Baby's first week: what to expect

Welcome to the bold new world of parenting! Midwife Abbe Cherry offers a rough guide to baby’s first week.

If only babies came with a set of instructions (and maybe an on/off switch!). All babies are different, however, and this first week will be great, frustrating, emotional, exciting, scary ... the list could go on and on. What can help is to have an idea of what you might expect from your first few days as a brand new family. In this article I have attempted to give you a rough outline – a survival guide, if you like - to the first seven days following the birth of your bundle of joy.

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MAMA: Antenatally we focus so much around giving birth to our babies that we very rarely stop to think what the healing process may be like. Expect to be sore, whether it be post Caesarean-section or vaginal birth – you have just accomplished one of the most amazing processes a human can go through, and it usually comes with some trauma. If you have had a vaginal birth with a tear or episiotomy and needed stitches, remember to take regular pain relief. Your whole body may feel achy from the sheer effort it takes to give birth. Following a C-section, you will likely be in hospital for four to five days and it is important to keep your pain well managed so you are able to care for your baby. There is a wide variety of pain medication options, so be sure to speak with your carer if you are still in pain. Your bleeding (lochia) will be heavy in the first 24 hours and you may even pass some small clots. This is very normal and you can keep pads to show your LMC if you have concerns. Your breasts will be soft and your nipples could be tender. Damage to your nipples can happen very quickly, making it much harder to feed your baby. Correct positioning and latching is paramount, so don’t be afraid to shout for help.

BABY: Birth is a tiring journey for your baby too, and after a period of alertness following the delivery, babies are often very sleepy. Skin-to-skin contact and a good breastfeed in the first hour following the birth will be invaluable to your breastfeeding journey. Baby’s stools (poo) will be black/dark green and sticky, a lot like melted licorice (sorry, licorice lovers). This first bowel motion is called meconium. Baby’s urine output will be minimal, maybe just one to two wet nappies in the first 24 hours.


  • As tempting as it is to lay awake in bed and stare at the little miracle you have created, close your eyes and get some sleep. As I said before, babies are often sleepy in this first 24 hours and this is an opportunity to rest before your baby wants to feed frequently.
  • Ice packs or frozen sanitary pads (spray witch hazel and water on a pad, put it in a plastic bag and place in the freezer) can be used to help the healing and swelling of your tender ‘lady bits’.
  • Keep a plastic bottle in the bath-room to pour some soothing water over your stitches as you pass urine.
  • Using some natural oil (like sweet almond) on your baby’s bottom will help when it comes to removing tarry meconium from baby’s skin.




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