What is Normal for Newborns

Other pages on postnatal information include Subsequent Newborn Care and What is Normal for Post-natal Mothers.

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What is Normal for Newborns
What is Normal for Post-natal Mothers
Subsequent Newborn Care


A healthy, well baby is one which is pink, alert and reacts to a stimulus. They are relaxed when asleep (excepting the occasional startled jump or throwing their arms wide in response to being startled), and should be able to hold themselves together when awake.

A baby that is floppy like a cloth doll, that is difficult to stir, or has difficulty breathing may not be well. If babies are put to sleep in cots, the best sleeping position is on their back to minimise SIDS risk. Other risks include exposing babies to smoky atmospheres or over-heating/over-dressing.

The First 24 Hours


Cords start off being pale coloured (usually white) limp and soft after they have stopped pulsing. If you have a lotus birth, the cord will dry out pretty rapidly in a matter of hours, so try and get it positioned off the skin. If the cord has been cut, there should be no blood loss. If there is, re-tie the string or re-do the clamp. If the cord is dry, there is no need for clamps or ties.


Newborn breathing should be quiet. It is normal for most babies to have short periods of rapid breathing with pauses in between as they adjust to dependance on their lungs for oxygen intake. Occasional sneezing and hiccuping is also normal.

Some babies will experience grunty or wet breathing noises. This is usually due to mucus and often resolves with a few breastfeeding sessions.

However if the baby is having difficulty breathing, try facilating mucus drainage again by laying them over your lap so that their head is lower than their butt and rubbing their back gently and wiping their noses. Sitting in the bathroom with the shower on hot to steam up the room also helps.

If your feeling is that the baby needs medical assistance, then see a doctor or midwife for a check up.


Newborn babies should be pink. For the first couple of days, some babies will be red until their blood circulation adjusts. If they are too hot, their skin will flush bright red, same as when they get so distressed they get all worked up and flustered. If they are too cold, they will be pale with bluish hands and feet.

Place a hand on their back or chest to gauge their temperature. Try and avoid thermometers unless you feel your baby is sick.


Meconium, the first bowel movement is usually black and sticky. Using olive or almond oil on a cotton wool ball will help you to remove meconium from their skin. Fleece nappy liners are a good idea for the first few days if you are using nappies.


Each baby is different. There are no set rules. The only important thing is making sure that your baby always attaches correctly to the nipple.

If there is an incorrect latch (you can hear them sucking in air or you feel the positioning is wrong), break suction and try again. Incorrect latches can cause major breastfeeding difficulties, sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. See a breastfeeding diagram here.

Some newborns tend to sleep a lot. If they are not getting enough wet nappies 6-8 a day, it may be necessary to wake them for feeds.

Day 2

Cord :

Do not apply anything to the cord or to the base of the cord. The best thing is to keep it dry and not to bathe your baby until it has fallen off.

Sometimes there is slight reddness or weeping tissue as it heals. This is not anything to worry about, but if it starts to smell or look infected, use breastmilk or goldenseal on the base of the cord. Using breastmilk can soothe the reddness and irritation but make sure you air dry it before putting clothes/nappy back on the baby.

Suspicious Nappies :

Sometimes, particularly with boys, there will be a coral coloured smudge on the nappy. This is just a sign of concentrated urine. With girls, don't be alarmed if there is a discharge of mucous or light streak of blood from their vaginas. This is due to the withdrawal of the mother's hormones.

Rash :

A blotchy red rash appears on some babies' bodies, usually on the trunk or face. Let fresh air get to it. This rash (toxic erythema) will disappear without treatment within a few days.

White Spots on Nose :

This is called milia and they are immature skin glands that usually resolve in the first week or two.

Feeding :

Babies suck frequently as they are only getting small amounts of colostrum. Remember it is quality not quantity that is important when it comes to colustrum.

Breastfeed as often as your baby wants, and don't let them overheat.

Day 3


You may be experiencing a feeding gorge in your baby at this point. They are trying to bring in your milk and prevent your breasts from getting engorged. Breastfeed as often as your baby demands as this will help to prevent problems later on with blocked ducts and breast inflammation.


Once your baby starts getting breastmilk, their bowel movements will be a mustard yellow colour which is subject to change depending on your diet. Poos can change colour form orange to yellow to green and have white flecks in it (curds).


Jaundice may appear around day 3 and is caused by the baby trying to metabolise extra red blood cells that they may have from being in the womb.

The by-product of red blood cell metabolism is bilirubin which makes the skin go a slightly yellow colour. Breastmilk has a protein that will bind to the bilirubin and help the newborn's body to excrete it.

Placing the baby in indirect sunlight can help break down bilirubin as well so that it can be excreted through the urine.

Sticky Eyes:

Use breastmilk to flush out the eyes every couple of hours. Do not use water or damp wipes or cloths as they can inadvertly cause infection.

Enlargened Breasts :

Enlargened breasts may occur in both male and female babies and is due to high hormone content in the breastmilk. This will subside but may take some time for the mother's hormones to settle.


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What is Normal for Newborns
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Breastfeeding Latch Diagram
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