What To Expect In The First 24 Hours With Your New Baby
We are delighted to host this guest blog written by Paediatrician Dr Sarah Blackstock all about the first 24 hours with your baby. When we're pregnant we tend to focus on the actual birth, so what happens in the hours that follow can take us a little by surprise, but never fear Dr Sarah is here to explain a little about what you can expect.
Navigating pregnancy and preparing for your little one’s birth is often overwhelming - there’s so much to learn. Fortunately, it’s all worth it when you get to hold your baby in your arms for that first time, but before you try to rush off home to start your new life with them, it’s good to prepare yourself for what comes next too. Here’s what to expect in the first 24 hours:
Your hospital stay
One of the first questions many new parents have is: when can they go home? This is very much dependent on your labour, birth and the health of baby and mother but you can expect to go home no sooner than 6 hours after birth. Most first-time mums will stay in much longer than this and it’s always recommended to stay at least 1 night so you can rest with support on hand whenever you need it.
After birth, you’ll move from the quiet of your delivery suite to the often noisy environment of a postnatal ward, so it can take a little while to adjust... But with other parents and babies nearby, there’s often a community feeling and that you’re not in this strange new experience alone!
In the postnatal ward, you’ll have a bedside buzzer to ring and get the attention of a midwife so you can ask any questions and get further help. No question is too minor, they’ll know you are new to this and be eager to support you and your baby to have the best start.
Your postnatal ward will have a visiting hour so others can come and say hello, but it’s always recommended to save this time for very close family only and leave other friends and relatives to visit when you’re settled back at home. You may not yet feel comfortable to feed your baby in front of other people which can make the first few hours stressful when in company, plus you may well be exhausted and just want to cuddle your baby and sleep.
Your baby’s sleep
Newborn babies sleep a LOT. You can expect your baby to need around 16-20 hours of sleep a day! However it is in small chunks initially because they need to feed regularly. If they don’t wake regularly for feeds get your little one looked at. Babies usually feed at least 3-4 hourly initially however it may well be more frequent. You’ll find it’s pretty much a pattern of sleep, feed, sleep, feed, sleep... This means you won’t get much time gazing into their eyes just yet.
Expect your baby to be a noisy little sleeper. They often make snuffling noises as they sleep. This is normal, as they have little bits of gunk in their airway from birth.
When awake it’s also ok for new babies to sniff, sneeze and cough! This doesn’t mean they have a cold but is their body’s way of clearing out fluid from their lungs.
You may notice your baby has slightly irregular breathing. This can be alarming but is usually normal. If you have any concerns speak to a midwife or doctor and they will be able to put your mind at rest.
Feeding your baby
Although your baby won’t want to feed to a timetable, feeding sessions can last anywhere between 5-20 minutes and may come in quick succession. They need a lot of comfort and very little milk at this stage. In fact, the first milk you will provide if breastfeeding is actually not ‘milk’ but a golden liquid called ‘colostrum’ which is highly nutritious for your newborn and they don’t need much of it. Your baby’s stomach is only the size of a malteaser at birth!
Never changed a nappy before? Don’t worry, you’re about to become a pro - there will be a lot of nappies to change over the coming months. In the first 24 hours, your baby will be expected to do 1 poo and 1 wee (minimum) and you won’t be allowed to go home until your midwife knows this has happened. This is to make sure your baby’s kidneys and digestive system are working nicely.
Your baby’s first poo will be thick and black (a bit like tar or marmite!). This is called ‘meconium’. The next poos will be green in colour as milk starts to become consumed and by day 5 baby poos will be a grainy, mustard shade.
You’ll also need to brace yourself for poop explosions! As your baby will only be taking in liquids, expect very liquid poos with an often projectile force!
Newborn examination and Screening tests
Your baby will have a number of painless little checks before they go home. These screening checks include a paediatric doctor or midwife performing a top to toe physical examination which will include listening to their heart, feeling your baby’s tummy, checking their hips, and they will also have a hearing test.
The hearing test involves playing a gentle clicking noise into your baby’s ears and is best done when your baby is asleep. The baby may still have gunk in their ears from birth so don’t be alarmed if the hearing test needs to be done again at home in a few days’ time.
Don’t forget your body has been working extremely hard over the last 9 months and then labour and birth on top of that! It’s important to realize you need to rest as much as possible in the coming weeks.
It’s amazing how quickly you may feel ready to get up and go (adrenaline can be sneaky like that!). But please make sure you give yourself plenty of time to adjust to your new life and let people look after you as much as possible.
Your midwife will be your best person to advise you on whether you’re ready to start walking about and take a shower etc. Depending on your labour and birth, you may need to take it easy a little while longer.
When the time comes to head home, don’t worry if you’re nervous... that’s natural! All new parents are winging it, but you’ll soon pick it up. Trust yourself.
You’ve got this!