Every mom should know what to expect from the first day of her baby's life. After all, the first day happens only once, and it will fly by so quickly that she won't even notice it. It'll be full of breastfeeding consultations, baby care workshops, and numerous tests and procedures. Each and every hour (and even every minute) of this day will be important both for the baby and for the mom.
Only a few minutes after their arrival into this world, the newborn will be tested, cleaned, poked, pricked, and measured. They will finally breathe through their lungs, they will eat and poop for the first time, they will also sleep a lot, and, most importantly, they will get a chance to have the first bonding session with their mommy. Heck, this baby will be busy as a bee during these 24 hours!
For a new mom who has never had kids before, the first day of her baby's life can seem to be a bit chaotic, although it's actually normal to have all these procedures done to a newborn so soon. So, for the sake of being prepared, let's see what 20 things are likely to happen in the whirlwind of the tiny baby's first 24 hours of life in this huge world.
Right after your baby is born, their skin will have a bluish color. It can freak you out, but it's actually normal. If you watch your little one attentively, you'll see that about a minute after they start breathing, they will become pink.
To help your child breathe on their own, your doctor will use a bulb syringe to clear amniotic fluid and mucus from the baby's mouth and nose. Needless to say, it's essential to do it as soon as possible, so that your baby starts using their lungs for the first time. A professional specialist will do it quickly and it shouldn't keep you waiting for too long to take your little one in your arms.
Since your baby was inside your body (and the inside of our bodies isn't as pretty as the outside), it's obvious that they will not come out looking all sweet and attractive right away. So as soon as they're born, a nurse will at least clean your baby of the goo and everything else that's been left on their skin after passing through a birth canal.
Then they will perhaps immediately give your baby to you, so that you can hold them on your chest, to come back later and give them a sponge bath. But in some hospitals, they will give a full-blown bath to them immediately after delivery.
In most hospitals, they practice the immediate umbilical cord clamping. Simply speaking, your nurse snips your baby's cord almost right away after they are born, or your partner (or anyone else present in the delivery room) can do the honors, as well.
Nevertheless, it's not necessary to do it right away after birth. Recent studies even confirm that it's better to wait for at least a few minutes before snipping the cord. If you do wait, it helps essential nutrients travel through the cord to your baby and it lowers the risk of iron deficiency and anemia in them.
If you decide to do delayed cord clamping, it's important to discuss it with your doctor in advance and include this decision into your birth plan.
To give the Apgar score, nurses will check your little one's heart rate, listen to their lungs, assess their color, test their reflex responses, and monitor their activity level and give them a score between 0 and 10. These tests are typically held at the first (to determine how your baby tolerated the birthing process) and the fifth minute (to see how they're doing with the outside world) after birth.
In its turn, Ballard score is based on your newborn's head and chest circumference, as well as length, measured to confirm their gestational age.
Keep in mind that neither of these scores determines your baby's intelligence, nor do they predict anything about your newborn's future development.
Here's another thing that will be done minutes after your baby is born, and certainly before anyone takes your baby out of the room for any reason. You, your baby, and your partner will be given ID bands, so that your family didn't experience the destiny of these numerous soap opera characters who had their infants confused at birth.
Besides, the nurse will also take a footprint of your baby for the hospital record. As a new parent, you'll probably want a copy for yourself as a keepsake, as well. Most hospitals will do it for you, if you ask in advance and bring a baby book to make the first record there.
Antibiotic eye ointment (erythromycin) is applied to your baby's eyes to prevent eye infections that can result from passing through the birth canal. As an alternative to the ointment, eye drops are used in some hospitals. It will be done either soon after birth or postponed up to an hour so that you have a chance to breastfeed your baby for the first time.
Keep in mind that it's required to apply an antibiotic into your baby eyes because otherwise, the bacteria that could possibly remain in them after birth might cause serious eye issues. As a good mom, you don't want it to happen.
The first shot that will ever be given to your baby is vitamin K shot that is going to be administered sometime during the first day of your newborn's life. This shot will be given in your baby's thigh to help prevent clotting issues.
Even though the vitamin K shot is absolutely optional, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend new parents to consider giving it to their child. If you do otherwise, it creates a potential risk of certain health problems in your baby. But still, it's 100% your decision and whatever you decide should be included in your birth plan.
If you decide to breastfeed your baby, it's advised to do it for the first time during the first hour of their life. It's beneficial both for you and your baby. The early milk (it's called colostrum) has a golden color, it's thicker, and it has lots of important nutrients for your baby. For you, it's useful because the early feeding helps your uterus contract, gradually returning to its pre-pregnancy size.
After the first feeding, you're likely to feed your baby every 2 to 3 hours. If you have any issues, such as pain during breastfeeding or trouble helping your baby to latch on, ask for a lactation consultant's assistance. It's easy to do it, while you're still in the hospital and closely monitored by the staff.
The first poop in your baby's life is really, really weird. Called meconium, it's unlike any other poop you've ever seen in your life. As explained in Parents, it doesn't even contain breastmilk or formula yet. Instead, it consists of the materials your baby ingested while in utero (it's shed skin cells, mucus, amniotic fluid, bile, water, and lanugo – the fine, soft hair covering your baby's body). In some rare cases, meconium is passed while your baby's still in the womb or on their way out. If it happens, the doctor will want to check your newborn for complications.
Meconium has a greenish black color, and it's very thick and sticky. But thankfully, however disgusting it looks, it doesn't have any smell.
"The golden hour" is known in the hospitals as the first hour of your baby's life, when it's essential to do certain things to ensure their healthy growth and development in the future. One of the most important things to do during this hour is to keep the newborn on their mom's chest.
According to AAP, healthy full-term babies should "be placed and remain in direct skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after delivery until the first feeding is accomplished."
If you and your baby's health condition allows doing it, your little one will stay on your chest for some time, while nurses will check the baby's vitals every 15 minutes.
Of course, the skin-to-skin contact with you helps your newborn feel warm and maintains their normal body temperature. But they can't stay there forever (unfortunately). At some point, nurses will want to do certain tests or perform some procedures, which will require removing the baby from your chest and putting them somewhere else, where they will also feel nice and comfy.
This is when a radiant warmer comes to the rescue. Commonly placed in a birthing room, this device allows the baby to stay without clothes without getting too cold while the hospital staff does whatever is required to facilitate their transition from the womb to the outside world.
While your baby is in a warmer, their vitals can be verified to make sure that the newborn is healthy and has a proper physique. First of all, the baby's heart rate and breathing will be checked. Then the doctor will also see if there are no physical malformations. For that, they will count your newborn's fingers and toes, feel their abdomen, and see if their private parts have formed properly.
Commonly, this physical exam is done by the pediatrician you have chosen for your baby. If you haven't chosen anyone yet, a pediatrician on staff at the hospital will do the evaluation within the first 24 hours after birth.
According to Parents, jaundice is a condition that doesn't allow bilirubin to break down in the liver and causes the skin to become yellowish. To treat this condition, the baby is exposed to a special kind of light that helps their liver to break down this pigment. Besides, the baby's mom is encouraged to nurse them more often, because this compound can leave the body through the baby's stool.
This condition is found in some newborns because their bodies aren't yet able to successfully filter bilirubin from their bloodstream. They will soon get better at it, but at the moment they need a little bit of help.
Besides, your little one's heel will be pricked to check them for up to 50 metabolic diseases. The specific conditions your baby will be screened for depending on your state's requirements. To know what exact screenings you should expect, check this information in advance or ask your doctor about it.
But whatever state you live in, your baby will certainly be checked for sickle cell anemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). This screening is essential, because in case the infant has any of these conditions, detecting and starting to treat them as early as possible will greatly enhance the prognosis and improve the baby's state of health.
As per Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, your newborn's vision will be blurred at birth. Nevertheless, they'll be able to focus on your face from approximately 30 centimeters away, which is commonly called the "cuddle distance" (cute, right?). Roughly, it's a distance from your chest to your face. It allows your baby to recognize you when you're nursing them.
When it comes to hearing, your baby will easily recognize your voice (as well as that of your partner), because they've been listening to you for half of your pregnancy. When your baby hears your voice, they will feel secure and they are also likely to respond by turning their head towards the sound.
Both you and your baby have been through an enormous stress during childbirth, so both of you need lots of rest when it's all over. While you might not get all the rest you need due to a number of reasons, your little one is more likely to succeed, regardless of all the things that should be done to them.
Soon after their first feeding, your newborn will probably fall asleep and their slumber can last for as long as 6 hours (with short breaks, when the baby will eat again). In general, as Pregnancy, Birth & Baby says, a newborn child is likely to stay asleep for more than half of their first day in this world.
According to WebMD, a birth plan is an outline of your preferences during and after labor and delivery. When it comes to making sure what's going to happen after your baby is born (of course, if everything else also goes as planned), there are quite a few things you need to include into your birth plan.
First of all, state whether you want to breastfeed right away (and whether you're going to breastfeed at all). Say if you want your baby to be in the hospital room with you all the time, or they can be taken to the nursery. If you have a boy, state whether you want him to be circumcised. Besides, your birth plan should be clear on cord clamping, administering shots, and giving any meds to your child during the first 24 hours.
The first 24 hours of your baby's life in this world will be quite different if your child was born prematurely. According to Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, a premature baby is a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy (while the normal term is usually 40 weeks).
If it happens, your child will be taken to the NICU immediately after birth, where their condition will be closely monitored for the time required for your baby to gain enough strength and recover. Among other things, the preemie will have to learn to breathe and eat by themselves, as well as maintain a stable body temperature. While in the NICU, the baby's vitals will be constantly checked until the time they can safely come home with their parents.
According to Belly Belly, the bonding promoted by early skin-to-skin contact is critical for your baby's future growth and development. And it's also significant for you because it makes you more confident as a mom and helps your maternal instincts kick in. Besides, the bonding session boosts the production of oxytocin, the hormone that reduces stress in both you and your baby. As per Joan Younger Meek, M.D. on Parents, this hormone also promotes "a cascade of feel-good emotions," aka "the breastfeeding high."
If, for any reason, you can't hold your newborn during the first day of their life, don't worry. You'll have plenty of time to bond with them later by speaking, holding, cuddling, and kissing them every day.
When you had a tiny bit of rest after delivery, when nurses and doctors are done checking the vitals and physical parameters of your little one, and when it seems that the most stressful part is over, it's time to take your baby into your arms, surround yourself with a few loved ones, and... just cherish this moment. Show your newborn to your partner, as well as your older kids and parents (if you're ready, of course). Give your little one a lot of snuggles and kisses. Take some memorable photos. Enjoy your baby and relish the first day of their life in this world.
And remember that you did it and you're a great mom – this little treasure finally lying in your arms after long weeks of waiting is a proof of that!
Sources: Pregnancy, Birth & Baby, Parents, Romper, Unity Point, Baby Chick, Baby Center, WebMD, Belly Belly.