New baby boot camp—basics to know

You survived the labour and you’re holding your new baby. But what do you do with it? This is everything you need to know about your newborn.


Straight after birth
For the past nine months, you’ve been imagining your bub’s appearance — but you might not have expected a blue and bruised-looking babe, with perhaps a pointy head. “Being squeezed through the birth canal can leave some babies swollen and misshapen,” says Rebecca Byrne of the National Childbirth Trust, UK. “A baby’s skull is made of plates that move to fit through your vagina, and delivery can mould her head into a cone shape. This should return to normal within a few days.” If your delivery involved ventouse or forceps, this moulding can be more extreme.

C-section babies generally look prettier, having avoided the “big squeeze”. You’ll be given your baby to hold as soon as possible. If you’ve had a C-section, you might find this too uncomfortable, so she might be given to your husband and held close to you.

Until her circulation gets going, your baby’s skin may be tinged purple or red. She’ll certainly be slippery from being in amniotic fluid and her hair may be matted with goo. Be prepared for the jellied, bloody stump where her belly button should be — this is what’s left of the umbilical cord once it’s been clamped and cut. The stump will dry up and fall off during the next week.

Newborn procedures
While labour itself is unpredictable, there are standard postbirth procedures. The medical team will weigh, measure and examine her, count her fingers and toes, look at her eyes, ears, mouth and the soft palate, and make sure she looks normal and is moving and breathing properly.

Your little one will also be given the Apgar test — one minute after birth and again five minutes later — to identify if she needs extra help adjusting to life outside the womb. Named after Dr Virginia Apgar, who devised it in 1952, this test is used to assess whether a newborn needs extra medical care, such as suctioning of the airways. It is not an indication of your child’s long-term health or development.

During the hospital stay, your baby will receive the BCG and hepatitis B injections. Babies will also get their hearing tested. Healthy babies are observed for at least 24 hours in hospital, where the paediatrician assesses their ability to feed, pee and poop, before being discharged. Usually, the paediatrician will see your baby again within a week of birth, in his or her clinic, to assess her development.