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Whether the birth has been calm or more traumatic, there’s nothing like the moment when your baby is placed in your arms for the first time.
A few babies need some help to get their breathing settled. If your baby needs this, baby will be put on a resuscitation trolley and given oxygen, and perhaps have their breathing passages suctioned clear of mucus. Most babies only need a few minutes’ treatment.
Unless your baby needs special care, after the birth you will get to hold and begin to get to know your new baby immediately. A good way to do this is to hold your baby so that her skin is next to your skin. This helps to calm your baby, make her feel safe, and keeps her nice and warm. Even if you have had a caesarean you should still be able to lie down with your baby next to you.
Your baby’s sight isn’t yet well developed – she can only focus on things about an arm’s length away – but she may well turn and gaze at your face. It’s as if after hearing your voice for the past five months, she now wants to get to know who you are. All being well you will put your baby to the breast soon after birth. Many babies are very alert and start to suck immediately. Don’t worry if your baby does not start to suck straight away, she will eventually if you continue with the skin-to-skin. Sometimes you may need some help – just ask your LMC.
This will allow your baby to get some of the benefits of colostrum, (the first milk), which contains vital antibodies which will help protect your baby from illness.
For more information on how to breastfeed, check out our breastfeeding sections which has heaps of advice about breastfeeding positions, expressing, frequency and more.
As soon as possible after 48 hours of age, your baby will be offered a blood test (heel prick test) for this screening. This test screens for over 20 rare metabolic disorders which can all be treated early before babies get sick.
Soon in all areas, newborn babies will be offered screening for hearing loss soon after their birth. Screening is carried out by specially trained ‘screeners’ and babies who do not pass the screen are referred to an audiologist for diagnostic testing. most babies referred will not have hearing loss.
Newborn babies often aren’t the soft, clean chubby babies you see pictured in magazines. Your baby has just come through the complicated process of birth and may show signs of it. Here are some of the things you may notice:
The skin – may still be bluish, or covered in ‘vernix’, the white substance that protected him while he was in the amniotic fluid; it may also be blotchy.
The head – may be a bit pointed due to ‘moulding’ where the skull bones overlap slightly during the journey down the birth canal. This happens because there are two soft spots (fontanelles) on the front and back of the head, where the bones have not yet grown together – they will close as your baby grows.
The cord – after it is clamped and cut, there will be a blue-white stump still attached to your baby’s tummy; it will shrivel up and drop off after about a week.
The genitals – babies of both sexes may have slightly swollen breasts and genitals – the effect of your hormones at work in the baby’s body. These effects will soon wear off.
Your baby will also be weighed, measured and checked by your LMC. If you have chosen to give vitamin K, it is usually done at this time. Also, if you have had a hospital birth, a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in the care of babies and children) may carry out some tests designed to spot any potential problems before you go home. This is a good opportunity to ask any questions about your baby. If you are at home, this examination will be carried out by your LMC.
If you have given birth in the maternity unit, you may be moved to a postnatal bed. You will be encouraged to keep your baby with you all the time. You may decide to stay in the maternity unit only a few hours but can expect to stay two days or longer if you have had a caesarean.
If your baby is very small, or ill, he may be taken to the neonatal unit. This is a very worrying experience for new mothers and fathers alike. Just when you most want to hold and care for your baby, you can’t. Reassure yourself that your baby is getting the best care possible, and the care he needs. Staff will make sure that you get to hold and cuddle your baby as soon as possible.