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After birth—care of your new baby

Feeding your baby

The midwives caring for you and your baby are able to provide guidance, assistance and support to help you establish and maintain breastfeeding.   

A breastfeeding clinic, including a talk and practical breastfeeding session, is held every week day, except Sundays. Please check with your midwife or nurse for the time and location of this clinic. It is recommended that you attend a session as early as possible during your stay.

If you are having complex breastfeeding issues, which cannot be solved by the midwife caring for you, they will refer you to the Breastfeeding Support Service. If you are having concerns in your first few weeks at home, you can make an appointment to visit the service on 07 3163 8847.

At Mater Mother’s Hospital we respect your right to choose how you feed your baby and will support you with guidance and advice whatever your decision.

For more information on feeding your baby please see the following Mater brochures:

Nappy changing

  • Gather everything you need and place it all within easy reach before you commence a nappy change so that you are not tempted to leave your baby unattended on a change table, for whatever reason.
  • The height of the change table or any surface used for changing, or bathing, your baby should be just under the level of your bent elbow, so that your back stays straight. 
  • Always keep one hand on your baby, especially as they get older. At this point you could consider changing baby on a lower surface or a change mat on the floor.
  • Encourage eye contact with your baby during nappy changing.

For girls:

Wipe from front to back, wiping away any bowel motion or urine from their skin, leaving any protective mucous in the vagina. Baby girls can also have a small loss of blood from the vagina in the first week, like a small period. This usually lasts a few days only and there is a very small amount of blood.

For boys:

Clean all around the folds of skin of the penis and scrotum, but leave the foreskin in place. If the foreskin is pulled back too early, scarring of the head of the penis may occur. The foreskin may take many years to roll down naturally. Boys can spray urine everywhere, so be very prompt when replacing the nappy.

Please note: some babies, both boys and girls, can also have swollen breasts that feel quite lumpy and hard which may even ooze milk. Swollen breasts and vaginal blood loss in babies result from the hormones passing from the mother to the baby before birth. They are of no concern and usually resolve quickly.

Normal infant urine and bowel habits

Urine

You could expect that your baby will have one wet nappy on the first day, two on day two
and three on day three, and so on until breastfeeding is established. Then you would expect approximately six to eight heavy wet nappies per day, with the urine a pale yellow in colour.

If using disposable nappies it can sometimes be difficult to tell if the nappy is wet—feel the front and bottom of the nappy to check the crystals inside the nappy—if wet, they should feel full.

Some disposable nappies have a “wetness indicator” which changes colour if the nappy is wet.

Bowels

Your baby’s first bowel motions, called meconium, are black/dark green in colour and should occur within 24 hours of birth. After a few days of feeding the bowel motions change colour to brown/green and then to a yellowish mustard colour which is loose with small curds in it like cottage cheese. 

Your breast milk contains natural laxatives which prevent constipation. In the early days babies may have a bowel motion with every feed but this will slow down. The normal range of bowel motions is eight per day to one per week. If you have any concerns contact your midwife, doctor or child health nurse.

Formula fed babies are more prone to constipation. If this is a problem please seek assistance from your midwife, child health nurse or doctor.

Bathing

  • Gather everything you need and place it all within easy reach before you start bathing your baby. Never leave your baby alone in the bath.
  • The temperature of the bath should be warm but not too hot. You can place your elbow or wrist in the water to check the temperature—if it is comfortable then it should be suitable.
  • Babies may only need to be bathed every second day in cooler weather but in warmer months a daily bath is recommended.

Cord care

  • The umbilical cord will feel cold and clammy, initially, and then will become quite dry and brown in colour.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before, and after, handling the cord.
  • Check at each nappy change—there should be no blood loss.
  • When re-dressing your baby, fold down the nappy. This helps keep the cord exposed to air (keeping it dry), reduces undue pressure on the cord and prevents potential for infection through faecal contamination.
  • When bathing your baby wash the cord with water and dry gently when drying your baby.
  • There are no nerve endings in the cord so you will not hurt your baby when cleaning the cord.
  • There is a variation in the length of time it will take for the cord to separate: however, this usually occurs between five and 15 days. When it is close to dropping off, you may notice old blood around the base of the cord. It is normal for the cord to smell at this stage. Just clean as previously described.
  • If the skin around the cord becomes red or hot to touch, looks inflamed, is offensive to smell or is noticeably draining pus, show your midwife, nurse, doctor or child health nurse as soon as possible.

Weight

  • It is normal for your baby to lose some weight in the first few days, but they usually regain their birth weight by approximately two weeks of age. In hospital your baby will be weighed at birth and on discharge.
  • If you wish to have your baby weighed after discharge there are several options, including:
    • Child Health Clinic—by making an appointment. Some clinics have a drop-in area for self-weighing.
    • Your GP.

Normal infant behaviour

There is a wide range of normal behaviour for babies in the first few months of life.

  • They are born knowing how to suck and in the first few days learn how to coordinate their sucking and breathing.
  • They have irregular sleeping and feeding times in the first three months.
  • Sneezing is a way babies have of clearing their nose and most babies sneeze several times a day.
  • Hiccoughing is normal behaviour, it will not harm your baby and no treatment is required.
  • Newborn babies can use all their senses:
    • They will look at people and things, particularly at people’s faces if they are close.
    • They will enjoy gentle touch and the sound of a soothing voice.
    • They will react to bright light and noise.
    • They will grasp your finger with hands or feet and they will make stepping movements if they are held upright on a firm surface.
  • All these automatic responses, except sucking, are lost within a few months and your baby will make controlled movements instead.

Crying

  • Babies cry to gain our attention and at times there may be no obvious reason. They may cry because they are hungry, have wind or pain, feel hot, cold or uncomfortable, feel tired and unable to sleep or feel lonely and want company. When you respond to your baby they learn to trust your ability to comfort them.
  • When babies cry it can be mild fussing or intense crying and screaming. Crying can stop as quickly as it started or last for hours at a time.
  • It is normal for babies to have at least one unsettled period each day (usually in the early evening) so it is important that you have some strategies to cope with these periods of crying e.g. holding your baby close, talking to them in a soft, soothing voice, singing, swaying, rocking, wrapping, using a sling or a pouch, use of music or noise, a warm bath or a walk in the pram.
  • Babies usually cry for hunger or comfort so always try feeding or holding your baby skin to skin first.
  • If your baby’s cry sounds different or unusual it may be the first sign of illness, particularly if your baby is not feeding well, won’t be comforted or has a temperature above 37.5º C. If you think your baby is ill take them to your doctor immediately or to the nearest emergency department.
  • Never shake or toss your baby as this can cause bleeding and damage to the brain. If you become upset or distressed some helpful hints include: putting your baby down safely in a cot or pram; walking away and take deep calming breaths; making yourself a cup of tea; ringing a friend or asking someone to help you. Speak to your midwife, GP or child health nurse if you are having problems.

Sleeping and settling

 

  • A newborn baby’s sleep cycles lasts about 20 to 40 minutes with broken sleep anywhere from two to six hours.
  • During light sleep babies will sometimes move and make noises. Their breathing pattern is irregular and they can be woken easily at this time.
  • During deep sleep they are very still and will not move when touched.
  • Settling Your Baby. A Survival Guide for Parents Birth to Twelve Months is a useful publication and is available for purchase from main reception on level 5, Mater Mothers' Hospital.
  • Many parents stop wrapping their baby after the first few weeks. If you are having difficulty getting your baby off to sleep or keeping them asleep, it may be worth another try. If you choose to wrap your baby, make sure baby’s head is not covered and wrap baby firmly but not too tightly, allowing room for their legs to move. Wraps should be of lightweight cotton or muslin material and ensure your baby is not overdressed under the wrap. For instructions on safe wrapping, please see SIDS and Kids brochure: Safe wrapping

Hearing test

The healthy hearing program aims to identify babies born with permanent hearing loss. It is free, available to all babies born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital and performed as soon as possible after birth. If this test is not done before you and your baby leave hospital, your baby can have the hearing test as an outpatient. The nurse or person trained in the conducting this test will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you may have.

Dressing your baby for climate

Dress your baby in similar weight clothes to yourself. The general rule is what you are wearing plus one layer, which is usually a light wrap. Hats should not be worn inside the house once you are home from hospital as babies need to lose excess heat from their heads and faces. If you have air conditioning make sure the room does not become too cold—a room temperature of around 24–26 degrees is appropriate.

Equipment

  • If using a baby sling, choose one that provides good, even shoulder support. If the weight of the sling is supported onto your hips this will help you to maintain a good posture. Keep baby’s weight close to your body.
  • Read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s brochure: Baby slings for ruther information about slings.
  • Please avoid the use of Baby Walkers and Jolly Jumpers, as these can affect your baby’s development. For further information please see a paediatric physiotherapist.

Family adaptation to your new baby

  • Going home from hospital can be very exciting but you may also feel nervous without hospital staff available to assist you.
  • The more your partner shares your baby’s care the more you will both enjoy your baby.
  • Discuss with your partner the sharing of household chores.
  • Take advantage of family and friends’ offers to help, but direct them to the most useful chores, or have them care for your baby while you catch up on some sleep.
  • Avoid having a lot of visitors in the first week.
  • Taking some time to spend with your partner is important at this time. You may feel so tired in the early weeks that it is easy to let things slide.
  • If you already have children you may witness some sibling rivalry. Some strategies that may help at this time include:
    • involving your older child in your baby’s cares, bathing, nappy changing etc
    • spending special time each day with your older child or children
    • organising your toddler with a game, food or drink prior to feeding your new baby.

When to seek medical attention for your baby

The following are urgent problems. You need to take your baby to the nearest emergency department or dial 000 for an ambulance if your baby:

  • makes jerky movements
  • turns blue or very pale
  • has quick, difficult or grunting breathing
  • is very difficult to wake, unusually drowsy or does not know you
  • has any skin rashes, especially red spots which do not fade and lose colour when they are pressed.

Other problems that could be serious and require your baby to be seen by a GP, or an emergency department if out of hours, include:

  • Your baby has a hoarse cough with noisy breathing, wheezing or cannot breathe through their nose.
  • Your baby feels unusually hot (fever), cold or floppy.
  • Your baby cries in an unusual way or for an unusually long time or seems to be in pain.
  • You notice any bleeding from the nose or any bruising.
  • Your baby keeps refusing feeds or continues to vomit up feeds.
  • You observe any sticky eyes or conjunctivitis.
  • Your baby has very liquid bowel motions which are green brown in colour—this could be diarrhoea.
  • Temperature above 37.5º C
  • Your baby becomes more jaundiced.

Further information

Please read these Mater brochures for additional relevant baby care information:

  1. Baby—jaundice and phototherapy
  2. Baby—newborn screening test
  3. Baby—safe sleeping
  4. Child safety restraints
  5. Immunisation
  6. Twins, triplets and more
  7. Whooping cough immunisation and your baby

Resources and contact numbers

  • Australian Breastfeeding Association: 1800 686 2 686
  • Belmont Private Hospital (Mother-Baby Unit): 07 3398 0238
  • Child health: 13 Health (13 43 25 84) ask for the child health nurse
  • Ellen Barron Family Centre: 07 3139 6500 (Child Health for complex child and parenting needs)
  • Kidsafe Queensland: 07 3854 1829
  • Multiple Birth Association: 1300 886 499
  • National Prescribing Service Medicines Line: 1300 888 763
  • SIDS & KIDS: 1300 308 307
  • Queensland Ambulance capsule hire and fitting: 1300 369 003

Mater services

  • Accident and Emergency—Mater Hospital Brisbane: 07 3163 8484
  • Accident and Emergency—Mater Private Hospital Brisbane: 07 3163 1000
  • Breastfeeding Support Service: 07 3163 8847
  • Mater Health and Wellness Clinic for allied health support (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nutrition etc): 07 3163 6000

Additional resources

For video resources on this topic in languages other than English, visit the Raising Children Network website.*

*Please note that Mater cannot guarantee the accuracy or appropriateness of information provided on third party websites.

© 2013 Mater Misericordiae Health Services Brisbane Limited. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 17/5/2016.
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