After nine months of anticipation, meeting a new baby is an amazing time in a mom and dad's lives. The time seems even sweeter after a long and arduous labor and delivery, but just as much goes on in those first couple of hours that moms might be surprised. Those hours are sweet, but they are also very full.
The entire thing starts with the baby's first cry, but there are so many other firsts that happen that the mom might miss the milestones. Within a minute of life, the baby is going through his first test, and a more in-depth exam will happen soon. Sure, there is a lot of time for bonding with mom and dad, but in most hospitals in the United States, there are a lot more medical procedures than the mom might expect, including baby's first vaccination, an antibiotic and vitamin administered and more. The baby will do a lot of eating and sleeping in his life, and the first feedings and naps will definitely happen in those first two hours — maybe in the first few minutes.
One hundred and twenty minutes can mean a lot when they are the first ones for a new life brought into the world. Here are 15 things that happen to the baby in the first two hours after birth.
15 Best Cry Ever
The very first thing that a baby does at birth — at least we all hope he will — is cry.
While the sound can be a signal that something is wrong later in life, in the first few moments, that cry is an indication that something is right: that the baby is breathing.
A cry doesn't just get the air moving in and out of the baby's lungs, but it can also move any mucus that gets stuck in the baby's windpipe or lungs. The act of crying can force it out and help the baby's breathing to improve over the first minutes after birth.
Of course, as soon as the baby gets a good cry out, his mom and dad want to do all that they can to prevent hearing that sound again. But crying is the baby's first language — and some parents can even decode what different cries mean, be it the need for a new diaper or a sickness or hunger or tiredness. That first cry is an indication that the baby is announcing himself into the world. He needs his parents to help him take care of those needs, and that cry is their first introduction to their new role. Pretty soon, the baby will soothe and stop. But for just a moment or two, that cry is the best thing a mom has ever heard.
14 Baby's First Test
The baby's cry is actually part of the first test that the baby will go through.
The sound is a portion of the APGAR test, which has been administered on infants at birth for more than nearly 70 years. The assessment happens in the first minute after birth, and nurses and doctors are doing it without the mom even knowing, many times.
The score ranks five characteristics from 0 to 2, with the total top score being 10.
The first marker is for appearance, which is basically the baby's skin tone. If the baby is bluish, the score will be a 0, while a baby whose extremities are blue is a 1 and a good, healthy tone is a 2. The second measure is pulse, with a 0 being for no pulse and a 2 for a healthy one. Then, the doctor looks at grimace, which basically means reflexes. That is where the cry or another response to stimulation comes in. Fourth, the doctors assesses activity or muscle tone, where a baby who is active and moving will get the highest score, and fifth, the R is for respiration, which assesses the baby's breathing. The assessment just takes a few seconds, and it can help a doctor determine if the baby is in need of resuscitation. Most babies don't get a perfect score in that first minute, but they will have another chance at it — which we'll get to later.
13 Cutting The Umbilical Cord
The umbilical cord is a very vital organ while the baby is in his mother's womb.
It connects the child to the placenta and delivers all of the blood, oxygen and nutrition to the baby that he needs to grow and live. But after the birth, the job is done, and in most cultures, the cord is cut.
There are some traditions that keep the cord intact after the placenta is delivered, and a small fraction of people have started doing that in the United States these days. But carrying around a placenta for a week can make the job of taking care of a newborn even more difficult — and gross — so most cut it soon after the birth.
Again, there is a new trend to delay the cutting of the cord, which used to happen in hospitals within the first minute or two of life. But there are some who see a benefit in waiting until the cord has stopped pulsing, allowing oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to return to the baby before it is cut. Usually that takes about less than five minutes. Others are choosing to burn the cord in a kind of ceremony. But most babies will have their cords cut somewhere in those first several minutes of life. It doesn't hurt the baby, and some believe it's a kind of rite of passage for a dad.
12 Baby's Rub Down
After a baby is born, both the mom and the baby usually get a bit of a massage — but for both, it's not the pleasant experience that goes on in spas all across the country.
These rub downs are usually pretty aggressive for good reason. For the mom, it happens in the belly every hour or two to try to get the uterus to contract down to normal size faster. That helps stop the bleeding, but it's usually pretty rough.
Moms might not know, though, that the baby had his own rough massage in the first few moments of life as well. In those first few minutes after the baby is born, whether the doctor places the baby on the mom's chest or takes it to a bassinet to evaluate, the nurses will use a blanket and rub pretty hard on the chest and the back, the limbs too eventually. That motion not only cleans off the fluid and vernix and blood off of the baby a little, but it is mostly to stimulate the baby's breathing and improve the color tone. It might seem aggressive, but it's all for the baby's benefit, because pretty soon, there's another test.
11 Baby's Second Test
Just five minutes after the birth, the baby is on schedule to have his second exam.
This one is just like the first one — it's a second APGAR test that evaluates the baby again to see if he is continuing to thrive.
Some babies who have an APGAR score of 3 or 4 at one minute can improve to an 8 at the five minute mark. Sometimes it can just take a minute to get the blood flowing and improve the skin tone, and the aggressive rub down can help in getting the respiration and the grimace more on track.
If a baby has a pulse and is breathing at first — even if it isn't going well — the doctor may wait to perform the more aggressive resuscitation measures until after the five minute APGAR test to allow for the improvement. Things could also go downhill in those few minutes, making the five minute test a key indicator of whether the child might need to be rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Most babies still don't get a score of 10 at this stage, but doctors definitely want the baby to be an 8 or so, and if not they may keep working and repeating the assessment until they know the baby is out of the woods.
10 Kangaroo Care
It can take just a few seconds for the moment that a mom-to-be has been waiting for for nine months to finally arrive — when she gets to hold her little one for the very first time.
Sometimes the baby is placed right on the mom's chest and sometimes the doctor has to do some work to help the baby first, but the majority of moms get a chance in the first couple of hours of the baby's life for kangaroo care.
That might even be true if the baby is struggling a bit, although some newborns, unfortunately, need life-saving measures and are rushed to the NICU.
Scientists have found that kangaroo care is is one of the best things that a mom can do in the first couple of hours of the baby's life. It's also called skin-to-skin contact, and it is just like it sounds — when the mother holds the baby on her chest to her bare skin. Babies have been shown to hold their body temperature better and their heartbeats sync up and hold steady. The baby has the comfort of the smell and sound of their mother that they have experienced for nine months. It's amazing but true, and moms should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to nestle their newborn.
9 Vitamin K Shot
Newborns are very vulnerable after birth, and that's why doctors and nurses often give them some medication within the first hour or two of birth that might protect them from the issues.
One way that happens in most hospitals in the United States it through a shot of Vitamin K. The supplement can give babies an extra boost in blood clotting factors that can make a big difference in keeping the baby healthy.
Most babies aren't at risk of having a lot of bleeding issues, although they are if their mom had to take a blood thinner because of a clot during pregnancy. Plus, just about all babies can have problems with jaundice in the days after birth. That's because the baby's liver is still maturing and it doesn't process waste as fast as it should. All babies tend to get a little bit of a yellow tint, but those who have severe jaundice could face brain damage or death. Some babies end up under special lights a few days after birth because of the condition, but the first way to treat it is to do the Vitamin K shot. It usually happens quickly, and the mom might miss it, but unless a mom asks that it doesn't happen, it's likely to happen in those first couple of hours after birth.
8 Antibiotic For Eyes
Babies' eyes are very vulnerable. They can get hurt pretty easily during the birthing process, especially when they go through the canal.
There are a number of fluids — and at times some pathogens — that can be very dangerous. So most hospitals try to treat the baby's eyes right after the birth just in case there is any risk of blindness.
The biggest risk for a baby's eyes after birth is if the mother has a sexually transmitted disease. While most moms don't have chlamydia or gonorrhea, there are a number of moms who acquire the infections and don't know about them, and doctors only test for the infection at the beginning of pregnancy, and it could be picked up during unprotected sessions after that. While most babies aren't at risk, the side effects are so severe for the ones that do need the medication that most doctors put the antibiotics in the baby's eyes without even asking the mom. Some state laws actually require it. Doctors say that there are no negatives from using the ointment, and babies don't seem to even notice it. The mom might wonder why there is something on their newborns eyelids, but she might not notice either. It's just another thing that happens quickly and quietly in those first couple of hours after birth.
7 Baby's First Nap
A lot of moms can't wait to meet their little one, and they think that they will have lots of bonding time from the very beginning. And that might be true, but a lot of that time will happen when the baby is actually napping. It takes a lot of energy to be born, and that first big cry can immediately take all the energy that the baby has.
By the second minute or so of life, the baby has his first tiny little nap, although it's usually only about a half a minute of rest. Then the newborn usually opens his eyes and looks around, according to a research study quoted in Science News.
The baby is usually pretty active for a period after that, and may be interested in nursing or looking around and moving their head and mouths. But pretty soon that is exhausting, and at the 18 minute mark, it's time for another rest. After getting some energy up, some newborns crawl up their mom's body — it's a reflex right after birth — to get to the mom's breast, and if they nurse, by the time they are done, it is time for another mini-nap. According to the research, that's three tiny naps in the first hour alone. The baby will sleep for longer stretches soon, but those first couple of hours are filled with periods of activity and rest.
6 Baby's Little Lojack
We've talked a lot about the biological and the medical things that can happen to a baby in the first couple of hours after birth, but there is one thing that doesn't really relate to either of those categories that is likely to happen pretty quickly, around the time that the nurses put an ID bracelet on the baby that matches his mothers.
They are also going to strap on a little device that is kind of like an anti-theft device. It's a little electronic monitor that would go off if anyone tried to take the baby outside of the maternity ward.
The little lojack-type device has been around for a few decades, ever since some really high profile cases where babies were snatched from the hospital. That's one of a mom's worst nightmares, but so hospitals came up with a way to alert them if someone tries to leave the corridor with the newborn. It happened more when the babies often slept in the nursery and were only taken to their mothers' rooms at feeding times. But even now that more hospitals allow rooming in, there have been some attempts. It's a little scary to see that little device on the baby's leg, but most moms are pretty grateful to hear that their baby is protected.
5 Golden Hour For Nursing
Breastfeeding is one of the most daunting tasks for a new mom. It can be hard to imagine that your body can produce the substance that will nourish the baby for his first several months to a year, especially when you hear how difficult and painful it can be.
But the easiest time to nurse the baby happens in the first hour of life, and if that goes well, it may help create the best beginning to the process possible. This is known as the "golden hour," because the baby's reflexes are the strongest at this point.
The baby has a natural desire to get to the breast — he can even crawl in that first hour to get there. He can sense the smell of the mother's breast, naturally latch on and suck (although premature newborns may not have it). The mother's body has made a special thick type of milk known as colostrum at that point, and the immunities and special nutrients in it have tremendous benefits for the newborn. The act of nursing so soon after the birth also helps bring in the milk that the baby needs. It's not always possible to nurse in the golden hour, especially if the baby needs immediate medical attention. But for moms who take advantage of it, it can help begin a beautiful and nutritive breastfeeding relationship that lasts for months.
4 First Vaccination
Vaccines are a bit of a controversy these days, with some moms worrying that the inoculations could pose a problem for their little one's development.
Many think that they might have a few months to really decide whether they are going to follow the vaccination schedule, but the truth is that the baby's first vaccine can come in the first two hours after birth.
The first vaccine is for hepatitis B, which is an infection that could pass to the baby through the vaginal canal, but that's not so much of a danger as it is a desire to begin building the baby's resistance. According to FitPregnancy, the tradition of giving the vaccine in the hospital began because doctors reasoned that they could be certain the baby at least got one dose, although they might not get the subsequent two vaccines that are recommended. The vaccine is considered safe and hep B can be fatal, so they give the shot quickly, most of the time at the same point when they do the Vitamin K shot. Parents have a while to think about the next set of vaccines, but if they are iffy on inoculations they should let the doctor know right away because the first one certainly comes fast.
3 Blood Test
Baby's first blood test also can happen pretty quickly as well.
Sometimes this part doesn't happen until the first trip to the pediatrician, but a lot of hospitals give the first draw right away. That's especially true if the mom had gestational diabetes, as a blood test may be necessary to see if the baby is handling his or her blood sugar.
Doctors will certainly keep an eye out for any problems in the first hour or two for that.
But all babies will have a blood test before long, no matter the possibility of blood sugar issues. That's because of a condition that could be very dangerous for the baby called phenylketonuria or PKU. The condition is very rare, but it's important to know if you have it right away. A baby with PKU cannot break down the amino acids in proteins, so the problems can begin when the baby starts to eat. The condition can be detected by a simple heel stick and many children can remain healthy if they follow a certain diet, so most doctors believe it is worth a moment of pain to be able to begin the specialized diet and treatment right away. It's a small price to pay to make sure that the baby remains as healthy as possible.
2 Swaddled Up
While many babies spend much of their first of life in their proverbial birthday suit, at some point in the second hour, it's usually time to get a diaper on and cover the baby up.
Newborns have a hard time holding their own body heat in the first few days of life, so if they are not on their parent's skin, they need to be wrapped in a blanket.
Nurses and doulas have perfected an art of wrapping that is known as swaddling, which parents will want to learn right away to keep their little one snug and warm.
The tight wrap is also one of the first tools that a mom and dad have for soothing their little one. Many newborns enjoy feeling snug and secure in their swaddle, and with the arms and legs tucked inside they naturally find it to be nap time. Those little white blankets with blue and pink stripes that hospitals use have become iconic, and mom and dad should take one or two home because they are perfect for the newborn swaddle. As part of the process of that first swaddle, nurses also put a little hat on the baby's head to help with the warmth. And then that little burrito gets passed back to mom, dad or whatever other family member is ready to love on the baby.
1 Falling In Love
Every moment of those first 120 minutes with a new bundle of joy is precious. From that first cry to the doctor's evaluation and the medical procedures, the baby is going through so much, but the amazing thing that no one really understands is what is going on in the heart.
From the moment the baby is born, he recognizes the smell and the sound of his mother, and he is no where happier than on her chest.
That precious time to bond is amazing for both the mom and the baby. Some moms may not feel an immediate connection to their child, but those couple of hours are the beginning of a beautiful relationship. The time with the father is also precious, and often toward the end of that time, people choose to begin to invite loved ones into their room to meet the newest family member. As the baby gets used to life outside of the womb, gets nourishment, and is held and loved, the mom and dad are also getting used to their role as a new parent. By the time the baby is a week old, the baby will look and act a lot differently, but those first two hours are still incredibly special.