A day in the Life of a Newborn

Eat, sleep, poop, cry. That’s pretty much it. Except it isn’t. There are so many new things to discover about the tiny person you have created and the new role of parenting you have embarked on.


Babies can feed 8-12 times in 24 hours. They may cluster feed, where they will feed lots of times close together. They often do this when newborn and with growth/development spurts, so around week two you might see this again. This helps establish or grow your milk supply. Your breasts will produce colostrum for around 3 to 4 days, then it will transition to milk. It is normal for babies to lose weight in the first few days. Exclusively breastfed babies will return to birth weight by about week two.


Sleep can be erratic in the first few weeks. Babies are 24-hour creatures. A newborn won’t sleep longer than about 4 hours, usually waking 2-4 hourly, if breastfeeding. Babies generally sleep 14-17 hours a day. It takes about 12 weeks to develop patterns of feeding and sleeping over the 24-hour period.

Babies shouldn’t be sleeping in their car seat for more than 90 mins.

If they are sleeping in a soft sling, you should always be able to see their face.

It is normal to hold babies to get them to sleep. You can’t spoil a newborn, hold them all you want. If you are holding them and are feeling sleepy, make sure you put them into their cot. If moving them off you to a cot make it small, warm, and smell of you to help them to settle. By 3-6 months start putting them into their cot for their naps as by 8 months they can form habits. Babies can learn to fall asleep independently and associate sleep with bed at this age. Around this age, babies can get separation anxiety, so you can introduce a comfort toy/cloth etc. (see resources)

A day in the life of a newborn


This will become a much bigger part of your life than you might have expected.

Day one babies will poop thick black meconium that is hard to clean off because it is sticky. Day 2-5 increasing numbers of greener/yellow poops that gets seedy or runnier texture. This pattern will settle into a few poops a day to one every few days.

After 6 weeks stop counting poops. If exclusively breastfeeding they could do a few a day to one every week. Breastmilk is perfectly formed to meet their needs and they self-regulate feeding so produce less waste. If your baby is unsettled/in pain, not feeding well or you are concerned speak to a gp/paediatrician.

If formula feeding babies will poop more regularly. Watch out for their patterns by tracking this for a few days.


This is a babies only form of communication, and it will be slightly different for different needs. Check out the Oprah episode with Priscilla Dunstan for some cues to look out for. It can take a little while but you will start to recognise different cries. Babies cry tends to be higher with wind. If their cry is quiet or absent, they could be unwell.

All the other stuff…


That feeling of love at first sight is a bit of a myth. It takes however long it takes to feel whatever you feel. If you don’t feel a huge rush straight away, that’s ok.

If you feel like you are struggling to bond after a few months, think about looking at our responsive parenting guide or speak to your GP or child health nurse about your mood and experiences. Bonding is simple, it involves meeting your babies needs and spend time with them when they don’t need anything, stimulating their senses by talking, singing, gazing at them or touching them. This helps to build connection and for you to see them as a person and in a positive light.

Once the baby becomes more responsive you might find your attachment growing. You might feel overwhelmed by the tasks of new parenthood, or you may feel bored. All reactions are valid. Work out what kind of support you need; company, activities, someone to share the load.

Baby blues

You may have a hormonal day around day 3-4 after birth as your milk comes in, where you may cry for no apparent reason and feel a little irrational. This is completely normal, unless it doesn’t resolve. If you are feeling that your emotions are hard to manage or your mood is low or anxiety high after a week, get checked out or start a conversation with someone you trust.


Your babies’ genitals may be swollen at birth. This will go down gradually over the first few weeks. If you feel it isn’t resolving ask your child health nurse to check it for you.


Babies often don’t like being undressed and will cry. The cold will also stimulate the need to pee so be prepared. Ruffle up sleeves so its easier to get hand/arm in clothes. Split neck tops can be pulled down instead of over the head. Zips are the easiest fastenings to deal with. Mittens tend not to stay on, try socks on their hands or buys onesies with the fold over mittens.

Cord clamp

When the cord is cut, surprisingly tough to do, a plastic clamp will be put on it. This will fall off usually by week 3, often around 7 days. Keep the cord dry. Fold the nappy down so the cord is outside it and change nappies regularly. Dry the cord well after baby’s bath. The cord may bleed when it falls off, a little is normal, lots is not normal. If the area around the cord is red, tender or smelly go to your gp.


There are two of these on your baby’s skull. The one in the back of baby’s head will close by about 3 months. The one on top of their head can take up to 18 months to close as it allows for brain growth. Slight bulging or pulsing in the fontanelles is normal. It is ok to touch gently. If they are sunken and baby is lethargic, it could be a sign of dehydration. Get baby checked out by gp.


Lanugo or fine body hair will fall out over the first few weeks. Head hair might also all fall out and grow back a different colour and texture.


Babies breathing may not be regular like an adults. They can hold their breath and then breathe faster to compensate. They can make noises when they breathe. They breathe through their nose.


These are normal in the first year, no need to worry. Look at reducing wind during feeding by using a more upright position or taking regular breaks to wind during the feed. Pat gently to help relieve hiccups. If associated with distress in your baby, speak to your doctor.

Mucusy baby

In utero your baby swallows amniotic fluid and this may not all get squeezed out during birth. So, baby will retch and vomit it up or retch and swallow it again. They are well designed to clear mucus but you can sit them up or roll them on their side to help them clear it. They might bring up milk at the same time and may be reluctant to feed as their system is full. Skin to skin time can help resolve it, but it often resolves after 24 hours.


Some indicators of wind are a bluish tinge around lips, pulling knees up, or a high-pitched cry. Try patting or rubbing firmly up and down their back. Cycle their legs or lie them with their stomach along your forearm. (see resources)


Babies sense of smell is better developed than adults. They will know their parents by smell and you can use this skill to your advantage and put things that smell of you safely in their cot to help with settling.

Tummy time

Start after a few days, for 15-30 seconds. By 3 weeks they can do a few minutes. This can be on the floor or your chest but should always be supervised. Babies can manage 15-20 mins by a few months. Tummy time helps to build muscle control and can prevent a flat head developing. (see resources)


At birth babies can focus on faces about 8-10 inches away. They are sensitive to bright light and will open their eyes more in low light. By 3 weeks they can start to see patterns and might interact with looking at toys. They are usually born with slate grey or brown eyes, and this can take 6-9 months to change. It is normal for their eyes to drift/cross, due to weak muscles. Babies can’t track moving objects. At 2-3 months they can start to see colours and recognize faces.


Hold your baby. Stroke their hair. Learn to massage them. We are designed as humans to be touched. It is an excellent way to bond and enjoy your new little one.


If you notice that your baby is sleepy and not waking for feeds, their poo and wee has slowed down or their skin has a yellow tinge spreading over their body then they may have jaundice.

The first line of treatment for this is fluids, so wake your baby regularly to feed, swap them from side to side to encourage them to feed for longer or consider expressing and giving top ups to their feeds. Discuss this with your child health nurse or gp. If the yellow is spreading and they are not improving, contact your hospital as they may need further treatment in a special care nursery.

Further information and Resources: 

Emma Hubbard Paediatric Occupational Therapist on youtube- includes tummy time and sleep tips and newborn cues –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbKy4RPq6gI

Masters, M. & Crosby L. (2020). What to expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/newborn/ 

National Childbirth Trust- Sleep.

Priscilla Dunstan- Baby cries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYz6tE3XmHM

Raising children network- Winding. https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/health-daily-care/health-concerns/wind

Reflexes chart – https://images.app.goo.gl/UggmrFtZHKPeTpWw5

Sids and kids Safe sleep- https://rednose.org.au/section/safe-sleeping

Tummy time- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEnzqSK-j_s

Winding- https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/burping-wind-and-colic-in-babies#:~:text=Hold%20your%20baby%20up%20over,to%20bring%20up%20their%20wind.

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