One of the most cautious drives you’ll ever take is the one bringing your newborn baby home with you. Newborns look and feel fragile, and they represent a new world of uncertainty.
It’s true: There’s no official instruction manual for becoming a parent. But relax; you’re not the first parent to wonder why you’ve been entrusted with a little person without an instruction manual.
The 40 weeks of pregnancy allow time for more than just picking out names; it’s your opportunity to plan and prepare. The more you know about your newborn, the better equipped you’ll be when he or she arrives.
Once your baby is born, doctors will be looking for a few key signs that he or she is healthy and ready to go home. First they will want to see that the baby is able to breathe well and maintain its body temperature. Newborns must also demonstrate that they can feed well. Regardless of whether it’s breastfed or bottle-fed, all babies should be wetting at least three or four nappies in a 24-hour period.
Most healthy newborns go home after two or three days, yet the transition for parents is just beginning. It’s OK to feel a little scared — the first week after babies are born is when they’re most vulnerable. Newborns can have multiple medical problems that if left unattended can become serious.
Dehydration is sometimes a concern for newborn babies that can continue once they’ve left the hospital.
Parents should also watch for signs of infection in their newborn. Infections can be picked up during birth or from people other than the parents handling the baby, such as visitors. Most people think only of fevers, but newborns can have dropping temperatures. It’s always wise to watch for signs of infection around the belly button, poor sucking during breastfeeding, a lack of appetite, poor weight gain, weak crying, and increasing irritability.
Jaundice happens in many babies, peaking in the first week as newborns learn to excrete the yellow pigment called bilirubin in their stools. Babies tend to have slow liver function at first and may have some evidence of jaundice as their livers quickly mature over the first several days.
Although most babies remain perfectly healthy after they’re discharged from the hospital, it’s important to watch for any signs of illness and take your child to the GP for evaluation.