Your Newborn’s First 2 Weeks of Life: 10 Things You Can Expect
Contributing Expert: Nina Alfieri, MD, MS
This post is part of our newborn health and wellness series. For more information from our pediatric experts, visit our Newborn Resources page.
When you bring your baby home from the hospital, every behavior in those early weeks is a first. You give them their first bath at home. You rock them for the first time. You share your first night together at home.
It can be a time of wonder and joy, mixed in with equal parts exhaustion. You and your baby are learning about each other. Here are 10 key things that usually happen in those first two weeks.
- They get back to their birth weight.
All babies drop in weight the first few days of life. This is because they get rid of the extra fluid they were carrying and learn to take in food. A baby’s goal in the first two weeks is to get back to their birth weight. Babies grow quickly, especially in the beginning. They typically gain about 20-30 grams (about an ounce) a day, and they grow about an inch in the first month of life!
- Their brains explode in development.
They love the sound of your voice. The more words early on, the better! You can narrate life and tell them what’s happening around them. If you can, start reading to them right away. If your family speaks multiple languages, introduce them to your baby. The sound of voices stimulates their brain to develop and is very soothing.
- They start showing signs of hunger.
You’ll start to learn your baby’s cues for when they are hungry and when they are full. Rooting (searching for food with their mouth) is one hunger sign. So is lip smacking or sticking their tongue out. If you are breastfeeding, helping your baby get a good latch is important. Your pediatrician or a lactation consultant can help you with this. Remember, many breastfeeding parents struggle in the beginning and it’s perfectly normal to ask for help and support.
- They may eat every 1-3 hours.
Ideally, you want to offer the breast or bottle at least every three hours. Babies usually wake to feed, but if they don’t, you want to wake them to feed at least every four hours in these weeks. Breastfeeding parents will start to get their milk in (usually between days three and five). Frequently stimulating the breast is what helps build milk supply. Remember, the goal is to have babies back to their birth weight within those first weeks. They don’t need to eat much at each feeding (their stomach is very tiny!); they just need frequent feeds.
- They may pee or poop with every feeding.
Their digestive system is figuring out how to digest breast milk or formula in the early days. Their stool changes from a tar-like substance called meconium to a more yellow, seedy substance that looks like mustard.
- They may have day/night reversal.
Babies are often born with a tendency to sleep more during the day and be more awake and more eager to feed during the night. In those first two weeks, it’s very hard to get them on any kind of sleep schedule and it’s best to “go with the flow” and follow the baby’s lead. They gradually start to learn the cues for day and night though, and you can help this along by opening the curtains and letting sunlight in during the day.
- They often make little noises.
In addition to cries, newborns often make coos and tiny sounds in the first weeks. They are already learning to communicate and are getting ready to babble when they are older.
- They might be lifting their head a bit.
If your newborn is lying on your chest, you may notice that they can start to lift their head, just a little, in those first weeks. This is practicing tummy time and it’s very important for their development. Their muscle tone builds every day. It’s not an exaggeration to say they change and develop every single day in those early weeks.
- They are opening their eyes more.
Babies are often very alert right after birth, before becoming sleepy for a few days. And then, all of a sudden, they seem to wake up. You may notice that your baby is more alert during awake times. And though their vision is blurry and still in black and white, they love to look around and they love to look at your face.
- They are learning to be soothed outside the womb.
Swaddling is one of the best ways to comfort your newborn because it resembles the coziness of the womb. Babies love to be rocked and held. White noise, from a white noise machine (or even a vacuum cleaner in a pinch), is also soothing to them.
Parents Need Support, Too
Remember: As you take care of your baby, it’s so important to make sure that you are getting the support you need. You are still adjusting to a different life schedule and new responsibilities.
Both the birth parent and the non-birth partner can experience postpartum depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety during these weeks, talk to your doctor or pediatrician or find support online.
In addition to expert specialty care, Lurie Children’s offers several primary care locations around the Chicago area for your child's healthcare needs — from infancy through childhood and adolescence. Learn more about our primary care services.
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