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Normal for a Newborn

If you’re feeling prepared for your birth but really worried or apprehensive about what comes next, you’re very much not alone. A lot of people haven’t even held a newborn baby before they are handed their own and expected to immediately take complete responsibility for them. One of the things we do as postnatal doulas is to reassure parents that their newborn is behaving normally and that they are doing a good job of finding and following their instincts.

This list isn’t comprehensive but it’s a good start for checking many of the things newborns do that are completely normal. 

    1. My newborn wants to be held all the time.

      Yes, this is normal. Your baby is in what we call the fourth trimester  (just like the trimesters of pregnancy). This term recognises that compared to other mammals human babies are born relatively early in their development due to our large brains and relatively small pelvis shape. As a result, babies are happiest when kept in similar conditions to the womb (warm, low light, skin to skin, hearing your heartbeat) and allowed to get used to the world gradually and at their own pace. One of the easiest ways to keep holding your baby but also be able to go anywhere or eat anything is to use a sling. Check out our post on the benefits of slings for more information.

    2. My newborn is always hungry.

      Yes, that’s normal. Newborn babies have very tiny tummies. They feed little and often. They also get lots of comfort from being close to you and from suckling. Your breastfed newborn needs to feed at least 8-12 times in 24 hours. Your bottle-fed newborn can also be fed little and often as required but follow your healthcare providor’s advice about how much formula is needed in 24 hours. There’s lots of good information about normal breastfeeding on the KellyMom website and lots of good information about bottle feeding for newborns in this leaflet.

    3. My baby doesn’t follow any routine.

      Yes, this is normal. Our expectations of babies and ourselves in the newborn period is often heavily affected by the myth of a ‘good’ baby perpetuated by childcare ‘experts’ based on the Victorian ideal that children be seen and not heard. So the ideal has been to separate as quickly as possible from our children, for them to follow a routine set by us and to sleep without our input during the night. The problem with this is it simply goes against our natural instincts and what our babies are naturally capable of. Keeping our babies close to us, carrying them and sleeping close by, feeding them when they are hungry follows our natural instincts and helps build a secure connection and good future mental health for our children. Routine is not important to your baby but if you feel better in yourself when you have a routine to follow it’s fine to work out a flexible routine that works for you once your baby is a little older (maybe around 6-8 weeks) and more used to life in the world.

    4. My baby doesn’t sleep ‘like a baby’.

      Yes, this is normal. It might feel like your new-born never sleeps. It’s probably not true but it’s probably true that they don’t have any idea what time of day or night it is and they definitely don’t have any idea we’re ‘supposed’ to sleep mostly at night.

      Newborn babies usually sleep quite a lot in the first few weeks but it’s usually in comparatively short bursts and more often than not they sleep best in close proximity to their mother.

      New-born babies will gradually start to concentrate their sleep a bit more to nighttime once they reach about 6-8 weeks but they will still need to feed frequently day or night. For the first six weeks at least, for your own sanity, you may need to think of yourself as having a 24 hour lifestyle. Plan your day and night around sleeping when your baby sleeps. Make comfy places to relax and feed your baby, be prepared with something to keep you occupied during long night feeds. Delegate housework to other family members or do it while your baby is awake in the sling or baby swing. Go to bed early or get up late and feel free to pop off for a nap when a trusted visitor arrives and can take over holding the baby for an hour. For more information on normal baby sleep click here https://www.isisonline.org.uk/

    5. My baby’s poo is black / brown / yellow

      Yes, that’s normal. The first poo your baby does is called meconium. It’s black and sticky and a serious job to clean off. As milk feeding is established your baby’s poo will turn gradually through brown to a yellow colour and about the consistency of runny scrambled egg (or sometimes more liquid). All that’s normal. This change in colour and in the first few weeks and a poo at least a couple of times a day (which may or may not be explosive) is all normal. Some green poo is also normal. If your baby has always got really green frothy poo and or if it smells really terrible then it might not be normal, this is the time to check with your health visitor or breastfeeding supporter if everything is going ok or if there might be something that needs tweaking.

    Always ask your doula any questions about anything you’re worried might not be normal. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and that’s what she’s there for, to help you gain your own confidence. Another way of encouraging yourself to gain confidence is to use positive affirmations. You will make up your own ones that are relevant to you but we’ve also put a few together to get you started.