10 Things to Know About Newborns

Here are a few basics you need to know about your new arrival.

Close-up of baby sleeping
Photo: Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock
01 of 13

Your Baby May Look a Little Funny

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Here's the truth: your baby's face may be smooshed from their journey through the birth canal, and they might be sporting a "bodysuit" of fine hair called lanugo. They could also be puffy-faced and have eyes that are often shut (and a little gooey). After all, your baby just spent nine months in the womb. But pretty soon, they will resemble that beautiful baby you imagined.

02 of 13

You're Going to Have to Wait For Those Smiles

dad holding newborn
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Up until then, you're working for a boss who is pretty demanding. To get through the exhaustion and emotional upheaval, keep this in mind: your efforts aren't lostthe on baby in those early days. "Your baby feels comforted by you, they do feel attachment, and they do like to be held," says Los Angeles-based pediatrician Christopher Tolcher, M.D.

03 of 13

Sponge Baths > Full Baths

Newborn Asian Baby Bath Blue Pale
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Until your baby's umbilical cord falls off, it's sponge baths only. If the cord is kept dry, it falls off faster–usually within two weeks. If the umbilical cord does get wet, pat it dry. And if the stump bleeds a little when the cord falls off, that's okay, too, as Alyson Bracken, of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, learned. "It scared me at first," she says, but then she found out that mild bleeding and even a scab can be normal.

04 of 13

The Soft Spot is Nothing to Fear

Sitting Mother Holding Newborn Baby Head Hair
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"I was terrified of the soft spot," admits April Hardwick, of New York City, referring to the opening in the skull, also called the fontanel, which allows a baby to maneuver out of the birth canal. "Gemma had a full head of hair at birth, and I was initially afraid to comb over the soft spot," Hardwick says. But there was no need to worry: "It's okay to touch the soft spot and baby's hair near it," says Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D, pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls. The spot may pulsate because it's directly over blood vessels covering the brain.

05 of 13

Your Baby Will Let You Know if They Need More to Eat

Dark Hair Woman Breastfeeding Baby Gray Shirt
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Babies need to eat every two to three hours – but if you're nursing, it's tough to know how much milk your baby is actually getting. The good news is, there is a way to tell: "The baby's weight is the best indicator in the early days," says Dr. Tolcher. Your pediatrician will check it within a few days of discharge. A newborn loses 5 to 8% of their birthweight within the first week but should gain it back by the second. Diaper-counting can also act as a gauge: the schedule those first five days is haphazard, but after that, you'll see five to six wet diapers a day, and at least one or two stools.

06 of 13

How to Change a Diaper

There's no doubt that babies poop -- a lot! If you're still getting the hang of diapering, learn how to change one at 6 weeks.

07 of 13

Dry Skin is Normal for Newborns

newborn feet
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Initially, your baby may have soft and silky skin, but that will soon change. "If you soaked yourself in liquid for nine months and then hit the air, you'd be dry too!" says Laura Jana, M.D., pediatrician and coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. You don't have to do anything about dry skin (it typically peels and flakes off), but if you're so inclined, reach for a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free baby lotion. Little pink bumps, diaper rashes, and even baby acne may also make an appearance. "Acne tends to last for a few months," Dr. Jana says. "So get those cute newborn pics before one month!"

08 of 13

Basic Hygiene Safety Can Help Protect Your Baby

Mom taking photo of sleeping baby
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You have full permission to hole up at home with your baby if you'd like, but you can also get out with some precautions. "Use common sense when you go out in public," Dr. Tolcher advises. Keep your baby out of the sun and avoid sick people (no toddler birthday parties!) and crowded enclosed spaces (such as the mall during the holidays). "Teach older siblings to touch baby's feet instead of their hands and face, which will help prevent the spread of infection," he adds. And make your older child the hygiene police, says Dr. Jana. They might love telling guests, "Don't touch the baby without washing your hands!"

09 of 13

A Lot of Crying Can be Very Normal

Concerned Woman Picks Up Crying Baby
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Those piercing wails are how your baby communicates: they will let you know they're hungry, cold, have a dirty diaper, or want to be held. These early "conversations" can be frustrating but rest assured, you'll get a better handle on what your baby needs in time. Laurie May, of Boardman, Ohio, and her husband quickly learned to read their daughter's hunger signal. When they were brand-new parents, they set an alarm to go off every two hours to wake Carter for a feeding. "We did not need the alarm!" she says. "We love to laugh at that one now."

10 of 13

"Cat Naps" Are a Very Real Thing

Close-up of baby sleeping
Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock

Those first three months are a free-for-all. Your baby needs to eat every two to three hours, so you're not getting much sleep either. "It does get better," assures Dr. Altmann. "Most infants can sleep for six to eight hours by 3 months of age." In the meantime, try to get your baby on a day and night schedule: during the day, don't let them snooze more than three hours without waking them to feed; at night, let your baby sleep as long as they want once they have regained the weight lost at birth.

11 of 13

These Days Really are Fleeting

Happy mother with newborn baby
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Stressed, tired, and lonely? Yes, those early days are hard. But they'll soon be behind you. Barbara Evans, of New York City, says, "I wish I'd known how quickly the time goes." The mom to Luella, 8 months, says, "I didn't take enough pictures or keep notes!" Rabeea Baloch, of Sugarland, Texas, shares some veteran-mom experience: "With my first, I stressed over every single thing, from changing diapers to whether the baby was crying more than usual. With my second, I just enjoyed holding her, smelling her, kissing her, and loving the time together."

12 of 13

Baby Milestones: Your Baby's First Month

13 of 13

How to Swaddle Baby

Some babies sleep more soundly when they're swaddled, so watch our video for the best technique to secure your baby like a burrito!

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