What to Expect During Your Baby’s First Month of Life

When you bring your newborn son or daughter home for the first time, you will feel a range of emotions. You’ll be in awe of your new family member, excited at the opportunities awaiting you, and exhausted from the process of childbirth and recovery. You will be ready to settle into a new routine with your new addition and start this new chapter in your life.

However, taking care of a newborn may not be as easy as it seems. As the novelty of your situation wears off, you may find yourself exasperated, exhausted and just plain confused as to how to care for this tiny human in your life. All those classes you took on how to take care of a newborn during your pregnancy may be ancient history now, and all that information you learned about first-month baby care may be a little hard to remember when your son or daughter is crying for attention.

Don’t worry: Your situation is 100 percent normal. If you need a refresher on how to take care of a newborn, it doesn’t make you a bad parent. In fact, admitting that you need a little reminder means you are the kind of parent who will put pride aside to do what is best for your child.

You aren’t alone. There are plenty of resources and newborn baby tips to help you be the best parent possible. You can start with the ones listed here.

How to Take Care of a Newborn: Getting Started

Even though they can’t get into much trouble themselves, newborn babies are still a lot of work. They have a schedule all of their own and require constant supervision — which can seem like jumping in the deep end as a brand-new parent. No wonder so many new parents panic and ask, “How can I take care of my newborn baby?” after bringing them home from the hospital.

First, take a deep breath. The first baby care tip for new moms and dads is to have a level and clear head before moving forward. If you need to, find someone to care for your child while you have the chance to shower, take a nap and refresh yourself. Then, you can be ready to start caring for a newborn with a new invigoration.

In general, there are three specific things to know about taking care of a newborn baby: how they eat and sleep, and how to take care of their delicate skin.

What to Know About a Newborn’s Feeding Schedule

It’s normal for new parents to wonder how often to feed a newborn and how much to feed a newborn. After all, a brand-new baby is always growing, and you need to give them the nutritional support they need to be strong and healthy. Therefore, it’s common for newborn babies to need to feed eight to 12 times a day. That’s about one feeding every two to three hours!

Every newborn is different, which means your newborn feeding schedule will be unique. It’s recommended that parents feed their baby on demand during the first month of life. Babies know they are hungry, and they will certainly let you know, too. Newborns should not go more than four to five hours without a feeding. Whether you feed your baby with formula or by breastfeeding will be up to you. Both options are good; it just depends on what you think is best for your family.

If you are breastfeeding, your baby may experience a phenomenon called “cluster feeding.” This is what it sounds like — when a baby feeds quickly but often within the space of one or two hours. A cluster-feeding newborn is normal; babies have small stomachs, and they are often hungry. However, it’s important to time this cluster feeding between 4 p.m. and bedtime to set your baby up for the best chance of sleeping longer through the night.

You may worry about the newborn feeding amount your baby is getting, but babies know how much they need. If your baby is steadily gaining weight, seems content between feedings, and has at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements a day, they are getting enough to eat.

Always reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your newborn’s feeding.

What to Know About a Newborn’s Sleep Schedule

A newborn baby doesn’t just eat a lot; they also sleep a lot. Unfortunately, the 16 to 17 hours of sleep they get a day isn’t all in one go — which is why your baby will be up and ready to go every two to four hours, even during the night. And don’t think they won’t expect you to get up with them.

As tiring as it can be to get up with your baby several times during the night, know that this is completely normal. Newborn sleep patterns are erratic, and sleep-training a newborn is wasted effort. Your baby won’t start sleeping longer periods, especially at night, for a few more months, which is why having a partner you rely on during this stage will help you get the sleep that you need, too.

While co-sleeping with a newborn in your bed can be tempting, this act is actually very dangerous. It increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Instead, you may consider placing your baby’s crib in your room for ease of access when they wake up and to hear their cries during the night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing for at least the first six months of a baby’s life, after which you may start creating a separate sleep schedule for your child.

What to Know About Taking Care of a Newborn’s Skin

Another one of the things to take care of for a newborn baby is their skin. Your baby has spent the last nine months in the womb, and their skin may take some time to adjust to the new atmosphere out in the real world. Therefore, you’ll want to be gentle with their skin: Don’t do daily baths, choose gentle products designed for babies and don’t forget the lotion.

Taking care of a newborn umbilical cord can seem complicated, too. You may be worried about touching this sensitive wound that is still healing, but you may also be worried about leaving it alone for fear of infection. Until your baby’s umbilical stump falls off (which is completely normal!), be gentle with it: Keep it clean and dry, give your baby sponge baths, expose it to air if it is warm, and avoid dressing your child in tight clothes.

When Does Taking Care of a Newborn Get Easier?

Baby care during the first month after birth can be overwhelming. Even the best-prepared parents find themselves exhausted and second-guessing their decision to add to their family. Having a support system in place during this transitional period in your life can be invaluable.

But, what if you are taking care of a newborn alone — at the same time that you are trying to keep your family afloat by working and managing household responsibilities?

There are many single parents successfully taking care of a newborn in the United States, but it is a difficult path. Being a single parent may not be right for everyone. If you are overwhelmed with taking care of a newborn baby alone, you may not be sure that having a baby was right for you in the first place. If this is the case, remember that you always have options.

First, look to your support system. Do you have friends or family who can share baby-raising responsibilities with you? If not, and you are unsure whether you can provide the best quality of life to your child, you may consider a temporary guardianship or placing your child for adoption with a family who can provide the quality of care you cannot.

Adoption is always an option, even after you have brought your child home from the hospital. If you are having trouble caring for a newborn, don’t be afraid to reach out to an adoption agency for more information about this option. They can answer your questions for free, and you are never obligated to choose adoption until you are 100 percent confident in your choice.

Remember, taking care of a newborn seems overwhelming to every new parent. You are not alone. You just need to find the resources and help you need to do the best thing for your child and you.