Once labor and delivery (congrats new mom!) is over, you will be holding in your arms the precious little stranger who will be yours to take care of for the next 18 years.
It’s pretty daunting, and new parents understandably have so many questions and anxieties.
My favorite part of being a pediatric nurse and lactation consultant is being able to alleviate those fears and see new parents turn into confident, diapering, swaddling pros.
Here are some of the top newborn questions and answers that I am asked by new parents during the first few hours and days with their precious bundle of joy.
Why is my baby crying?
Babies cry for many reasons. It’s the only way that your baby knows how to communicate his or her needs to you.
Some of the things your baby might be trying to say are:
- I’m hungry
- I’m tired
- I’m hot or cold
- I’m gassy
- I feel sick
- I’m too full
- I need to be held
- My diaper is wet
As you get to know your newborn you may start to recognize subtle differences in the sounds of his or her cry to indicate different needs.
How do I soothe my crying baby?
Try to figure out why your baby might be crying and address the underlying problem. If you’ve tried feeding, changing, burping, and snuggling your baby and none of it works, it’s time to move on to some “pro tricks.”
Some things that might help soothe your baby are:
- Sucking on something such as a pacifier, breast, or clean pinky finger (if breastfeeding, avoid pacifiers for the first 4-6 weeks until breastfeeding is well established)
- Rocking in the tummy-down Colic Hold
- Babywearing in a carrier or sling
- Taking a bath
- Listening to white noise or music
If all these measures fail and you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, it’s ok to put your baby down in a safe place such as the crib and take 5 minutes to decompress.
Shaken baby syndrome will harm your baby for life, but 5 minutes of crying will not. If your baby is still crying after 2 hours, it’s time to call your doctor or go to the ER.
How often does my baby need to eat?
It’s best to feed your baby on demand when you notice signs of hunger versus on a set schedule, but the general rule of thumb is to feed your baby at least every 2-3 hours until he or she gets back above birthweight, which is usually by 2 weeks old.
Yes, that means waking your baby every 2-3 hours around the clock, even at night.
After your baby is back to birth weight you can let him or her sleep longer stretches at night, that is if you are lucky enough to have a little one who loves to sleep!
How can I tell if my baby is hungry?
The early signs of hunger are sometimes very subtle.
If you’ve waited to feed your baby until he or she is crying from hunger, that means you have missed some cues along the way, and it may be very difficult to latch a baby who is frantic with hunger.
The best way to avoid this it to look out for the very first signs of hunger. Some ways that your newborn baby might try to tell you that he or she is hungry are:
- Sucking on hands, fingers
- Smacking lips, opening mouth
- Moving head back and forth trying to find a breast or bottle
- Positioning into the chest of the person who is holding him or her
If you attempt to feed your baby when you see these early signs of hunger you will usually have more successful, less stressful feedings.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough breast milk?
Anxiety over inadequate breast milk supply is so common, even in moms who are actually over-producing milk!
Generally speaking, if your baby is growing well and having enough wet and dirty diapers, then you are making enough milk and do not need to worry.
How many wet or dirty diapers is normal? Is my baby’s poop supposed to look like this?
In the first few days you can expect at least 1 dirty diaper per day of life. (Think day 1 = 1 diaper, day 2 = 2 diapers, etc.)
After day 5, you should continue to expect at least 5 diapers per day.
The dark, sticky meconium will go away by 4 days, and you should see a very soft, mustard-colored, seedy stool for breastfed babies, or slightly less soft, brown-to-yellow stool for formula fed babies.
My baby only wants to sleep during the day and eat all night. Is this normal?
Yes! This is not only normal, but the dreaded “Second Night Syndrome” is actually expected in the first few days.
Wanting to nurse all the time is called cluster feeding, and as frustrating as it can be it helps bring in your breast milk supply.
It will take some time for your baby to sort out day from night, so in the meantime try to get as much help as you can during the day and limit visitors so you can sleep when baby sleeps.
What do I do with the umbilical stump?
The short answer is- pretty much nothing! The goal is to keep it dry and avoid irritation so it will fall off as quickly as possible.
Fold the diaper under the cord to avoid rubbing, give baby sponge baths to avoid submerging it in water and keep it dry, but do clean the area gently with a cotton swab if it gets dirty. It should fall off naturally on its own within 2 weeks.
Do not pull the cord off- it must fall off entirely on it’s own. If you notice any bleeding, yellow, green, or foul-smelling discharge call your baby’s doctor.
When do I need to call a doctor or take my baby to the ER?
This is not an exhaustive list, but call your baby’s doctor or go to the ER if you notice:
- Jaundice- if you notice that your newborn’s skin or eyes look yellow. Other signs of jaundice are sleepiness and poor feeding.
- Feeding problems- If your baby will not latch or take a bottle for multiple feedings in a row, it is important to address the problem immediately.
- Dehydration- If your baby does not have at least 5 wet diapers a day, has a sunken soft spot on the head, or cries without tears.
- Fever– A temperature of 100.4 F or over is always considered an emergency in a baby less than 3 months old.
- Persistent Crying– If your baby has not stopped crying for more than 2 hours, especially if the cry is high-pitched
Does it get easier?
YES! The first few days and weeks as a new parent can feel so overwhelming and never ending but remember that every single parent that you know has been through this.
It does get easier. New challenges will arise as others become distant memories, and it is all part of the amazing process of parenthood!
What other questions do you have regarding life as a new parent, newborn care, or breastfeeding? Leave a comment!
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I’m a Registered Nurse and International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, specializing in breastfeeding, pediatrics, obstetrics, and public health. I’m passionate about providing individualized, relationship-based care to help parents become the best that they can be and reach their infant feeding goals, all while navigating this amazing journey of motherhood myself!