Having your first child is both the most rewarding and the scariest thing you’ll ever do. From the options to consider when choosing newborn diapers to coming up with a name, you’re going to have a busy few months! However, knowledge = power. That’s why we’ve put together this list of things to expect during the first couple of weeks, so that any first-time parent can avoid being too surprised by what goes on!
Baby is going to cry (but that isn’t always a bad thing)
The fact that your newborn is likely to cry quite a lot during their first couple of weeks isn’t surprising in itself – perhaps the most well know thing about babies is that they cry! – but it can still come as quite a shock if you’re not prepared for it.
The tricky thing about dealing with those tears is knowing when the baby actually wants something and when he or she is just crying for the sake of it. It is important to learn the difference, as not doing so might mean you start to question your ability when, actually, there are some occasions where there really isn’t anything you can do! (Except wait for them to stop).
(As a general rule, try to meet your baby’s needs consistently during the first few weeks, as this will usually mean that they then cry less once they reach the age of about one.)
Diaper changes and feeding
The fact that you’ll have to feed and change your newborn is, again, no great secret. But that still doesn’t mean it won’t take some getting used to!
Newborns, as a general rule, should be fed on demand and will naturally stop eating once they’re full. In this sense, there’s no natural schedule: they get hungry, and you feed them. Once they’ve reached around three weeks, however, it can be worth trying to delay feeding slightly by cuddling baby instead. If they react well, it might be that they’re ready to stop eating quite so much, and to fall into a more structured feeding schedule.
Diaper changes are absolutely essential, as a lack of them can mean your baby’s skin becomes irritated. It’s worth noting that the amount of changes required often comes as a surprise to first time parents: a particularly active baby might require changing between five and ten times a day!
Babies make a number of involuntary movements when they’re being stimulated, included the rooting reflex (when the side of a baby’s cheek is touched, the head will turn and ‘reach’ towards it), the palmar grasp (newborns will tend to grasp a finger when it’s placed in their palm), placing (flexing the knee and bringing the foot up when the sole is rubbed), the startle (a newborn will throw out their arms and spread their fingers when surprise) and a few others. It’s a good idea to be aware of these reflexes so you’re not quite so surprised or concerned when they occur: they’re perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about.
It can sometimes be surprising just how sensitive newborns can be to stimulus, with their four senses typically developing in slightly different ways:
Their sense of touch is already highly developed, particularly around the mouth. Newborns like gentle handling, and feeling soft textures against their skin.
Hearing may initially be affected by fluid in the ear canal, but this will typically clear within a few days, and after that they can hear quite well.
Smell, like touch, is already very well developed in the early days. In particular, they can usually sense the smell of the mother in particular. As a general rule, newborns prefer sweet smells.
Sight develops rapidly within the first year or so. Initially, newborns see best out of the corner of their eye, but by around three months they’re capable of looking directly at and following objects.