What to Expect
In the hospital, the doctor and/or nurse will probably:
1. Check your baby's weight, length, and head circumference and plot the measurements on the growth charts.
2. Ask questions, address any concerns, and offer advice on taking care of your baby:
Feeding. Breast milk is the best form of nutrition for infants, but formula also can provide the nutrients they need. Newborns should be fed on demand (when they're hungry), which is about every 1 to 3 hours. Your doctor or nurse may watch as you breastfeed and offer help with any problems. Formula-fed newborns take about 1–1½ ounces (30–45 ml) at each feeding. Burp your baby midway through a feeding and at the end. As they grow, babies start to eat more at each feeding, so will need fewer feedings over time.
Peeing and pooping. A breastfed baby may have only one or two wet diapers a day until the mother's milk comes in. Expect about six wet diapers by 3–5 days of age for all babies. Newborns may have just one poopy diaper a day at first. Poop is dark and tarry the first few days, then becomes soft or loose and greenish-yellow by about 3–4 days. Newborns typically have several poopy diapers a day if breastfed and fewer if formula-fed.
Sleeping. A newborn may sleep up to 18 or 19 hours a day, waking up often (day and night) to breastfeed or take a bottle. Breastfed babies usually wake to eat every 1 to 3 hours, while formula-fed babies may sleep longer, waking every 2 to 4 hours to eat (formula takes longer to digest so babies feel fuller longer). Newborns should not sleep more than 4 hours between feedings until they have good weight gain, usually within the first few weeks. After that, it's OK if a baby sleeps for longer stretches.
Developing. Newborn babies should:
- pay attention to faces or bright objects 8–12 inches (20–30 cm) away
- respond to sound — they may turn to a parent's voice, quiet down, blink, startle, or cry
- hold arms and legs in a flexed position
- have strong newborn reflexes, such as:
- rooting and sucking: turns toward, then sucks breast/bottle nipple
- grasp: tightly grabs hold of a finger placed within the palm
- fencer's pose: straightens arm when head is turned to that side and bends opposite arm
- Moro reflex (startle response): throws out arms and legs, then curls them in when startled
3. Do a physical exam with your baby undressed while you are present. This will include an eye exam, listening to your baby's heart; feeling pulses; inspecting the umbilical cord; and checking the back, hips, and feet.
4. Do screening tests. Your baby's heel will be pricked for a small amount of blood to test for certain harmful diseases. Your baby should also get a hearing test and oxygen levels checked before leaving the hospital.
5. Give first immunizations. While in the hospital, your baby should have his or her first immunizations. Immunizations can protect infants from serious childhood illnesses, so it's important that your baby get them on time. Immunization schedules can vary, so talk to your doctor about what to expect.
Here are some things to keep in mind until your baby's next routine checkup in a few days:
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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