newborn being checked by doctor
Baby

Your baby’s first few days at the hospital

The first few days your baby is alive will be at the hospital (for hospital births). I prepared myself for the journey and found out what was going to happen to me.

What I failed to look into was what was going to be going on with my new baby. What were my baby’s first few days going to look like? These things were not covered in my centoring or labor classes.

I knew about the power hour but was not informed about baby’s medical health needs.

POWER HOUR

power hour

Power hour right after birth

I’ve shown this picture before, but this is our power hour.

Power hour is the term used to describe the baby’s first hour or two of life where they get to just lay on mommy skin to skin and no one is bugging them.

Not all hospitals do this, and it varies in length. Power hour can be done after vaginal or c-section births.

For those intending to breastfeed, this is an important time to start the breastfeeding relationship.

Most babies, when placed on their mother right after birth, will seek out the nipple on their own. Sara didn’t. She just wanted to sleep. So we had to help her get on the nipple for her first feeding.

FIRST BATH

When I first got to the hospital, the pediatrician asked me if I wanted Sara to be bathed by the hospital or at home.

I had assumed she would be bathed immediately after birth and that’s all there was to it.

I chose to have Sara bathed immediately. I had Strep B, and I didn’t want the possibility of the bacteria getting on her and getting her sick.

I did not find out about this until right before delivery. There was no time to research what was best.

Apparently, there are some benefits to waiting for that first bath.

Turns out, what baby is born covered in helps protect against infection of bacteria like Strep B.

baby's first bath
Baby being given a bath

Vernix

Babies are born (whether vaginally or c-section) covered in a substance called vernix. Vernix acts as a natural antibacterial barrier.

So it protects against things like Strep B and E. Coli which are common transmissions during birth.

Low Blood Sugar

That first bath causes baby stress. And newborns are not ready for a lot of stress right after birth. They are busy trying to deal with no longer having the placenta to feed them nutrients.

Excessive stress can lead to low blood sugar which can cause a super sleepy baby making breastfeeding difficult.

My experience does coincide with this information. I struggled to get Sara to eat in the beginning. All she wanted to do was sleep.

But she also inherited some major sleep genes from her daddy. Her first bath did not take place until after power hour, and she still preferred sleep to the breast during it.

Temperature Control

Babies struggle to maintain their temperature right after birth. That is why we have to wrap them in more cloth and keep cute, little hats on them for the first few days.

A bath runs the risk of them getting too cold and getting hypothermia.

The risk exists because of a lack of ability to control body temperature. Once babies develop this ability, hypothermia is no longer a concern.

Parents get the opportunity to enjoy that first bath

If you choose to wait on the bath, then you get to partake in it.

The first bath can still happen at the hospital, but if it happens when mom has at least somewhat recovered, the nurses can teach the new parents how to properly bathe baby.

Measurements

Newborn Baby Head Measuring
A minutes old newborn baby having a doctor measure her head

Baby’s first measurements are taken at the hospital. These include height, weight, head circumference, and APGAR scores.

I had no idea what APGAR scores were. I didn’t find out they were a thing until family visited a week after Sara was born and asked about them.

My pediatrician office had them from the hospital so I were able to find out what they were.

So what is APGAR? It an assessment of how well Baby is adjusting to life outside of the womb. It does not reflect any intelligence or agility later in life. It really is just looking at how well Baby is doing post labor.

The test looks at five things on baby: skin color, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing rate.

It is done initially at one minute post birth. Then again at five minutes. If the first two tests are not as high as the nurses would like (a 7 or higher, on a scale of 1-10), they will do them again at 10 minutes.

CORD BLOOD BANKING

This is something I knew about, but it is not available in my area, unfortunately. If the option is available in your area, you can donate the cord blood for public uses. These can include research or treatment for someone who is sick.

Another option is to pay to have the blood and tissue saved for your baby and family in case of future needs.

This is a bit of a complicated subject, so I’m going to leave its explanation to the expert. If you want to know more, check out the Children’s MD website.

PACIFIERS

It never occurred to me that I would need to write on my birth plan no pacifiers. I use them now and love them. But I didn’t want to use them while we were learning how to breastfeed and establishing that milk supply.

Sara came back from the nursery one time with a pacifier in her mouth. I was a bit upset took it out immediately. The hospital I delivered at fully supported breastfeeding but still gave pacifiers without asking us.

If you want to hold off on pacifier use, or not use them at all, you should write it in your birth plan.

DELAYED CLAMPING

This was another thing I knew nothing about. Delaying the clamping of the cord for just a few minutes allows the placenta to pump more blood into the baby.

That extra blood equates to a third or more of the baby’s total blood volume. The extra blood helps to protect against anemia for the first 6 months of life.

Blood Test

Blood tests are performed on babies shortly after they are born. I didn’t know that. Sara came back from the nursery one time with a band-aid on her foot.

I assumed it was just part of her care. My husband wasn’t at the hospital when this occurred. He had gone home to take care of the pets. When he got back and noticed the band aid, he was worried she had been injured.

When we removed the band-aid, there were three little pin pricks. That’s how the blood test is done.

OINTMENT AND FIRST SHOTS

newborn being checked by doctor
Newborn beeing checked by Doctor with stethoscope a few minutes after birth

I only found out about these things before birth because of the hospital paperwork. I was filling it out at home and came across them as options.

Since I didn’t know what they were, I chose no.

Later, I went back through the paperwork to make sure I filled it out correctly.

I decided to look up these things I didn’t know anything about. I was glad I did.

Once I knew what they were, I changed my mind. I definitely wanted my baby to get them.

Eye Ointment

Right after birth, drops can be placed into the baby’s eyes. The purpose of these drops is to kill off harmful bacteria that can be transmitted to baby from mother during birth.

Some of these bacteria can cause issues like blindness. The more harmful ones come from STDs. Moms who know they are low risk for STDs sometimes opt out of the eye ointment.

But there are other bacteria babies can get from moms.

The ointment has little to no risk of side effects. So there is not much of a risk for Baby to receive it.

Vitamin K Shot

For those who stray from the word shot, it is important to know that this is not a vaccine. It’s a supplement in shot form.

It is given by a small needle into your baby’s thigh muscle after the power hour is complete.

It usually causes no harm to delay the shot until after initial bonding, but a delay longer than that can be problematic. Especially if the shot is completely denied.

Its purpose is to help with blood clotting. Vitamin K in older children and adults is produced through gut bacteria. Babies are born with sterile stomachs so they can’t make their own Vitamin K.

Without the supplement, babies can suffer from catastrophic brain bleeds known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding. Even if parents are super careful, it’s still a danger in babies who don’t get their supplement.

Once babies hit 6 months, they start making their own Vitamin K.

It comes in a single-dose vial and you can even ask for a preservative-free kind!

Find out more from the CDC.

Hepatitis Vaccine

Babies can receive their first vaccination in the hospital.

Vaccines are a big topic worthy of their own posts. I’ve written a series on the topic.

But do be aware, babies can receive their first vaccine at the hospital.

FIND A PEDIATRICIAN AHEAD OF TIME

pediatrician
Baby receiving Health Care

I did, and it worked out great. While I was pregnant, I scheduled an appointment with a local pediatrician office.

I asked the doctor questions and learned about the office. I decided I liked her and didn’t feel the need to check out other offices.

I wrote on my birth plan the pediatrician’s name so that I wouldn’t have to worry about remembering the office’s name right after labor.

The doctor I spoke with came to see Sara the day after she was born and checked her out. Then the doctor who was on call the following day came and checked Sara over before she was released.

My pediatrician office has about 6 different doctors. I’ve enjoyed working with all of the ones I’ve met.

Meeting with someone from the office ahead of time gave me the chance to make sure the office supported my parenting decisions like breastfeeding.

Just like how you want to deliver somewhere you’re comfortable, you want your child to have a doctor you can trust. The best way to do that is to find them before Baby comes.

Most pediatrician offices allow free visits of new parents to come in to see the office and ask questions.

BABY’S FIRST DAYS

There is a lot of information to know about labor and your baby. Hopefully, this helps you understand your baby’s life post delivery.

If you want more information, check out Children’s MD. The site was a great source for this post and is written by doctors.

What are your experiences with these different topics? Was there anything that happened to your Baby that you were unaware of was going to be a thing?

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Rob
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I must say that I am totally impressed! It’s been over 30 years since my wife and I went through this for the second time. But you have talked about so many things I never knew about!
I had no idea the baby’s blood sugar could be low. I’m taking all this in because my daughter is due in February and I’m going to let her know about this because it’s important! You have really covered a lot for newborns and new mothers! Thanks for some excellent advice!

NIkki
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Oh I wish I would have seen this before I had my last baby. There is a 12 year age gap between my infant and my next oldest child. I forgot A LOT about newborns and the birthing process over the years. Great read. Thanks for sharing!!

Telma
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I don’t have any kids on own and never been pregnant, but learning about newborns fascinating me all the time.
I did not know about Delayed Clamping. I did not know that is a way to pump more blood on the baby’s little body for some future illness. How amazing this can be!
I am sure this article will help many new mothers to be, to learn what’s the best and what’s decisions to make to the newborn.
This post is very informative and helpful. I can’t wait for your new post.

ant
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ant

I LOVE YOUR SITE! Content is incredibly informative and helpful.

So much more than I expected!

Keep up the posts I am following you 🙂

Ant

John
Guest

Nicole,
Great article for expecting mothers and fathers to read. Your information will give them a checklist to use before and after birth.
There is a lot that has changed since my last was born 13 years ago, I wounder how many people know all of this stuff.
We never used a pacifier for our last, it is something they do not get used to, they never ask for.
John