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Your Newborn

Photograph by Getty Images

Congratulations! Whether this is your first baby or your fourth, there's nothing quite like the experience of welcoming a newborn into your home. For now, your tiny being will mostly sleep (although not necessarily at night), teeter in and out of consciousness, feed, and then nod back off again. Human beings are born in a very immature state (owing to the proportionally large size of our sophisticated brains)—hence the term for your newborn's "fourth trimester."


Feeding is your baby's (and your) main preoccupation in life. Unlimited access to the breast in these first weeks of life are incredibly important to getting Mom's milk supply set up. So, how do you know if your baby is getting enough milk? Wendy Haldeman, lactation consultant and co-founder of The Pump Station in Los Angeles shares the following signs that suggest breastfeeding is on track:

  • Baby nurses 8 to 12 times in 24 hours
  • Baby has 6 or more wet diapers and 3 or more bowel movements in 24 hours
  • Baby regains birth weight within 2 weeks
  • Baby seems to be swallowing and appears satisfied after a feeding
  • Mom notices engorgement (swelling of breasts) by day 5
  • Mom does not have extremely sore nipples

If one or more of these signs is off track, it's really important to contact a good lactation consultant right away for guidance. Ask your pediatrician or a local breastfeeding resource for referrals.

If Baby is formula feeding, there's no exact amount to feed her, but you can more or less go on an on-demand basis. Newborns are hungry every 2–4 hours or so, and you want to feed your baby a couple of ounces at a time to start. "The most important factor in knowing if the amount of formula she is getting is enough," says New York City pediatrician Yael Wapinski, M.D., "is if she is gaining steady weight." That's something your own pediatrician will be checking and plotting on a growth curve at every appointment.


As every parent will tell you (if they haven't repressed the memory), taking care of a newborn at night can be torturous. But when it comes to sleep, we have two good pieces of news for you:

1. It's natural for babies to be awake at night, says author and sleep consultant Heather Turgeon. A baby's circadian system (which will eventually tell her if it's night or day) is immature at birth, says Turgeon, so babies are not supposed to sleep well at night.

Practical tip from the baby sleep book "The Happy Sleeper":

Expose your baby to indirect sunlight during the day and keep her in the relative darkness at night. In the morning, say hello, sing a good morning song, and open the curtains and let in the light. At night, keep the lights low, even during feedings. Light is the number-one signal to your baby's rapidly developing circadian system, which is the system that will eventually tell her when it's night and day—good news for sleep.

2. Sleep abilities change quickly. By about 6 weeks, many babies have one longer stretch of nighttime sleep (about 3–6 hours). When you're in the thick of it, sleep deprivation can feel like it will never end, but Turgeon tells us that baby's sleep abilities do change quickly over the first 4–6 months of life. By the time a baby is 5–6 months old (in some cases, younger), they have the self-soothing skills and mature circadian system to allow for that highly coveted full night's sleep. (Although some many still feed at night at this age, they can go right back to sleep after a feeding.)


The name of the game right now is contact. Your baby comes into the world programmed to bond. She's learning the sights, smells and behaviors of her closest people, so keeping her near you gives her the feedback she's looking for. Her vision is very blurry and she can focus best about a foot away. She loves to be held, rocked, bounced and curled up in your arms. Touch is her most highly developed sense and it grows from the head down, with her most sensitive area being her mouth. Putting objects on her lips or in her mouth will be her best mode for learning and exploring the world for months to come.

Don't stay cooped up for too long! No need to tote your baby through a grocery store (or, if you have an older child, to a preschool pickup) just yet, but that doesn't mean you can't get outside. Take a walk so you both get fresh air and some sunlight (indirect for your baby). This is really important for your mood and energy, and it will help your baby get accustomed to the cycle of the day.

You've just brought a human being into the world, your sleep is out the window, your body chemistry is in flux—no doubt it's normal to feel a mix of joy, sadness, disorientation and much more. Most women feel some form of "blues" in the weeks after giving birth, but if it feels more intense or doesn't subside, you should tell your OB-GYN or another trusted clinician. Signs like not being able to motivate yourself to take care of and connect with your baby, not being able to sleep (even when your baby does) or intense feelings of anxiety would be good reasons to consult with your doctor.


  • Notice your baby turning her head when she feels something on her cheek, or diving for a nipple when she's held near someone's chest? This is the rooting reflex.
  • The moro reflex causes baby's arms and legs to flail out to the sides randomly, while sleeping, or when she's in motion (you might see it if she's in a baby swing).
  • About 1–2 weeks after birth, the umbilical cord stump falls off.
  • On day 2–5, Mom's milk comes in.

Coming soon: The moment you've all been waiting for—social smiling!

LOOK AHEAD: Your 1-Month-Old

Photograph by Getty Images

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