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Your Baby's Days

You can probably list 10 things already that have surprised you about your baby. Perhaps he has red hari instead of blond, or maybe he has fingernails longer than yours. Now that you're home together, you'll be tuned to your personal Baby Channel 24/7. Does he need his diaper changed? Why is he sleeping so much? (Or so little?) Does he really need to eat this often?

Of course your baby's typical day will depend somewhat on his individual personality. However, you'll have an easier time getting through this first tense, joyful, scary week of caring for your baby if you know some basics about an average newborn's day. Read on to learn what to expect.

If your baby is breastfed, she'll eat up to every two hours over a 24-hour period. Formula-fed babies need to eat about every three hours. In other words, there's a reason you're not getting the laundry done: You may have to sit down for four to six hours a day to feed your baby! It's OK: Let the house go. Holding and feeding your baby are among the most important things you can do. Your baby's tiny stomach can hold only about 3 ounces of milk at a time, and she's growing so fast -- an ounce a day -- that her metabolism burns it off in a few hours. Then she's ready for more. Use your feeding times to talk or sing to your baby. By becoming attached to you, your baby will become a more confident, resilient child and adult later on.

Crying
No matter how hard you work to satisfy your baby's every need, you can expect her to whimper, sob, or even how for up to three hours a day. Colicky babies may cry even more than this. Crying is your baby's way of getting her needs met. She needs you to know that she's wet, tired, or hungry; sometimes she may be irritable because she isn't sure what the heck she wants. The best thing you can do to get through her crying spells is hold her and talk to her so that she knows you're responding to her needs. You can't spoil a new baby by holding her too much.

All that milk your baby is consuming will mean lots of diaper changes. A newborn baby wets his diapers six to eight times a day, and it'll probably take you a total of an hour a day to change his diapers. In the first few days, your baby should also pass meconium, that black sticky stuff that filled his intestines in the womb. After that his stools will be yellow with small seeds.

Within a week, these weird stools should become soft and light yellow if you nurse your baby; if you give him formula, they'll be firmer and tan in color. It's normal for a newborn to need his diaper changed every time you feed him because babies are born with a "gastrocolic reflex." As soon as they eat, their intestines are stimulated to have a bowel movement. This process should slow down after four to six weeks.

Sleeping
Your baby should sleep sixteen to twenty hours a day. Up to 80 percent of her zzz-time is spent in active, or REM, sleep rather than deeper, dreamless sleep because her nervous system is still immature. You may wonder why you're so tired if your baby is sleeping so many hours a day. The answer is simple: Your newborn is probably sleeping only three to five hours at a stretch, and you're not used to having your sleep interrupted. Your baby doesn't know the difference between night and day; it will take her at least a month to start sleeping more after dark than she does during daylight hours.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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