This is to prevent flat spots on their head, and to help develop the muscles in their shoulders and backs. This is best if started soon after birth. Just make sure to roll them over when they fall asleep and place them in their safe bassinet or crib.

Try not to form an opinion of your baby’s personality or temperament at this very early stage. Most newborns are more passive and calmer if they are fed when they want to be. If they feel generally comfortable and have lots of cuddles, they will be mostly quiet and content.

Diapers

Diapers will be a daily reality from now until your baby is a toddler. Most parents use disposable diapers, and it is important to use the right size for your baby’s age and weight.

Your baby’s bowel movements will give you an idea of the amount of milk they are taking in and if it is adequate. It is important that they have at least 6 heavy, wet diapers every 24 hours by the end of the first week. Breastfed babies may poop more frequently than formula fed babies.

You will need to change your baby’s diaper every time they poop. You will be able to feel by the weight and texture of your baby’s diaper if they have urinated. Wash their skin with plain, warm water on a washcloth, or with a hypoallergenic baby wipe. It is unlikely you will need diaper rash cream at this age.

Umbilical cord care

Your baby’s cord clamp will have been removed by now, leaving just the umbilical cord stump to dry and eventually fall off. Although it may not look very attractive, it will soon separate from the skin. Make sure to keep the cord and skin around the cord clean and dry. The best time to do this will be after your baby’s bath. Fold the top of the diaper down so it is below the cord. If urine or stool gets on the cord, wash the cord with soap and water and pat dry to prevent infection.

Bathing a newborn

You may have had a bathing demonstration at the hospital, or perhaps you have bathed a newborn before. If you haven’t, then bathing might feel a little scary.Like many other aspects of baby care, it is just a matter of practice to build your confidence.

Your baby does not need a bath every day. Three days a week or every other day will be enough if the diaper area is cleansed at each diaper change.

A newborn can be given a sponge or a tub bath. A sink or small plastic tub is ideal for this age. If you are nervous, ask someone to help you. Make sure you have everything you need within reach before you start. Pick a time when you and the baby are calm. Place a towel on the bottom of the tub. Fill the tub with enough water to cover the baby. Aim for the bath to take about 5 to 10 minutes to keep the baby from getting too cold.

Bath time is a special, interactive time but it may take a few weeks before you feel completely comfortable.

The baby blues

You could be feeling all the attention is on the baby and not on you. Or, you might feel like you are being overwhelmed with attention and have little room to breathe. Ask your partner to help limit visitors if needed. Family and friends are usually aware of what a sensitive and emotional time this is and will be careful to respect boundaries of what needs to be family and new mother time.

Your hormones will be stabilizing after the pregnancy, and it will take few weeks before you feel back to normal. You might find yourself sad or feeling the “baby blues,” which is normal. Looking at your baby, listening to their cry, feeding, and cuddling them may bring up powerful, strong emotions. The baby blues typically lasts around 2 weeks. Some women may continue to feel sad or anxious and may need extra support or help. Reach out to those that love you and share with them how you are feeling, or seek professional help.

Your physical recovery

Your body will take around 6 weeks to return to its normal state. If you had a Cesarean section, a laceration, an episiotomy, a vacuum delivery or any other complications, your recovery may take longer. Sleep when you can, rest, eat healthy meals, and give your body time to heal. This is a time when you need to do only the basics. Let others help and be kind to yourself.

Emotions during the first week

Don’t expect yourself to immediately be an expert in caring for your baby. Although you may have read a lot, gathered information, and listened carefully to experts and other parents, this does not guarantee that your baby will be easy to care for. The first week after birth is exhausting, both physically and emotionally, so don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself and feel like you must know it all.

This is a week where you will need to find some space and time to learn all you can about your new little one. This can be difficult, especially if you’ve had many visitors. It is also important to think about the changes to your own sense of who you are as a new mother and adjustments in your relationship with your partner. Your relationship with your parents, your family, and extended family will also be transformed.

Emotions for partners

This can be a challenging time for new fathers and partners. The excitement of birth, the transition to parenthood, and the busyness of those first days can take its toll. It is also important to remember that neither you nor mom are “experts” when it comes to care of the newborn. Both parents have an important role to play in your baby’s life, even at this very early stage.

The information of this article has been reviewed by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.