Newborn Care At Birth – The Essentials

After a normal, healthy birth, it is common for babies to look a little puffed and have a thick, whitish coating over their body-the amniotic fluid that protected their skin in the womb.

As soon as the baby is born, the cord is clamped and cut by either a medical professional or your partner.

Your baby might then be placed on your chest skin-to-skin for bonding which is important in those first few hours of life. Your baby will soon be taken for an APGAR assessment to evaluate your newborn’s heart rate, activity and muscle tone, reflex, breathing, and color.

Your baby should be kept warm and swaddled in a blanket. If all goes well, most babies start breastfeeding in the first hour or so.

It would be best if you took care of her umbilical cord stump so that it doesn’t get infected. It is best to give your little one a sponge bath until the stump falls off.

You must put your baby to sleep on her back and not in any other position to avoid sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and keep all fluffy pillows, soft toys, and blankets away from her.

Seeing those waves on your big tummy must make you yearn in anticipation of your little one.

Looking back, when I delivered my baby, oh my! What a miracle I thought it was, this tiny creature was inside me for 9 months, and now he’s finally here and absolutely perfect (well, what child wouldn’t be perfect in her mother’s eyes).

Protecting him and taking care of him had become my sole purpose, but it soon dawned on me the thoughts on how to take care of this tiny little creature.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed once your baby arrives, but here are a few things that you can remember to ease you through those initial days after birth.

What will my newborn look like?

Newborn baby boy sleeping in his cot at the hostpital

If you’re a first-time parent, you might be surprised by how your newborn looks like right after birth.

If you had a vaginal delivery, remember that your kid passed through a very narrow and boney passage, so it is likely that she might be bruised and puffed.

They are very likely to be covered in thick, gooey, whitish amniotic fluid, blood, and vernix. The amniotic fluid and vernix protect your baby’s skin inside the womb and will help her feel secure outside the womb, but they will wash away soon after her first bath.

Your baby might be born with a bald head or a head full of hair (mine did!). When placed in your hands, she might have her eyes open, and her face might be a little puffy.

You might even notice soft, fine hair on her body, marks here and there, or long fingernails. The marks and the fine hair on her body will soon fade away with time. But, in case you’re concerned with something you noticed on your baby’s body, do consult the pediatrician.

Your baby’s look will change day after day and after a few weeks, and your baby will be exactly how you pictured her, just perfect!

Medical tests

APGAR testing

Soon after you and your baby are ready, she’ll be taken by medical professionals for the APGAR assessment test. It is your baby’s first test (more like an observation).

In most places, the doctors perform this test even without the parent’s notice. It is a test to check whether the baby is doing fine or needs any assistance.

A score is given to your baby on how well her heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex, and skin color is. This score determines how well your baby has made the transition from inside the womb to life outside the womb.

A score of 0, 1, and 2 are given on each of the five criteria.

How APGAR Is Scored

Sign0 Points1 Point2 Points
AActivity (Muscle Tone)AbsentArms and legs flexedActive movement
PPulseAbsentBelow 100 BPMAbove 100 BPM
GGrimace (Reflex Irritability)No responseGrimaceSneeze, cough, pulls away
AAppearance (Skin Color)Blue-gray, pale all overNormal, except for extremitiesNormal over the entire body
RRespirationAbsentSlow, irregularGood, crying

Eye Care

Your baby might be given eye drops or ointment to prevent an eye infection she can probably get during delivery. These drops should be administered within two hours of birth.

Weight and height

Your baby’s weight and height are routinely checked, even when you go for vaccinations later. It is to check whether your baby is growing healthily.

Most babies’ weight and length are measured immediately after birth, but it changes from one hospital protocol to the next.


Vitamin K and Hepatitis vaccination will be given to your baby after birth to protect from any health conditions that can harm newborns.

Newborn screen testing

Your baby will get newborn screen testing to check whether she has any serious or rare condition that wasn’t detected before.

Make sure to ask your doctor to walk you through different stages after delivery if you’re anxious about anything.


Newborn baby breastfeeding

In the first hour or 2, your baby might be alert, fully awaken, and it is the perfect time for you and your partner to spend some time with her and the best time for you to breastfeed your baby.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns who are full-term and healthy should remain with the mother in skin-to-skin contact until the first feeding session.

Babies are born with an instinctive ability to suck. I remember as a first-time parent when my little one was placed on my chest, and it seemed as if he knew what to do and how to do it, and he nursed right away.

It was weirdly an extraordinary feeling that you get, wondering how this little bundle of joy learned to do that.

Babies are born with sucking and grasping reflexes; try to insert a finger inside your baby’s palms, and she’ll grasp you tightly.

Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t seem to nurse immediately; she might just lick your nipple first and slowly start nursing. But don’t feel shy or embarrassed to ask the nurse to help you through it.

Before getting discharged, make sure to consult a lactation specialist for one-on-one coaching or breastfeeding group support.


Newborn bath time

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends bathing a newborn after 6 to 24 hours of birth as they have a hard time regulating their temperature.

Until the umbilical cord stump falls off, make sure to only sponge bathe her.

After the stump falls off, you can bathe her only 2-3 times a week as their skin tends to get dry soon.

Make sure to use fragrance-free soaps and lotions for your newborn.

Bathing a newborn can be tricky at first, especially if they are crying during the bath, but you can watch a few youtube videos, or better, ask the nurse after your delivery to teach you.

Your newborn might swallow a bit of the bath water, and this should not be a cause of any concern.

Studies have also shown that if you waited a week to bathe your newborn, it could help stabilize their blood sugar and temperature.


Adorable newborn baby sleeping

AAP recommends that you place your newborn in their crib on their back to reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies under the age of 1 are at risk of SIDS in their sleep.

All soft toys, quilts, blankets, and pillows should be kept away from them and not placed in the crib.

Frankly, your baby doesn’t need any soft toys right now; she’s not even going to know that they are there. All she needs is you and your warmth.

You should also get proper mattress wrapping for your baby’s crib to further help prevent SIDS.

You should be careful about washing your hands before you hold your baby and ask your family and friends to do so, too, before they hold the baby. Infections and diseases can be easily spread if proper precautions are not taken.

Your baby right now has very low immunity, and a mild infection for adults can be fatal for a newborn if contracted.

Newborn care

Attending tons of newborn care classes may not prepare you for the real thing. So, make sure to ask the nurses in the hospital to help you out while taking care of your newborn.

You and your partner both must be comfortable with doing these steps:

  • Holding your baby correctly while supporting her neck
  • Changing your newborn’s diaper
  • Bathing, dressing, and swaddling her
  • Feeding and burping her
  • Caring for the umbilical cord
  • Using a bulb syringe to clear your baby’s nasal passages

What if my baby has problems at birth?

If your doctor suspects your baby has any health condition after birth, she’ll be taken away immediately after cutting the cord and wiping her.

She’ll be then placed naked on a radiant warmer, which will help her stay warm, and the doctors will conduct their tests.

If necessary, she’ll be taken to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for further care; otherwise, if everything goes well, she’ll be swaddled in a blanket and brought to you for feeding.

When to see the doctor again?

The doctor might call you again after 3 to 5 days after birth and again in about two weeks to see the progress your baby has made.

If you suspect your baby of sudden unexpected weight loss or jaundice, visit your doctor immediately.

After this, you’ll be asked to visit your pediatrician monthly till your baby turns 6 months old for vaccinations.

So, my dear soon-to-be-mum, stop getting anxious and enjoy this phase of pregnancy because you’ll miss it after the baby is born. Don’t worry about how you’ll take care of your baby.

Just trust your instincts and your guts; it won’t let you down. I’m sure you’ll be the best mother to your baby. Just take it one day or even an hour at a time, and you’ll be alright.

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Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid,  you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best'.

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