Newborns are experiencing the world for the first time, and when you’re experiencing parenthood for the first time, it can be hard on your nerves trying to figure out whether or not your baby is exhibiting normal newborn behaviors.
If you’re ever nervous or unsure, call your pediatrician. New parents always have lots of questions and concerns, and it’s always okay to ask for help.
Here are some of the baby behaviors you might expect from your newborn:
Normal Newborn Behaviors – Reflexes
Some of your baby’s reflexes will be things you recognize, like sneezing and hiccuping.
Other newborn reflexes, though, might seem strange at first.
The root reflex helps babies nurse. When the corner of your baby’s mouth is touched, he or she will turn and root in that direction. Some babies, especially premature babies, have trouble suckling, and you can get help from your pediatrician.
The Moro reflex, also referred to as the startle reflex, happens when baby is startled. Baby will through back the head, extend arms and legs, cry out, and then pull his or her limbs back.
The tonic neck reflex is sometimes called the fencing position; when your baby turns his or her head, the arm on that side extends while the other bends at the elbow.
Normal Newborn Behaviors – Sleeping
Newborn babies sleep a lot. Babies sleep for short stretches and wake up every few hours for feeding, and each baby is a little different.
It’s common for newborns to sleep more during the day while they’re active at night. In total, newborns generally sleep between 18 and 20 hours each day, but because they wake frequently, it’s difficult for you to get any rest.
While your newborn is still sleeping in stretches, the smartest thing is to sleep while your baby is asleep. Trying to use that time to get other things done is just going to make you more tired.
Babies often display strange breathing patterns in their sleep: irregular breathing is normal, but if he or she turns blue or gray, or if your baby stops breathing completely for a period of 10 seconds or longer, it may be a sign of sleep apnea.
Normal Newborn Behaviors – Attention and Activity
Vision takes some time to develop.
When your baby is born, vision only extends a little way and isn’t very clear. Don’t panic, then, if your baby doesn’t smile back at you or track your movement.
Newborn babies are generally alert in short stretches of 10 to 15 minutes at a time, often coinciding with feeding or diaper changes.
Crying is the way babies communicate, and sometimes it’s difficult to determine the exact cause. You’ll learn your little one’s cries over time, so while you’re still learning, try feeding and diaper changes first, and if it doesn’t help, move on to things like swaddling, rocking, car rides, and other soothing activities.
Normal Newborn Behaviors – Diapers
Every baby is different, so even if you’ve had a child before, your newborn may have bowel and bladder movements in a very different pattern.
Urination becomes more frequent, usually at about 1 wet diaper for each day your baby is old, until he or she is 5 or 6 days old. After that, 5 or 6 wet diapers each day is normal.
Watch for small crystals in your baby’s urine, as they’re a sign of dehydration. Dehydration is especially common with breastfed babies as mother’s milk comes in.
Your baby will usually have his or her first bowel movement in the first 24 hours, and bowel movements vary greatly from baby to baby. In the first week, the stool will transition from tarry and black to yellow and seedy, but any shade of yellow, brown, beige, or green is normal.
Bowel movements may be as frequent as 12 times per day, usually right after feeding, or as infrequent as once per week.
It’s also normal for your newborn to turn red and strain before trying to have a bowel movement. Straining is normal, and if they strain without producing a movement, that’s okay. Those abdominal muscles need to develop a little bit, and things will normalize as baby grows.
When to Call Your Pediatrician
You can call your pediatrician any time you’re unsure or uncomfortable. That’s what they’re there for!
Never feel shy because you think you have a stupid question, either. Most new parents go through the same uncertainties, and it’s a stressful, scary, wonderful experience.
Even if another parent tells you that a newborn’s behavior is normal, it’s okay to check with your doctor.
And don’t worry – you’re going to be a great parent.