Newborns do the darndest things! My husband and I have learned so much in these first four weeks of our son’s life, and continue to be surprised that a lot of it is not covered in our infant care class. Take our advice so that you know what kinds of newborn behavior is normal, and which you should worry about.
I wrote this when my son was born in 2013. I laugh now but it was a hell of a learning experience!
Please be advised that I am not a medical professional, but am basing the information on this article on my knowledge and experiences. It’s always best to call your pediatrician or 911 if you’re not sure about the seriousness of your newborn’s condition.
I have affiliate links in this article – these are products I love and use in my home.
When To Worry
The main concern with babies is SIDS – Suddent Infant Death Syndrome. If you haven’t read up on this, please do so as soon as you can. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a great website with lots of good info – www.aap.org and www.healthychildren.org
There are lots of things that you can do to reduce the chances of SIDS – make sure you lay your baby down on their back to go to sleep. (They may roll over while sleeping, which is safe). When they sleep, keep the area clear of everything – blankets, sheets, toys, etc. It’s up to you if you’d like to swaddle them. My son loved being swaddled and my daughter hates it… go figure.
You can also do tummy time with your baby a few times a day, up to ten minutes at a time. If your baby is calm, alert and awake, lay them on a firm and even surface (like in their crib or on the floor with a clean blanket). Supervise them at all times! This is a great opportunity for them to work on lifting their head and strengthening their muscles.
Another thing to be vigilant about is your baby’s temperature. A fever is much more dangerous for an infant than it is for an adult. Take your baby to the ER if they have a temperature over 101F. You can use a normal thermometer under the armpit, or take the temperature rectally. Be ready to tell triage, or your on-call pediatrician, your baby’s fever and any other symptoms.
When you have a newborn, you’ll undoubtedly get a chart of baby poop to track diapers with. If your child isn’t pooping or peeing enough, or they seem listless and won’t eat, that’s a cause for concern too. (Do know, though, that breastfed babies won’t necessarily poop every day. We counted the pee diapers but didn’t worry as much about pooping).
Useful First Aid Supplies
A first aid kit is obviously never bad to have around; but there are a few specific items which we’ve used in the first month of our son’s life. I would keep these items with you at home, in your diaper bag, and with all caretakers.
We also keep Little Noses Saline in our home and diaper bag – it’s super easy to use some in your baby’s nose (and each bottle comes with a great baby-sized bulb syringe). I like this brand and appreciate that it doesn’t have a lot of extra unnecessary junk in it – like a scent. Ew.
The Nose Frida is a must-have and one of my top gifts for new parents. This crazy little gadget is very special to me, since I had to use it on my son when he was less than 48 hours old and couldn’t breathe. Now we have 3-4 around the house and in diaper bags. Read my full review here.
A thermometer is also essential. You don’t have to buy a baby thermometer, but we have the Vicks Comfort Flex Thermometer which lights up with green/yellow/red depending on your baby’s temperature. Remember that an ear thermometer is a no-no until your chid is one year old, as babies’ ears are too small for an accurate reading.
A baby’s biggest complaint is usually gas or constipation because they have immature digestive systems. We actually had to help teach our son how to poop by using glycerin suppositories – don’t use these without the recommendation of your pediatrician, but these quickly helped our son to get relief. There are also exercises you can do with your baby to help them to pass gas. We’ve also got Little Tummys Gas Relief Drops for our son – they help relieve the pressure and discomfort. Our video below (featuring my own adorable offspring) shows you how we do “bicycle legs” to naturally relieve gas and bloating!
When To Not Worry
Lots of newborn behaviors can scare a parent to death, but luckily are normal and harmless. Here’s a brief rundown of some of those.
Babies have a startle reflex which causes them to flail their little arms like crazy – they do this all the time and can hit themselves in the face, wake themselves up, etc. This is totally normal! Keep their nails trimmed with a baby nail clipper or nail file, and decide how you’d like to swaddle them. Arms in will prevent them from flailing but may stress them out since they can’t move; arms out will keep them free to move but they’ll obviously still be able to wake themselves. This reflex is definitely an unusual newborn behavior to watch, but it’s not dangerous at all.
Spitting up is also a normal thing for a newborn – just like the gas mentioned earlier, babies can swallow air in their tummies while nursing or bottle feeding. Be sure to burp your baby after every feeding, and anytime they pause from nursing or unlatch. Reflux is also common in newborns if the spitting up is happening really frequently – it’s easily fixed by keeping your baby propped up at least 30 degrees for half an hour after eating, and they can be prescribed meds to help too.
Newborns can’t track, or follow movement with their eyes, for about two weeks. You’ll be able to tell the first time they can focus on your face. By about three weeks old, they should be able to hold focus on your face for 2-3 seconds. There are hand-eye coordination prep exercises you can do with your baby too! And I absolutely love the Baby World app, which I reviewed here.
Babies’ legs and ankles may look horribly deformed at birth because they are so bent. This is caused by their position in the womb. When you swaddle a baby, it’s actually comforting to them to have their legs bent forward so that their ankles cross at the groin level. Their legs will straighten out as they grow and get stronger! (This is technically not a newborn behavior, but I did want to make a point to address this.)
Babies will lose and grow hair like crazy for the first few months – our son was born with tons of hair on his back, shoulders, head, even on his ears! Now he’s starting to lose some of it including the hair on his head, but there’s no cause for concern that your baby will be going to preschool bald.
I’d love to hear your comments and questions! Email me or leave a comment below!