Everyone tells you that the newborn phase is one of the toughest phases of early parenting.
You literally hit the ground running as soon as your little one is born!
After having two of my own, I can definitely agree with that!
Even after knowing what to expect about how newborns can be, I was still taken back going through it again.
I really wish I knew, remembered, and understood these 8 facts.
This is a list of EVERYTHING that you could (and should) expect from your newborn because as a first-time (or second, or third, etc) parent it is good to be prepared for everything.
It’ll make things go a lot smoother and you won’t be as anxious about everything.
Pin It For Later!
I will warn you, though, that this, like most of my writing, is a comprehensive post on literally everything you need to know on the topic.
My research is thorough and I like to know everything on each topic I write on, but that also means that my articles can be quite long.
So, with that said, I would recommend saving it and going back to it later, especially if you can’t read it all immediately.
It will be incredibly useful to have all the information you need to know about newborns in one post.
I link out to awesome sources as well, so those go into even more detail on each subtopic if you’d like to know more about anything specific mentioned.
Disclosure: I have included affiliate links to products that I have used and enjoyed. These are for your convenience. I do receive a small percentage of every purchase without any increase to your own price.
1. They’re Born Three Months Early?
A common theory in medical circles is the babies are born three months early, as in before they’re ready (1).
The reason is arguable, however, the fact that our babies are incredibly dependent on us for the first three months of life is the inevitable truth.
What You Need to Know
All your newborn knew before birth was your womb, therefore it’s no surprise that they develop attachments to anything that reminds them of or imitates their experience and feelings in the womb.
And, well, anything that has to do with mom.
Expect a baby that prefers to be held all the time and has a difficult time with the entire concept of falling and staying asleep.
Imitating The Womb
Your baby was being continuously stimulated in your womb, in addition to always being warm and cozy (1).
￼This stimulation is a combination of sounds, touches, and temperatures that your baby has known since their existence.
Dr. Karp has summed these ‘calming reflex’ triggers into what he has coined as the ‘Five S’s’ (1).
They help to both calm an overstimulated baby (our world is full of new and, at times, unwanted sounds, lights, touches, and temperatures) and then correctly stimulate to calm and help your baby doze to a sweet slumber (so you can get a little more peace and quiet).
Here’s how it’s done!
What You Should Do (1)
Swaddling imitates both the security and the warmth of the womb.
Just make sure that your baby’s arms are down when doing so.
2. Side or Stomach
The only time your baby should be on their side or stomach is in your arms.
This is the preferred positioning when calming a newborn baby, as opposed to positioning them on their back, as it is more similar to the feeling of being freely dispensed and floating in the womb.
Your womb was filled with all sorts of muffled sounds, however, the most significant (and loudest!) was that of your blood flowing continuously through your arteries and veins.
For this to work, you will have to shush as loud as your baby is crying.
Just no more than an inch back and forth!
In other words, very gentle swaying is what’s most familiar to your newborn (you were not jumping around when you were pregnant late-term).
Having a nursing chair is going to make this so much easier on your legs (we have this one and it’s amazing!)!
For a cheaper alternative, and if you’re tight on space, moms have found gentle bouncing on an exercise ball effective as well.
I purchased this exercise ball off of Amazon for just $27 and I wish I bought it sooner it’s that awesome!
I bought the 65 cm one (that’s the biggest size they had available for that color at the time) and although I thought it would be bigger, it works out just fine for us.
I didn’t actually get to try this hack with my little guy when he was a newborn, but I will say that he prefers the bouncing on the exercise ball to the rocking in a nursing chair at 3 months!
So it’s a definite win for me!
Suckling in the newborn’s natural calming agent.
You will probably have to calm your baby down first before giving them a pacifier or getting them to nurse, but once they latch on, you’re set for a calm and happy baby ready for bed!
And if your newborn has a tough time keeping the pacifier in their mouth try the WubbaNub Infant Pacifier (the one my little guy is holding in the image above).
This was literally the ONLY pacifier my baby would take and keep in his mouth (he loved to hold onto the little lamb)!
Other Things You Could Do
1. Use A Carrier.
A sure way around the unproductively that comes with holding a baby all day is using a carrier because, let’s face it, babies just have days where they only want to be held.
Just make sure you choose an ergonomic one like the Ergobaby Omni 360, for safe carrying.
2. Warm Up Their Sleeper and Crib.
Another tip I caught on in mommy circles is using a heating pad (this one is the one that I have, it’s super cheap and works great!) to pre-heat baby’s bed or swing before placing them down for a nap (NEVER ACTUALLY PUT YOUR BABY ON THE HEATING PAD, REMOVE BEFORE LAYING BABY DOWN).
I would use the heater to warm up our Dock A Tot since it would always get super cold just sitting there (our baby was born in the winter so everything would get cold).
Your womb was always the right temperature, so another reason your little one might be fussy or not sleeping well is because their bouncer or sleeper isn’t warm enough.
Maybe that’s also the reason that your baby hates their car seat?
Maybe your newborn is as sensitive to the cold as my little guy?
One thing that really worked for us in keeping him happy in his car seat during the cold winter months was dressing him in this Carter’s hooded pram when we went out.
It’s so much easier to work with (stays in place), it’s warmer (locks in the heat), and is way safer than layering blankets in and around the car seat.
3. Dim Where Baby Sleeps.
The amount of light that hits your newborn is a big deal if you want them to, one, go to sleep well, and two, stay asleep and actually rest.
Remember, the womb was a relatively dark place.
Try to keep it dim during daytime naps.
As a side note, once baby wakes, make sure to make it very light to avoid day-night confusion.
4. Try Everything Until You Find What Works.
When it comes to finding which sleepers, bouncers, swings, and rockers will help keep your newborn happy when not in your arms, all I can say is trial and error.
I would definitely recommend watching the reviews on baby products, they are incredibly helpful resources when shopping for things that will actually work for most babies (although there are a lot of exceptions; our first baby hated the popular 4moms mamaRoo).
It’s how we discovered the BabyBjorn Bouncer which has been a complete lifesaver for two under two (my newborn gets to hang out almost everywhere with my toddler and me) and for gas relief.
Keep your receipts so that if your newborn hates a swing or sleeper then you can always return or exchange it for something else.
5. Follow Your Baby’s Lead.
Finally, all babies give cues to what they want, it’s their instinctual way of letting us know (I’ll be going back to this one a lot).
Your ability to understand is going to make a huge difference in your overall experience caring for your newborn.
Sleeping cues will be huge in keeping your newborn from getting overstimulated because if you stimulate them when they’re tired your baby becomes a quiet ticking bomb.
If they’re pulling at their ear, not making eye contact, and making low exhaled “Ohs”, then they’re tired.
And if you notice that they’re calm (but wide-eye) when it’s light but as soon as you go into a dark room they start getting fussy, then it’s definitely a good idea to try to calm them down before things get even more out of control.
That is why it’s super important to know when to slow and wind down so that you don’t have stressful situations like this.
2. They Eat VERY Often
For some reason the biggest topic when it comes to newborns is sleep, no one mentions the eating (which is one of the main reasons why they sleep the way they do!).
I was not only surprised by the frequency of feedings, but I was also overwhelmed by them!
And, many times, because I was exclusively breastfeeding, I doubted my potential to support my baby since I didn’t understand how she could be always hungry despite the often feedings.
What You Need to Know
There are four main reasons why newborns eat frequently.
1. Their stomachs are small, and so they eat for a little just more often since that is all their stomach can handle at one time.
2. The second reason, and this mainly concerns breastfeeding and pumping moms, is that breast milk is digested especially fast.
This is why your newborn can appear incredibly hungry despite having eaten not that long ago.
3. Newborns go through growth spurts which naturally work to increase breastmilk supply.
During these growth spurts, they will feed very often with minimal spacing between feeds, this is called cluster feeding,￼ in order to stimulate the breasts and encourage more milk production.
And even if you are formula feeding, you should expect these same patterns.
4. Your newborn has an innate tendency to ‘tank up’ before bedtime.
So, they also will cluster feed and fill up their stomachs in order to start sleeping longer stretches through the night, so expect these sessions towards the evening.
Remember, as long as your baby is gaining weight and generally a happy baby, you do not need to worry about how often your newborn eats.
Know that it is expected (that it doesn’t mean your milk supply is insufficient) and instead ride it through as comfortably as possible.
What You Can Do
1. Get Comfortable On A Nursing Chair
Since you can expect to be nursing/feeding so often, you might as well get comfortable.
Having the options of rocking and reclining honestly makes nursing that often SO MUCH EASIER and more enjoyable for both mom and baby.
I WISH I had had one the first time around!
2. Remove Pressure With The Bümmaa
Since you can expect to be sitting a lot so early after labor, it’s also a good idea to think about your postpartum recovery, also for comfort purposes.
That’s why you NEED the Bümmaa Postpartum Pillow.
Having a nursing chair is incredibly convenient but most likely the cushion of the chair itself will not do a great job of accommodating for the condition of your perineum (the space between your vagina and anus).
Any pressure on that area will be both painful and can inhibit the healing process.
Additionally, sitting incorrectly on a ‘flat’ cushion can also contribute to lower back pain (not a good idea if you had an epidural).
The Bümmaa is a donut-shaped seat cushion made of premium memory foam which molds to your bottom and removes pressure off of your perineum and also helps you sit properly (on your sit bones instead of your coccyx) and so prevents lower back pain associated with sitting for long periods at a time.
I didn’t have the Bümmaa after my first pregnancy and I kid you not, sitting was DREADFUL.
Having the Bümmaa the second time around was a HUGE BLESSING, like there was an enormous difference in sitting, in other words, I wasn’t balling my eyes out at the thought of nursing.
It’s the best butt cushion around (take it from someone who’s tried other cushions out there!); like sitting on a cloud!
3. Try Bottle-Feeding
Sure all babies feed frequently due to growth spurts regardless of how they are fed, however, it is not a secret that the frequency of feedings of breastfed babies is usually much greater.
The reason is simple, breastfeeding is natural and bottle feeding (specifically with formula) is not.
In order to produce more breastmilk, the breasts need to be stimulated and emptied more often, which is the reason why your newborn instinctively feeds more often during these growth spurts.
With formula, all you need to do is to just make more and you’re good.
Less stress overall, since you satisfy your newborn’s need for more almost immediately (no need to ‘build-up’ a supply).
Frequent feeds are an incredibly important and rewarding part of breastfeeding and I promise it gets easier, but, with that said, I can understand that there are certain instances where it’s just too much.
If you still want to continue breastfeeding, you could try pumping and bottle feeding at night (or whenever you have these tedious clusters), just until your little one improves.
I know a momma who went with this alternative (she had decided to bottle feed pumped breastmilk before bed because her baby was up almost every hour still at 4 months!) and she was able to continue breastfeeding without any troubles
It’s a little more complicated to do with a newborn and I wouldn’t recommend it if you really want to breastfeed (you risk nipple confusion trying it earlier), but like I said, every situation is different and for some this might be the best alternative.
Just make sure to pump as much (if not more) as your baby feeds in order to sustain your milk supply!
4. Avoid Frequent Night Time Feeds By Feeding All The Way
Another way to avoid the never-ending cluster feeds, especially at night, is by allowing your baby to complete their feeds.
Don’t cut them short or switch breasts too soon.
Letting your baby finish nursing allows them to both get the most calorie-rich milk found at the end of a feed (the hindmilk) and to fully tank up (fully fill their stomach up)!
You’ll notice that when you do this your baby will actually sleep longer!
And don’t worry if they don’t, then they’re probably going through a growth spurt and it should be over in a couple of days or so.
5. Keep Track Of Growth Spurts (And Leaps!)
Knowing when your baby is going through a growth spurt or a leap makes a world of a difference!
You know exactly why your baby might be eating so much (and extra fussy!).
Growth spurts typically occur during the first couple of days after your baby is born, at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months (23).
They last around 2 to 3 days, so all that extra feeding doesn’t last too long (or it shouldn’t, but then again all babies are different!).
Leaps are a different type of animal in the sense that it is when your baby has a ‘developmental’ growth spurt.
During these times your baby might be extra fussy which can also affect feedings (nursing for comfort).
A great resource is the Wonder Weeks App.
It notifies you when you could expect your baby to be going through a leap and it also gives you loads of useful information to help them (and yourself) through it!
Tracking it with my second baby and it is still pretty accurate!
6. Use a Breastfeeding Pillow
This is another pillow you absolutely need on hand if you want to be comfortable through all of the nursing sessions (if you’re breastfeeding).
It’s firmer so it supports much better, and it clips around you literally allowing your to have a hands-free breastfeeding experience (of course, still making sure your baby doesn’t roll off!).
It’s no wonder lactation consultants prefer the MyBrestFriend!
And another note, since lactation consultants use the MyBrestFriend in their practice, in other words they consult you using that pillow, then you might also want to have the same one at home.
Maybe that’s why ‘replicating’ what they show you in the office is much tougher at home?
3. They Do Weird (Sometimes Scary!) Things
Newborns look a little strange and are born with some weird reflexes.
It’s probably a good idea to know what’s normal so that you’re not googling wondering what’s wrong with your newborn (been there!).
A good account to follow on Instagram is that of pediatrician Dr. Cathryn called ‘Healthiest Baby‘.
She often posts about helpful tips for baby’s first year, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a first-time parent!
What You Need To Know
All of the strange things newborns have and do should resolve on their own, no intervention necessary.
The only things that you should be concerned about as a parent are if your baby isn’t eating or gaining weight properly, having difficulty breathing, and inconsolably crying (not colic, or much more than 3 hours/day) as if in terrible pain (and you will definitely know what is normal and what isn’t).
And, remember, you can and should always ask your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
The following, however, are not things to be concerned about!
Weird Things They Do
1. Sleep With Eyes Open
Yup, it’s called “nocturnal lagophthalmos”, totally normal (7).
It’s believed to happen during REM (ie. rapid eye movement) sleep (7).
The only time to worry is if it happens often, but once in awhile then it’s fine.
2. Grunt and Red Up With Bowel Movements
Don’t worry if your baby strains, grunts/makes a lot of noise, and/or gets a red face with bowel movements.
This usually isn’t a constipation concern but instead the sign of a developing digestive system.
Your baby hasn’t yet quite learned how to relax their pelvic core and use their abdominal muscles (which are still weak) to move stool and gas effectively, and that can take some months to master! (8).
If you’re worried about constipation, meaning your baby is visibly in pain and hasn’t had a bowel movement in days, then talk to your pediatrician.
3. Poop Every Time They Fart
Remember, baby digestive systems are still developing and so bowel movements aren’t as ‘smooth’ as ours but require a lot of effort.
That extra pressure almost certainly also means you’ll get more than just gas out.
That also means more diaper changes!
4. Have Liquid Blowouts!
That’s what happens when you combine pressure, a liquid-only diet, and the right angle.
My newborn would have the worst blowouts when positioned in an incline, so car seats were a danger zone during bowel movements!
Just expect it and carry around extra clothes for baby and yourself (those diaper changes get real messy!).
5. Sneeze A Lot
I remember the first time my husband took note of our newborn son’s sneezing, I had to reassure him that he wasn’t sick.
Of course, you want to rule out any possibility that your baby is actually sick (check for fever, cough, congestion, and irritability), but once you do, know that newborns do sneeze a lot.
The reason is that is the only way they can clear their nasal passages, which they need to do often because they’re nose-breathers (9).
An immature diaphragm makes your baby more prone to hiccups (10)!
A quick fix is to keep you baby’s head higher than their stomach, feed them (swallowing helps), or, and this is a Slavic trick, bundle them up because they might just be cold!
7. Have Cold Hands & Feet
That doesn’t always mean that your baby is cold!
If their torso is pink and warm, there’s no need to worry (11).
An underdeveloped circulatory system means the blood supply is concentrated on vital organs, meaning the hand and feet are the last priority (11).
8. Cross Their Eyes
Just like everything else in their body, your newborn’s eyes are also developing and so they are prone to wandering and crossing (12).
As long as this isn’t always the case, you shouldn’t be concerned.
It should clear up by itself by 3-4 months (12).
9. Are Noisy Sleepers
All that noise that newborns make when they’re awake, they also make when they’re asleep.
The grunting, the occasional cry, and even some growling, so don’t run up too soon or else you risk unintentionally startling and really waking them up.
Instead, wait for consistent crying before you decide to approach your newborn.
10. Have A Rooting Reflex
Expect your newborn to try to root onto and suck everything, it’s a survival mechanism.
Just beware because although it might be cute it’s also a hunger cue, miss that and things won’t look so cute anymore!
12. Make Jerky Movements
A developing nervous system means that your baby’s movements aren’t going to be smooth either.
You can also expect your baby’s limbs to quiver and shake, this should cease as soon as you touch the limb that’s shaking so if it doesn’t then it would be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician about it.
Otherwise, uncoordinated, jerky movement is normal though it can make handling (a reason why strapping down on changing tables is a good idea) and holding your newborn sometimes challenging.
Newborns also have what is know as the ‘Moro’ or startle reflex when they spring their arms and legs out as if they’re holding onto a ball usually when they feel like they’re falling or they’re started, hence the name (11).
This combined with general jumpiness contributes to disrupted sleep meaning your newborn probably doesn’t sleep well.
An easy fix is swaddling!
And don’t stress, this too goes away by 3 months.
13. Their Joints Can Make Cracking Sound
Joints make cracking sounds as a result of the interaction between soft and hard tissue, so any sudden move or jerk can result in a crack or click.
Unless your baby’s hips are making the noises, clicking and cracking joints are just part of the growth process.
14. Have Strange Poop
You will be paying a lot of attention to your newborn’s poop in the first weeks of their life.
Poop is a good reflection of a baby’s health and well being and it allows us to ensure that the digestive system is properly developing.
Expect your newborn’s poop to change from dark green and sticky to yellow/orange and runny (no it’s not diarrhea) if breastfeeding and a darker yellow and thicker if formula feeding.
Your hormones affect your newborn just as much as they affect you since hormones can cross the placenta and into your baby’s bloodstream (13).
These hormones can cause your newborn’s body to do strange things like causing their vagina to slightly bleed or leak white discharge or their breast nipples to secrete milk (13).
By the end of two months, these symptoms too shall pass as by then your hormones will have fully exited your baby’s body
16. Spit Up Can Come Out Of Nose
The first time this happened to our newborn it freaked both us and him out, but then you remember that it has happened to you before.
Just like the back of our throat is connected to our nose, so is a newborn’s.
If it happens, don’t freak out.
You can minimize spit-ups by making sure to burp your baby after every feed.
17. Smile and Laugh?!
So, you’re expecting to see your newborn’s first smile when they’re at least a month and a half and their first laugh around four months, but here is your newborn smiling and laughing in their sleep.
Well, both are reflexes, so say thanks to a developing nervous system.
However, when both occur when your newborn is sleeping, this is thought to occur as a consequence of REM sleep just like the eye-opening (14).
A lot of involuntary movement occurs at this stage.
The only time you really have to be concerned about this is if your baby, as a result of this, sleeps poorly or wakes up often or acts very abnormally (your pediatrician will reassure normal if you’re worried).
This could be a sign of something that is referred to as a gelastic seizure, an episode of uncontrolled giggling followed by waking up (if asleep) or a stare (if awake) (14).
Weird Things They Have
1. Bowed Legs.
Don’t freak out!
Newborn legs are bowed because of how they’re positioned in the womb.
Your baby’s feet should completely straighten by the time they’re three, so it’s definitely too early to be concerned (15)!
2. Body Hair.
Baby ‘peach fuzz’ is more common in premature babies as it normally goes away between 36 and 40 weeks gestation, so if your baby was born earlier then that could explain why they’re so hairy (16).
That hair should be gone by 4 months.
If it isn’t or if a significant amount covers your baby’s spine, then definitely let your pediatrician know!
3. Scooped Nails.
“Spoon” nails are common in newborn thumbs and big toes due to the thin and soft nature of their nails (17).
They should resolve on their own, but if they don’t then there could be an underlying deficiency in iron (17).
4. A Cone Shaped Head
Let’s face the fact that newborns have some strange head shapes, the most common looking like a cone (only if you delivered vaginally).
The reason for this is that that’s the way their big head is even able to make it out of your vagina (it’s pretty fascinating how that happens!).
Conehead should resolve on its own, but one thing that you do need to be concerned about is flathead.
Your baby’s head remains malleable for some time and if they spend the bulk of their time laying down in a certain position, chances are that that area will flatten out.
Avoid this by holding them as much as you can (using a carrier helps), letting them spend time in angled positions (the Baby Björn bouncer worked well for us and so does the Boppy Newborn Lounger), and doing tummy time!
Using a flat head prevention pillow can also help.
5. Swollen Genitals and Breasts.
Newborn babies have swollen genitals and even breasts, and no it isn’t a genetic thing (sorry dad, it’s too early to take any credit for your little guy’s testicles).￼￼
For one, the birthing process puts a lot of pressure on your baby’s body which can cause swelling to occur, as a result.
The other reason has to do with your hormones and their side effects inside your baby’s body.
However, there isn’t anything to worry about since your baby’s hormones start regulating as soon as the umbilical cord is cut so everything should even out in time.
6. A Blistered Lip￼
You might notice that there is a small blister on your newborn’s top lip, but before you freak out and think they have some disease or think they need chapstick, just know that this is normal!
It’s called a sucking callus (nursing tubercle) and it happens as a result of, you guessed it, sucking (11)!
The toughened skin actually helps your baby with grasping the nipple.
It eventually goes away, for sure once the sucking stops!
7. Watery (Goopy) Eyes
Some newborns are born with what is known as a blocked tear duct.
A thin membrane covering the tear duct disrupts normal eye flushing which then results in a watery eye usually covered in yellowish discharge (18).
The first time my newborn woke up with this discharge crusted around his left eye, I definitely thought it was some sort of infection!
Although the discharge has bacteria in it, it usually isn’t a concern unless it is visibly painful/uncomfortable for your baby and has the appearance of inflammation.
If you are worried, your pediatrician can take a swab and send it to the lab to get checked out.
Otherwise, a normal clogged tear duct usually resolves on its own.
To help speed up the process you could gently massage the duct (down the nose bridge towards the eye duct) or put a warm compress over it (18).
9. A Tooth!
I’ve never seen it, but some babies are born with a tooth (or two!).
This is quite rare but it is good to be aware of just in case your baby is born with one.
There are risk factors associated with a tooth that include it being a choking hazard so talking with a pediatric dentist would be highly recommended (19).
10. Multiple Nipples?
This is also a rare oddity that your newborn can have, and, although it isn’t desired by anyone to have an extra of anything, it isn’t necessarily harmful.
Most commonly people that have this condition only have a third nipple, but there have been cases in which people have had eight (20)!
It is probably a good idea to monitor the extra nipple because they can cause complications, and if it really bugs you then you can get it removed.
Talk with your pediatrician.
11. An Outie Belly Button
Belly buttons can also be pretty weird on newborns.
The shape is pretty much dependent on how the umbilical cord stump is clipped and how it falls off and heals.
Even if your baby’s belly button protrudes out, most likely it will settle back into an innie.
If your baby has an umbilical hernia, also a very common condition, their belly button will also appear larger than normal (and sometimes only visible when they strain).
It can appear quite worrisome, however, this also resolves on its own by the time they are two to five years old (21).
If your baby shows discomfort or there is tenderness or swelling in the area then you should definitely contact your doctor (21)!
13. Large Birthmarks
Your newborn can have all sorts of birthmarks from moles to brown or red patches.
The important thing is that you are aware of them, that you keep an eye on them and watch for any changes, and that you talk to your pediatrician about what’s normal and what isn’t.
In general, the most concerning birthmarks are changing moles and birthmarks that cover the eyes (22).
14. Yellow Skin
Newborns can become a bit yellow after delivery, this is known as jaundice.
The reason for this is because their liver is not developmentally mature enough to keep up with bilirubin breakdown (16).
Usually, this isn’t a huge concern and the liver catches up before your baby turns two weeks old (16).
Your doctor should be monitoring your baby’s bilirubin levels from the day they are born so they will let you know if there are any concerns.
4. Their Digestive System Is Still Developing
Your newborn comes out of the womb with a very immature digestive system.
The only food that their stomach can process is breastmilk (or formula), and even that has its own limitations since allergens can cross through breastmilk and not all formula is compatible either.
So eat the wrong food or give the wrong formula and your newborn isn’t going to be very happy or sleeping well (and that means you won’t be either!).
What You Need to Know
The most common conditions that you will run into that are connected to this are gas, colic, and reflux.
Those are a parent’s worst nightmare!
Here’s what you need to know (what I wish I knew) and what you can do to manage them!
All humans have gas to various degrees, newborns are no exception.
The only difference is that newborns can’t pass gas very effectively, and that trapped gas can become incredibly painful!
Gas is a natural by-product of digestion (the bacteria that line the digestive tract release it) and it also has a lot to do with the milk newborns ingest (ie. mom needs to watch what she eats) (2).
Gas can also become trapped if your baby gulps in air while they eat or while they cry.
How To Know
There are tell-tale signs that your newborn is suffering from gas pains.
If your baby is arching their back, ￼pulling up their legs, squirming a lot, fussier than normal, and especially if your baby appears relieved after expelling some gas, then your baby is very likely suffering from gas pains (2).
What You Can Do
1. Feed Correctly.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, make sure you are feeding your baby is a slight angle with their head higher than their stomach.￼
The reason is that this allows for the air bubbles that are ingested to rise and get released as burps instead of getting trapped (3).
If they are trapped, then the only way to release them is as gas.
And, if you are bottle-feeding, make sure that the bottle nipple is filled with milk instead of air before giving it to your baby.
Also, try preparing a bottle some time ahead feeding to minimize the amount of bubbles that result from shaking when preparing formula milk.
This is also to minimize the amount of air that is swallowed.
2. Feed Timely.
Don’t wait until your baby is hungry and crying to feed them.
Babies that are frantically hungry gulp in a lot of air before (especially if they’re crying) and during feeding.
Feed as soon as your baby shows signs of hunger.
Get a good latch too!
Also, minimize distracted nursing/bottle-feeding by feeding in a quiet and dim room.
Your baby will take less unnecessary breaks and so take in less air in the process.
3. Burp Always.
Make sure to burp your baby after every feeding.
Burping your baby throughout feedings limits the amount of air, swallowed before and throughout feeding, that makes its way into your baby’s stomach.
The less air that travels through your baby’s digestive system, the less pain your baby has.
4. Eat Wisely.
If you’re breastfeeding, then you might want to watch what you eat.
Gas is a natural by-product of digestion, however, not all foods are digested equally.
Some foods are ‘gassier’ than others.
These include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts), certain fruits (plums, apricots, pears, prunes, peaches, citrus), and some grains (bran, oats) (3).
Parents use these interchangeably though one may work better for your baby than the other (that’s why I’d recommend getting both!).
As a rule of thumb, though, Gas Drops are usually given primarily for ￼gas relief.
If you notice your baby is grunting, burping or farting a lot, you can use the drops to help relieve some of that discomfort.
Now Gripe Water is used to relieve more severe gas discomfort and hiccups.
If your baby is crying, drawing up their legs and arching their back then you want to opt for the Gripe Water instead.
Gently massaging your babies tummy in a circular clockwise motion or doing bicycle legs can help to release any trapped gas that may be giving your newborn trouble.
Using a warm compress (put a small towel into the microwave for 5-10 seconds to warm it up) on your baby’s tummy also works very well, just be careful to watch the temperature and do not put the warm towel directly on your baby’s skin.
Newborn pants can be tight and put unwanted continual pressure on your baby’s tummy which, with gas troubles, can mean a cranky and inconsolable baby.
I know because I made the mistake myself.
Try to steer clear of anything tight around the tummy until your baby’s abdominal muscles strengthen.
Let your baby hang out in an inclined bouncer or swing if they’re having a terrible gas session.
I have found that our BabyBjorn Bouncer is great at getting our little guy to go when he’s incredibly constipated.
Plus, he loves to hang out in it, so free hands for momma!
Colic is when an otherwise healthy baby cries inconsolably for a consistent, extended timeframe.
A crying baby is stressful enough, now add the fact that nothing you do really calms your baby down.. and this goes on for hours.
It’s no wonder having colicky babies is also associated with increased incidence of marital stress, postpartum depression, shaking baby syndrome, breastfeeding failure, and sudden infant death syndrome, among others (1).
Colic peaks around 4-6 weeks and usually clears up around 3-4 months (1).
While no one has pinpointed the exact cause of colic, a still-developing digestive system is a huge contributor!
How To Know
If your heathy (fed and changed) baby is crying for no apparent reason at least three hours a day, for at least three days a week, and for three weeks, then your baby likely has colic (consult with your pediatrician before self-diagnosing to rule out any other serious health concerns).
The crying usually occurs around the same time every night, sounds more intense and high-pitched than regular crying, and is inconsolable.
Other signs of a colicky baby are clenched fists, arms and legs bent towards belly, bloated and tight stomach, flushed red face, and gassy (4).
What You Can Do
If you are breastfeeding, avoid eating ‘allergic’ foods as these contribute to the symptoms of colic.
These include foods that contain dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, fish, and nuts (5).
Before completely eliminating any food out of your diet, though, first pinpoint if it is the cause of an allergic reaction (here is an AWESOME resource for doing just that).
This will take trial and error, patience, and a lot of self-control, but if it improves how your baby feels then everyone will be happy in the long run!
Well, then you might also want to reconsider the formula you’re feeding your baby if they’re suffering from colic.
This is one that is specifically made for colicky babies suffering from colic and milk protein allergies.
Gripe water, in some cases, has been said to help ease newborn digestion issues (2).
So for immediate relief, that is the top parent choice (though not exactly proven).
That’s a whole hour of extra sleep!
DO NOT give your baby Lactobacillus reuteri probiotics if they are having any formula as fussiness actually increased in bottle-fed babies (5)!
The ‘Five S’s’ work really well in calming and comforting a colicky baby (1).
Remember, swaddle, side/stomach, shush, swing, and suck!
Babies are prone to reflux and spitting up due to a still-developing esophageal sphincter, a ring that closes off the stomach from your esophagus.
Reflux makes babies fussy because it’s uncomfortable (even painful) and it can cause breathing difficulties.
It also makes your baby struggle with sleep because any slight strain and everything they just ate can come back up and cause them to choke.
And babies strain a lot!
The worst part is that some babies have what’s known as ‘silent reflux’, where stomach contents come back up but aren’t spit up, so you would never even know why exactly your baby is being fussy.
How To Know
Common reflux is pretty easy to identify as it manifests as spit-up/vomit after a feeding.
It isn’t usually a cause for concern unless baby isn’t gaining weight well, inconsolably crying, having breathing problems, refusing to eat, has serious throat discomfort (hoarse voice, chronic sinus/ear infections; your baby will be pulling in their ears in pain), or spitting up blood (looks like coffee grounds) or green/yellow fluid (6).
Silent reflux can be a little more subtle as you don’t actually see spit-up.
If you notice your baby often gagging, coughing, congested, and having a hard time feeding, silent reflux may be the culprit (7).
Hiccups and bad breath are also signs to look out for (6)!
What You Can Do
A carrier works great with a baby that has reflux since it keeps your baby upright, which both helps with gas relief (getting the burps out) and keeping food down.
The worst position for babies with reflux is on the back, so wait 15-20 minutes after feeding before laying your baby down.
2. Burp, Burp, Burp!
Make sure to always burp your baby after every feeding.
Air that may have gotten swallowed before (if your baby was crying and fussy before) and during feeding is often the cause of spit-up if it doesn’t get released immediately after the feeding is over.
3. Minimize Air Intake.
You want to make sure to feed your baby immediately when they show signs of hunger, so that they aren’t fussy once they start nursing, otherwise they tend to swallow a lot of air in the process.
These short but frequent feedings also prevent your baby from over-eating and filling up their stomach too fast, also a cause of reflux.
Other ways to minimize the unnecessary swallowing of air during feedings (think back to gas prevention) is by:
- making sure to nurse/bottle-feed inclined (head higher than stomach)
- feeding in a quiet and dim room to minimize distractions and pauses
- making sure your baby has a good latch (watch out for clicking sounds as that means your baby is slipping off of your nipple and relatching, swallowing air in the process)
- if breastfeeding, waiting until our baby is finished before switching breasts (remember to burp in between!)
- and, if bottle-feeding, making sure your milk has minimal bubbles before feeding and that your bottle nipple is full of milk before giving it to your baby
4. Change Before.
Try to change your baby’s diaper before feedings.
Diaper changes put pressure on the baby’s tummy, easily pushing out the stomach’s contents (there goes their meal!).
If you have a strong letdown that overwhelms your newborn, then pump a little before nursing.
Babies can gulp up a lot of extra air when trying to keep up with the spraying milk.
6. Be Gentle.
Be gentle and avoid jerky movements when lifting and carrying your baby after a feeding.
Any quick movements can easily stir up the stomach and cause a spit-up episode.
7. Position Correctly.
I already mentioned the benefits of holding your baby upright, and that you definitely want to avoid laying them on their back too soon after a feeding.
Now, studies found that the best positions for a baby struggling with reflux are actually on the left side and on the stomach (6).
It’s unsafe to let your newborn sleep on their side or their tummy, so these positions must only be tried under your supervision.
Laying your baby on their back at a slight incline used to be recommended and though it seems to slightly help, any incline greater than 30 degrees has actually been found to cause more spit-ups (6).
5. They Don’t Always Sleep Well
It’s no surprise that newborns don’t come out instinctively sleeping well.
Some do, but the other 99% (maybe I’m over exaggerating) don’t.
Newborns sleep exceptionally on mom (or someone else), but put them down and they’re wide-eyed if not instantly then in a couple minutes for sure!
The problem is that self-soothing is something that is learned and not naturally acquired.
Some babies just learn it much quicker than others!
What You Need To Know
Whether it is in increments or long stretches, newborns sleep approximately 16-17 hours per day.
So your newborn might take several cat naps no longer than 30-45 minutes (or less!) a day but have a 4-5 hour stretch at night.
Or vice versa!
Unless your newborn is visibly in distress/pain or not gaining weight adequately, all this is is an inconvenience at best.
So, if you’ve tried everything from the 5 S’s to all the products and tips imaginable and nothing seems to work, it could just be a personality thing that you will just have to ride through.
That said, there are ways you can make that ‘ride’ smoother!
What You Can Do
1. Sleep When Baby Sleeps
You’ve heard it a million times, it’s Newborn 101, snooze when baby snoozes.
You might feel unproductive, but at least you won’t be as exhausted.
And there’s a lot of complications associated with that, like weight gain, not to mention that you can also become a danger to your baby!
This won’t last long, the time will pass by quickly, I promise.
So, enjoy the excuse while you have it!
2. Work With What Works
There comes a point to when you crave productivity more than sleep, and you will do whatever it takes to prolong your baby’s naps.
If they only sleep held, use a carrier!
If they only sleep in the swing, use it.
Of course, if they always sleep there then you might want to limit that if you want to avoid flathead.
Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on them.
My children both loved napping on our comforter, next to my feet.
They’d slightly sink in, just enough to feel snug and secure.
It was the only way I could get my blogging done, but I did watch them like a hawk!
So, do what works for you and your baby (and that’ll be a discovery in itself), but also be safe and mindful to keep an eye out if there are hazards!
And always talk to your pediatrician before trying something, just to stay on the safe side of things!
If your baby still is reluctant to nap during the day, get things done at night when they do sleep (that’s literally the only way I blog right now).
My aunt carried this habit all the way into her kids’ teens, as she still cleans her entire house when everyone sleeps!
If they sleep better during the day, then you’re probably getting things done but missing out on sleep, in which case I’d recommend you sleep a little throughout the day so you could get some rest before you pull that all-nighter!
6. Their Skin Is Extremely Sensitive
Just like their digestive system is developing, newborn skin is also changing to better fit their new environment.
In your womb, your baby’s soft skin was always hydrated, out of the womb the harsh dry air will require it to toughen, thicken, and adapt.
Throughout this process, though, you will need to take care not to aggravate it.
What You Need To Know
The main thing you need to know, in order to keep your little one happy, is that babies hate the cold and that a diaper rash are extremely painful.
You might know those, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t take them as seriously as I should have because things were chaotic as it is.
Once I realized that some of the chaos stemmed from my baby being extra cranky because of these two, I quickly changed my priorities!
Keep your baby (and their skin) comfortable and things will be a lot calmer and you happier.
Here are some ways you could take care of your baby’s sensitive skin.
1. Mind the Layers.
Newborns are SUPER sensitive to temperatures, so no matter the season, rule of thumb is to dress your baby in an extra layer to what you feel comfortable wearing.
This is especially important for bedtime!
I like to always keep my baby in a onesie (short vs long sleeve depending on temperature) and then layer up with a shirt and some shorts or a romper/dress for a warm day or with a sweater, tights, and pants (add coat if necessary) for cooler days.
2. Keep Them Dry!
Did you know that you lose heat faster when you’re wet?
For a baby that likes to be warm, that can make bathtime a disaster in the making.
Keep baths short and quick for that reason.
Prepare everything before, use a warm towel over your baby’s tummy throughout, make sure the water is warm (using a water temperature sensor toy can be a HUGE lifesaver!), and dry them immediately after!
Avoiding Diaper Rash?
1. Also, Keep Dry.
Apart from causing us to lose heat, moisture also promotes fungal growth.
That’s a serious no-no for a happy and healthy baby.
So, make sure that your baby’s bottom is completely dry before you put anything on it!
Some ways you could do that are lightly blowing at the area or dabbing it with a dry washcloth.
2. Lather on the Butt Paste!
My pediatrician would compare it to frosting on a cake, that’s how much butt paste you need to be using.
And I mean every time!
BEFORE there is any inflammation or rash!
Urine and stool combine to form a harsh acidic compound that is very corrosive to sensitive newborn bottoms.
You want to make sure that you put diaper rash cream on your baby’s changed, dry bottom after almost every diaper change, especially through the night and during those first few weeks.
Anytime you expect not to be able to change your newborn’s diaper immediately after they poop, you should lather on some diaper paste because in those early weeks their skin is especially prone to infection.
Our little guy had the worst butt rash when he was just a couple of weeks old and the only thing that helped to clear it up was the Desitin Maximum Strength (literally the only thing.. and I tried a few butt pastes!).
Avoiding Dry Skin?
1. Limit Baths.
The best way to avoid drying your baby’s skin out is by limiting the number of times they take a bath.
You don’t have to give your little one a bath every night.￼
Newborns might poo and barf (nothing that a wet wipe/cloth can’t clean up), but they aren’t nearly as dirty as adults so they don’t need to wash all that often.
Stick to just 2 to 3 times a week, and that is plenty.
2. Wash It Out.
Technically, you aren’t supposed to use any soaps on your newborn.
Water baths are best.
Once they’re older, though, and you start bathing them with mild soap and shampoo, make sure to really wash off all the soap residue!
Soap residue left behind in baby skin can cause irritation and even allergic reactions.
If left behind on the scalp it could prevent hair growth and contribute to hair loss!
So wash it all out well!
3. Lotion When Wet.
If you choose to lather your baby with a newborn-safe lotion, try to do so when your baby is still wet.
This will facilitate the absorption of the lotion into their skin to help hydrate it better.
Tackling Cradle Cap?
1. Use Baby Oil.
Before you bathe your baby, massage some baby oil into their scalp and let it sit for a few minutes.
Then, wash it out with a mild shampoo.
The oil works to loosen and break up those dead skin cells in the scalp to facilitate their removal with a brush.
I like to use Honest Organic Baby Oil.
It’s gentle and newborn-safe and it does the job!
2. Always Brush After.
Once you dry your baby after their bath, start combing their little head, while still wet, with a soft bristle brush.
Combined with the oil technique, dealing with cradle cap will be a breeze.
Avoiding Rashes & Breakouts?
1. Wash Your Hands.
You should always be washing your hands before handling your newborn.
Our hands (especially our nails, so keep them short!) are magnets for all things gross and dirty.
Keep a stock of baby-safe hand lotion nearby to avoid dry, cracked hands.
Trust me, you’ll need it!
2. Use Gentle Detergents.
Make sure you are using free and clear, baby safe detergents to wash all of your’s and baby’s clothes and sheets.
Fragrances can clog pores in adult skin not to even mention newborn skin, and they cause irritation and allergic reactions.
I have been avid in only using free and clear detergents (like the Seventh Generation one!) since I have acne-prone sensitive skin.
The only negative is that since they’re fragrance-free, your clothes don’t have that “ahhh” out of the laundry smell to it.
If you like to have a ‘refreshing’ scent to your clothes, Dreft has a nice baby smell while still being safe for your newborn’s sensitive skin.
3. Watch Your Diet!
If you’re nursing, your diet can affect the health of your newborn’s skin.
Acidic foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits) and other allergy foods (dairy, soy, gluten, etc) can cause your baby to break out into hives.
Make sure to test out foods and see if your baby has a reaction before fully including them into your diet.
If you have an allergy in your family history, chances are your baby is allergic to that as well.
7. They Could Be A High Needs Baby
Yes, that means exactly what you think it does.
In one simple phrase, your newborn has preferences and they ‘demand’ them met.
Usually, that means that you are the only one they want to be touched by, so functioning and sleep basically are impossible since you can’t even set them down without out them wailing for you to pick them up again!
It’s a good thing to be aware of this before you have a baby because then you can know how to deal with a baby that just seems to be fussy for fussy’s sake.
What You Need To Know
First, talk with your pediatrician about any concerns and to rule out any illness, then determine if your baby meets the criteria of a ‘high needs’ baby.
Does your baby not nap well? Wakes up as soon as you put them down.
Have terrible separation anxiety? You literally can’t leave them with anyone.
Is easily overstimulated? Super sensitive to changing environments.
Nurse all the time? Like every 15 minutes! Agh!
Hate being swaddled? Too much constriction for this free spirit.
Not good at self-soothing? Won’t take a pacifier, so you’re the pacifier. Hates the swing, so you’re the swing.
Need constant attention? Extremely Demanding.
Crying all the time? And not because of pain..
And never satisfied? Like you literally have tried everything!
It might not be ‘scientifically proven’ but that type of behavior does reveal a particular neediness that cannot be denied nor ignored.
A great professional source on the topic is Dr. Sears.
He has an entire post dedicated to recognizing high needs baby that you could check out here.
What You Can Do
1. Avoid Overstimulation.
High needs babies are extremely sensitive to everything.
Sudden changes in temperature.
Unfamiliar, new environments.
In other words, baby prefers to be home.
If you go out, aim for early mornings and quiet, controllable environments, like grandma’s or a friend’s home.
It’ll be easy to manage if things do ‘go wrong’.
And try to stay close to home as well, so the retreat home isn’t a long drive.
Remember, they hate the car seat too!
2. Watch The Cues.
Babies might not be able to speak, but they do express their needs through body language and distinct cries, which you will learn to recognize over time.
Although it might take a little more time to learn the signals of a high needs baby, since they always cry and sometimes it feels like there’s no real reason, you should at least be able to distinguish if they’re hungry, tired, or need a diaper change.
Know the cues and act on them immediately.. don’t wait!
3. Keep A Consistent Schedule.
A schedule adds security for a baby that might be extra needy and sensitive.
The unknown can be stressful for a newborn, so being consistent and predictable can help to reduce your baby’s anxiety.
A way to start is by introducing a daily bedtime routine.
A good cue for bedtime can be a bath and massage or storytime after changing into pajamas or even nursing in a dark room after the final diaper change.
4. Do What Works For You
That might look like always carrying your baby in a carrier so that you could get chores done.
Or, that might look like ‘co-sleeping’ in your baby’s crib (no pillows or blankets), so that you could get some decent shut-eye.
Sometimes we just have to improvise to survive.
5. Ask For Help!
You will need it with a baby with that type of temperament, so don’t be shy about it!
They might not be able to hold your baby for you, but they could definitely help with household chores so that you (and your baby; clutter affects them too!) are less stressed!
8. Every Newborn Is Different
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve babysat prior to having your own baby, or maybe this isn’t your first, you will quickly find out that no two babies are alike.
What might have worked for one won’t necessarily work for another.
One might sleep better while the other breastfed more calmly.
Your first might have hated sleeping in their crib but your second doesn’t have an issue with it.
Babies are all different so I believe that having any sort of expectation of how your baby will be is setting yourself up for discouragement.
Let me explain by giving you an example.
In the womb, my little guy was incredibly chill, unlike my firstborn.
He would rarely move around, so much so that the only reassuring thing was that he was ok was when he would hiccup (which was often).
I started to assume that he would be very quiet, like my brother whom my parents would always brag was the best baby.
I let me guard down, and set my expectations high.
Nothing wrong with positive thinking, but there’s an extent to which it is realistic.
Needless to say, my second was just as difficult if not more difficult than my first, although in different ways!
My eldest struggled with breastfeeding and weight gain, and while my second was a fabulous nurser, he nursed much more frequently and had horrible colic and reflux.
I was very disappointed during those first weeks to months.
My mistake was assuming my baby would be like my brother… very easy.
Being realistic and not having any expectations when it comes to babies is honestly the best baby-prepping advice.
Assume the worst and read up on everything so that you are aware of the issues newborns could have so that you are ready for anything.
And stay positive while still expecting everything.
Oh, and don’t be surprised if your newborn isn’t like any other baby you’ve taken care of because they probably won’t be!
Taking care of a newborn is not easy, however, knowing what to expect and what can go wrong can really provide relief and clarity in those stressful first weeks.
After taking care of newborns that weren’t my own and then later taking care of my own two, I learned a lot about how they could be.
And while they are all different, they still struggle within similar areas and do the same weird things.
One thing is certain across the boards, they’re all sensitive to their new environment and they would much rather be in your womb.
So, hang in there momma, and remember, it gets easier!
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Until next time mommas!