After waiting (maybe not so patiently!) for 9 months, the moment has arrived: Your baby is finally here! Now that you’re holding your little one in your arms, you’ve officially entered the neonatal period.
What is that? How long does it last? What can you expect? Don’t worry, we have answers.
The neonatal period is the first 28 days – the first 4 weeks – of a baby’s life, whether it arrived early, late or just on the due date.
The first 28 days after birth are an important period of rapid growth and development. These days also set the stage for your baby’s feeding and sleeping habits to come.
While the newborn period is a time of bonding and growth, it is also a time of caution. During the neonatal period, there is a risk of infection and many congenital problems, if present, are discovered.
If you gave birth in a hospital, you will spend at least part of that week being cared for by the nurses and doctors there.
During the first few days after birth, healthcare professionals will carefully examine your newborn and may perform a number of tests and screenings to assess their health, such as:
- Hearing screening. Done before a baby leaves the hospital or birthing center, a newborn hearing screening tests your baby’s hearing.
- Blood tests. A few drops of blood are taken from a prick in your baby’s heel. The sample is sent to a state lab to determine if your baby has one of the few but serious health issues.
- Oxygen screening. During this painless test, a device called a pulse oximeter is attached to your baby’s arm and foot to measure the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood. This test helps doctors see if your child has a congenital heart defect.
The first week of life is that of sleep and food. Newborn babies are expected to sleep 14 to 17 hours a day. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the time you want, as he will need to feed every 2-4 hours until he is back to his birth weight.
Remember, “go back to sleep”. Always lay your baby on their back to sleep and make sure they are on a firm surface without a blanket or pillow.
As soon as you leave the hospital, you can also start letting your baby spend short periods on their stomach while awake by letting them rest on your chest or on a blanket on a flat surface while someone is with him.
This tummy time is important to help your baby develop head, neck and upper body muscle strength that prepares him to crawl.
It is common for toddlers to lose weight in the first few days immediately after birth. Your baby’s doctor will ensure that your baby’s weight does not drop more than 10% below his birth weight.
During the first hours and days of your baby’s life, many changes occur in his body. Immediately after delivery, when the umbilical cord is tight, your baby breathes for the first time and his lungs begin to work for the first time. Fluid leaks from their lungs. Their heart changes and oxygen-rich blood flows to the lungs.
Your baby’s kidneys are beginning to filter his blood. Their digestive tract starts working by releasing a thick substance called meconium that lined their digestive tract while they were in the womb.
Your baby’s skin may be thin, peeling or covered in fine hairs. Their skin will begin to change during the early neonatal period.
You will need to take your baby to see their doctor or other healthcare professional during their first week at home – around 3-5 days of life – for their first health visit.
If you are the birth parent, your child’s doctor will likely also talk to you about how you are feeling and how you are adjusting to your new parenting role. If you need help right now, they can get started for you.
Although it may seem like your baby is still in a constant cycle of sleeping and eating every 2-3 hours, by the end of week 2 your little one should be back to birth weight.
It’s an exciting step! This usually means you can stop waking them up to feed them every few hours during the night. However, they will probably still wake up quite often on their own.
If you are breastfeeding, it may still feel new and difficult. Your nipples may also be sore. A meeting with a lactation consultant can help you in case of breastfeeding difficulties. If you are giving formula, discuss any concerns with your child’s pediatrician.
If your baby has been circumcised, he will probably complete his healing this week.
Call your doctor or other healthcare professional if you notice a decrease in the number of wet diapers produced by your toddler or if he doesn’t seem interested in feeding for several consecutive feedings. It may be a sign of illness or a feeding problem that needs to be addressed.
Your little one may start a growth spurt this week that causes her to feed in clusters. This can make eating and sleeping erratic.
You may also notice your baby trying to lift his head. It is important to continue or extend tummy time with your baby. It helps build muscle strength and should be offered several times a day.
If this hasn’t happened before, your baby’s umbilical cord stump will likely fall off this week as it heals.
By week 4, your little one may seem more alert and expressive as their hearing and vision continue to develop.
By the end of week 4, you and your little one can find your groove. You may even feel like you are able to begin to identify the meaning of some of their cries.
Don’t worry if it hasn’t yet. Many factors can influence the way you feel and the bond you create with your baby.
Towards the end of the first month, it’s time for another visit to your pediatrician for a check-in. You will probably discuss your baby’s situation
Some complications that may appear during the neonatal period include:
The first month after the arrival of a baby is the most risky. According to
This is why well-baby visits during the neonatal period are so important.
Much has been done to reduce the number of infant deaths worldwide, especially those in the neonatal period. Knowing the types of complications that can occur and getting prompt medical attention is essential.
If you are the birth parent, during the first month your body will recover from all the complications of labor and delivery. He will also experience a range of hormonal changes, which can leave you feeling all the emotions.
Postpartum discomfort can vary, but uterine pain and vaginal discharge are expected when your uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size. If you had a caesarean birth, you should not lift anything heavier than your baby during this time.
It’s important to refrain from placing anything in your vagina until cleared by your doctor. This is usually around 6-8 weeks after giving birth.
During the neonatal period, the non-birthing parent may also experience a range of emotions. They may find themselves adjusting to a new sleep schedule, feeding the baby, and changing diapers. They may struggle to bond or also experience symptoms of depression.
This is all normal and there are treatments that can help. Contact your doctor for help if these feelings begin to interfere with daily life functions.
Adding a new member to your family is a big adjustment for everyone!
Your little one will go through a period of intense growth during the neonatal period, that is to say the first 4 weeks after birth. This is a critical time in a baby’s life, so it’s important to let their doctor know immediately if there are any health concerns.
But remember, your well-being matters too. It is also important to take care of yourself and seek help for any physical or emotional problems that may arise during this time.