Holding your baby for the first time is a magical experience. Despite their tiny size, it’s no secret that your newborn will keep you very busy – even during the first month when they spend so much time sleeping.
If this is your first time as a mother, caring for your newborn can seem overwhelming. Try to enjoy these precious early days and remember that help is always available if you need it. Your midwife or other chosen healthcare professional will visit you for up to six weeks after your baby is born.
Your most important role in the first 28 days 1 of your newborn’s life is to keep them safe and healthy. Breastfeeding, keeping up with immunisations and avoiding cigarette smoke are very important to giving your baby the healthiest start to life 2. Enrolling your little one with a general medical practice, a Well Child Tamariki Ora service and the Community Oral Health Service is another helpful way to keep on top of your baby’s health progress 2. Ask your midwife for help if you’re not sure where to start.
The cycle your baby feeds, plays and sleeps in forms the basic structure of their day. When you think about how much your newborn is taking in and learning everyday, a routine provides them with some welcome relief and comfort. But don’t expect your newborn to follow a predictable routine. They are too young at this early stage of their life.
Depending on your baby’s individual sleep needs, the cycle you develop together might be different to your friend’s or family member’s. Try to consider any information you find as guidance. Always adapt advice to suit to your baby’s individual personality and your own daily commitments.
Essentially, your newborn has four basic needs:
But, knowing how much your baby needs – and when – can be tricky.
It’s important to be flexible and not expect your baby to behave in the same way every day. While your little one will benefit from a predictable rhythm, remember to always be flexible and adapt your schedule to suit both your baby’s and your own needs.
Perhaps you could think about jotting down when your baby eats, sleeps, fills their nappy and is particularly alert as you go. It can help reveal their natural rhythms.
When you’re ready, follow these three basic steps to find the best routine for you and your newborn:
1. Consistency is key
Experiment with a range of different settling techniques before placing your baby into their cot. Aim for simplicity. Things like changing their nappy, engaging in playtime, feeding and repeating simple phrases or sounds in the same order can help your baby recognise when it’s time to sleep.
2. Feed on demand
On average, a newborn feeds every 2 to 5 hours 3 but some babies feed more often than others. So, if your baby is hungry it’s best to feed them when they want to, rather than wait 4. Whether you decide to breastfeed or use formula, feeding also helps to develop a close and comforting bond between you and your baby.
3. Familiarise your baby with night and day
Until around three or four months of age, your baby won’t develop their circadian rhythm. Without it they can’t distinguish between day and night. This could make it very tricky in the beginning for you to be able to predict your baby’s sleeping patterns. To help their circadian rhythm along try introducing behaviours like exposing them to very filtered, low level sunlight for a couple of minutes in the morning and keeping lights and noises dim during night feeds 5.
Witnessing your baby’s first milestone could be very exciting. You’ll probably be surprised at just how much time you spend watching your little one.
As your newborn learns and grows they will slowly become more responsive and alert. Babies reach different milestones in vaguely predictable patterns, however every baby grows and develops in their own unique way.
These are some of the key milestones Plunket claims your newborn might reach in their first few weeks 6.
At around one month old, babies can typically:
Remember though, babies are their own individuals. Use these milestones as a guide and enjoy this precious first month together above all.