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New Parents: What to Expect During the First Few Weeks of Life

Written by Meghan Connelly, MD.

As new parents, you probably have lots of questions. This is normal and to be expected. And, some of your best resources will be friends and family that have been through this experience and can pass on “tips and tricks” to raising a newborn.

But we want to help, too! Below you’ll find a few answers to many of the questions new parents have.

Wake Up! Rise And Shine!

Babies don't really "wake up" until day 3-5 of life, then they can become more active, and potentially fussy. This is right about when they are discharged from the hospital, and can cause significant anxiety in new parents. Remember, the baby is adjusting to being out of the womb, learning how to feed, and adjusting to all of the new stimuli in an open environment. All of that being said, call your Pediatrician sooner rather than later if you have concerns! Their job is to help you keep your child healthy and answer any questions you may have.

The Always Feared Bellybutton

When you bring your baby home, the belly button will be what we call a “stump”, it is basically a shriveled up blood vessel and will continue to dry, flake, shrink, and, eventually, fall off. This area really does not require special care. It should be kept as dry as possible, but doesn't need any special lotions or creams applied to the area.

If the area surrounding the cord becomes red, swollen, foul smelling, or oozes pus after the umbilical stump falls off, these are all signs of infection and you should alert your pediatrician or visit the emergency room to seek treatment. Some babies have clear fluid that continues to seep from this area. If this is the case in your infant, let your Pediatrician know because this can be a sign of an umbilical granuloma which can be “fixed” by applying a small amount of a chemical known as silver nitrate to the area (under your doctor's care).

Remember, though, if you notice anything concerning, err on side of caution, call your Pediatrician (that’s why you have one) and seek appropriate medical care.

Who Would Have Known?

It can be normal for babies to have small breasts and even some vaginal discharge. This happens because Mom's estrogen levels are high during pregnancy and the baby gets some of the estrogen into their system, then has abrupt withdrawal of the hormone. Usually, the vaginal discharge stops by 10-14 days of life...often earlier. The breast lumps may take a bit longer to go away...more often weeks to months.

Little "Extras"

As far as they are able, Mom and Dad (and any other caregivers) should get the flu vaccine and the Tdap vaccine...Why? Well, first off, the "p" part of the Tdap vaccine stands for pertussis (whooping cough) which can be very dangerous to infants. A newborn can not yet receive either of these vaccines. And, by ensuring the people closest to the baby have been protected against things like flu and whooping cough, the baby is less likely to contract these diseases.

Meghan Connelly, MD
Meghan Connelly, MD

Meghan Connelly grew up in Ohio.  She attended Vanderbilt University for her undergraduate studies majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in both Chemistry and American Political Science. Afterwards, she attended medical school at the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Washington DC and is completing dua.. Read more

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