Newborns in a Nutshell
After the Stork shares some valuable tips for newborn care with us.
The newborn stage is a tiring but beautiful time in your mothering journey. Our goal is to help you enjoy this special time. Newborns have been my world for over 20 years as I own and operate After the Stork. I have learned so much about these precious babies over the many years I have cared for them. I want to share with you what I think will help you most as you care for your little one.
In the first week, newborns sleep an average of 16-18 hours in a 24-hour period. They will sleep 8-9 hours during the day and 8-9 hours at night. The daytime sleep is divided into four or more naps.
By the end of the month they sleep an average of 15-17 hours in a 24-hour period. 8 ½- 10 hours of this sleep will be at night, and 6-7 hours during the day. Daytime sleep is divided into three or four naps. They will still wake up two to three times at night for feedings but should go right back to sleep. A breastfed newborn will eat between 8 and 12 times a day. A bottle-fed baby will eat between 8 and 10 times a day.
To help him to organize his sleep, expose the baby to indirect sunlight during the day. Keep him around the activity of the house during the day. Naps will need to be in a quiet and darkened area around 4-6 months but napping on the go is fine for now. Develop a flexible feeding routine right away. I suggest the EASY routine:
Eat –> Awake –> Sleep –> You
The routine is 2 ½ -3 hours in length before the cycle repeats. Look at the clock as you begin the feeding. That is the time of the feeding no matter how long the feeding takes. A feeding should not take longer than 45 minutes and should not be shorter than 20 minutes. The baby should be fed, burped, and diapered, and then held upright for 15 minutes or more after each feeding to help him digest and get his burps out. Patting his back for burps can be helpful, but its most important to remember not to lay him down right after a feeding as this often leads to him spitting up his feeding. I suggest changing the diaper about a third to halfway through the feeding. If you change the diaper before the feeding, he will be hungry and will cry, but if you wait until the end of the feeding he might spit up. If you wait too long after the feeding he will be tired and will likely cry. During the feeding seems to be the best time to change the diaper. If he has a BM, change immediately after the BM.
When the baby starts to fuss one to two hours after waking up, he is tired and not hungry. Check his diaper for a BM by peeking in the leg opening. Swaddle and help him to transition to sleep by offering a pacifier, rocking him, or patting his back or bottom. A newborn will often settle if you turn on the kitchen fan or white noise machine. The noise has to be louder than the crying for this tip to work. Lower it to a normal volume once the baby has stopped crying to protect his ears from being exposed to prolonged loud noise. Remember to swaddle at these upset times.
If the baby has been awake for more than two hours, he needs to go to sleep. Maximum awake time is three hours and at that time he is probably overtired. When babies are overtired they are harder to get to sleep. When your baby is fussy and it has not yet been two hours since the last feeding, make sure the diaper is clean, make sure all burps are out, and then consider if he is tired before offering the breast or bottle again. Talk to your pediatrician to make sure he is eating enough for his weight. It is important to make sure babies are well fed, but I often see moms constantly feeding their babies. When you offer the breast or bottle to a tired baby, he will usually eat, fall asleep, and then be woken by a burp. That short nap makes it difficult for him to fall asleep again but still fussy because he is still tired. Never withhold food from a hungry baby, but don’t constantly be offering the breast and bottle or he will not have digested long enough to take a decent nap.
Sometimes babies will cluster feed (feed more often) between approximately 5 pm and 9 pm. During the “cluster feeding” time, the routine might not apply. This time can be quite chaotic and draining for both parents and their new babies. Use the “Five S’s” to sooth the newborn. Avoid feeding the baby more often than every two hours. When the baby finally goes to sleep, mom and dad should jump into bed. A lot of babies sleep well right after this “cluster feeding” fussy, wakeful time.
The Five S’s to soothe a fussy baby are very effective. Remember: Swaddle, Swing, Shushing (white noise), Side-Lying, Sucking. If the baby does not want to be swaddled, try wrapping the swaddle loosely as they are settling to sleep. Once they are asleep, wrap the swaddle around the baby so their arm movements don’t wake them up. Above all, remember to treasure this sweet newborn stage. I hope these tips help you as you care for your newborn. We would love to help if you need daytime or nighttime help with your precious little one.
Photographs provided by After the Stork.