Once you have been through labour and the doctor or midwife hands you your baby, the hardest part is definitely over, but there is still a little work to be done to make sure your little bundle is happy and healthy.
Here’s what to expect for your little one in the minutes, hours, days and weeks after birth.
In the first few minutes…
In the first few seconds after birth your baby should take its first breaths and start crying.
If you had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery the baby will immediately be placed on your chest naked for skin-on-skin, which not only promotes a bond but helps you both steady your heart rate, keep the baby warm and trigger breastfeeding.
If your birth requires vacuum or forceps, or your baby is not breathing as well as it should you will likely have to wait while the doctors/midwives examine them. They may clean and dry them and put them under a warming station while they do this, but will get them on your chest, skin-to-skin as soon as they can.
If you undergo a caesarean section your baby will need to be assessed before skin-on-skin can commence, some hospitals will let you then do skin-on-skin in the theatre once the baby has been checked and others will require you to wait until you are out of theatre. It might be good to put in your birth plan that you want to have skin-to-skin as soon as you can – ideally in theatre.
If you require further medical attention your baby can do skin-on-skin with your partner.
Following all births, doctors/midwives will perform the Apgar test on your baby, which checks your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, response to stimuli and skin colour. This is performed at 1 minute and again at 5 minutes (and may be performed again at 7 and 10 minutes if the baby does not pass). This checks for any initial signs of any problems and can help doctors determine if any further monitoring or testing is required.
Your baby will then also be weighed and measured and will administer a vitamin k injection which helps baby’s blood to clot and prevent serious bleeding.
In the first few hours
Providing your baby is healthy and happy, you will have time to bond with your little one and start to establish breastfeeding. After this a midwife or paediatrician will perform a full newborn examination (although depending on the hospital/birth centre this may not be performed for up to 48 hours) which checks your baby’s health and responsiveness in great detail, you and/or your partner should be present for this examination as they will talk you through it and answer any questions you might have.
Your baby will also be monitored for how s/he is feeding as well as ensuring they are passing urine and you will be on the lookout for their first (and subsequent) bowel movements.
In the first few days
Usually within the first 48-72 hours your baby will be given a hearing screening test to check for any abnormalities with their hearing and the heel prick test which screens the baby for a number of rare disorders.
In the first few weeks
Once you and your baby head home to begin your new life together, you can expect a visit from a local Child and Family Health practitioner, usually within the first two weeks. They will check the baby’s weight and measure them and ensure they are growing and developing as they should be.
After this, providing your baby is in good health, their next check up will be at 6 weeks with either a doctor or paediatrician. They will also receive their first vaccinations, covering them for hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Haemophilus influenzae type b and polio at their 6 week check up.