Bringing your baby home

by Kaiser Permanente |
Mom holding newborn at hospital.

The first few days after you bring your newborn home are full of change and excitement. During this important time, you’ll start getting to know your child. It’s helpful to know what’s normal for infants so that you can better enjoy time spent bonding with your baby.

Take time to bond

Your new baby needs a close bond with you. This special closeness is essential for growth and development. Bonding also helps you better understand your baby’s needs as they adjust to life after birth.

You can bond with your baby by:

  • Getting lots of skin-to-skin contact
  • Gently massaging your baby
  • Holding (or wearing) your baby as much as possible
  • Speaking, talking, singing, or reading to your baby

What to know about feeding

Babies feed fairly often during the first two weeks of life. If you’re breastfeeding, your infant will likely feed at least eight to twelve times within 24 hours. Formula-fed babies usually need to feed a little less often — six feedings within 24 hours is typical.

For most babies, feedings during the first weeks of life are pretty short. However, your baby will work up to longer feedings over time.

Your baby’s sleep schedule

Newborns sleep a lot—in most cases, it can be up to 18 hours a day. During periods of what is known as “active sleep” you might notice your baby making sounds or moving around. It’s normal for this to happen once an hour or so. Active sleep periods usually last only a few minutes before your baby returns to deeper sleep.

Most infants wake up every two or three hours for a feeding. When your baby wakes up, you may check to see if they need a diaper change and feed them by either offering your breast/chest or a bottle.

You might also notice your baby sleeping through loud noises. This is common at first, but over time louder sounds will likely wake your newborn.

Diaper and umbilical cord care

It’s a good idea to check your baby’s diaper at least every 2 hours. Frequent diaper changes will keep your baby clean and help prevent diaper rash.

It’s normal for babies to have about three wet diapers every day during their first few days at home. It increases to about six wet diapers a day throughout your baby’s first month.

Your baby’s diaper should be folded so that it sits under the umbilical cord stump. The stump will eventually fall off on its own. Until it does, keep it dry and open to the air. This helps prevent infections.

Know when to call

Recognizing potential problems with your newborn starts with you. You know your baby better than anyone, so trust your instincts. When in doubt, it’s always best to contact your baby’s clinician.

Breathing issues

If your baby ever has trouble breathing, call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency department. You should contact your baby’s clinician immediately if you notice that your baby:

  • Develops fast, labored breathing
  • Has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
  • Makes a raspy sound or their cry sounds deeper
  • Starts coughing

Umbilical cord concerns

Your baby’s umbilical cord stump will naturally darken and fall off on its own. Before this happens, it’s possible for the umbilical cord to become infected. Watch for these signs and let a clinician know if the stump shows signs of:

  • Bleeding
  • Foul smells
  • Redness and swelling
  • Yellowish or pus-filled drainage

Circumcision care

Complete healing from circumcision usually takes a couple weeks. Before your baby’s penis is fully healed, keep an eye out for:

  • Blood spots larger than a quarter in your baby’s diaper
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
  • Pus-filled blisters
  • Worsening redness, pain, or swelling
  • Yellow crusts lasting longer than a week

If you notice any of these signs, let your baby’s clinician know quickly.

It’s normal to have questions, especially if this is your first baby. If you have concerns about your baby’s health, no matter how small, the best thing to do is to contact your baby’s clinician.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.