All He Does Is Eat, Sleep, and Poop: Advice for New Parents

Eat Sleep Poop

After nine months of anticipation, parents are often surprised at how little a baby actually does in those first weeks. Since the three activities in the title take up most of the newborn’s time, here are some tips for first-time parents.

What Goes In….

  • If you are breastfeeding, be sure to read some of the breastfeeding articles found on The Pulse website, some of which are found here, here, and here.
  • Newborns should be fed 8-10 times in a 24-hour period.
  • IF you have a term, healthy newborn, strictly adhering to a feeding schedule is pointless: if the baby is hungry, feed her; if she isn’t, don’t. In the first week of life, the exception that that rule is to make sure she is fed every 4 hours in the daytime and every 5 hours at night.
  • In the first few days, the nurses in the hospital nursery will only give a small amount of formula each feeding, which is appropriate. But when you take baby home, don’t restrict the amount you give. To repeat: if the baby is hungry, feed her; if she isn’t, don’t. If you gave 1 oz of formula and she seems to want more, then give more. The only exception is if your baby seems to have reflux (not just spitting up a lot, but seems uncomfortable with spitting up or with eating). Then talk to your pediatrician about how to feed the baby.
  • For breastfed babies, start Vitamin D drops (400 IU/day) around 10-14 days old.

…Must Come Out

  • Newborns should have 1-12 yellow, seedy stools in a 24-hour period. Stooling less than every day may be normal, as long as the stools are soft and painless to pass. Constipation is not defined by a length of time, but by the firmness of the stool or difficulty in passing.
  • Stools are often different colors, but stools that are black, red, or white/grey (no color at all) are concerning: call your pediatrician if you see that. Meconium, the sticky, black, tarry stools that babies excrete in the first few days of life, is normal.
  • For breastfed babies, start Vitamin D drops (400 IU/day) around 10-14 days old.

Sleep

  • Most babies sleep most of the day unless they are hungry. There is no such thing as a schedule when baby is just a few days or weeks old.
  • Babies should be sleeping on a firm mattress in the bassinet/crib, and not have other items with them (blanket, stuffed animals, crib bumpers, sleep positioners, etc.). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that baby sleep in the same room as parents for the first year, if possible.
  • In the early months, switch baby’s position every night: one night have baby’s head at one end of the bassinet/crib, the next night position her so the head is at the other end (to reduce chance of flat head and shortened neck muscles). If the bassinet is on an incline, then just move the entire bassinet around so the baby is positioned in the opposite direction on alternate nights. The goal is to get her to look to the left and the right with about equal frequency.
  • Newborns often have their days and nights mixed up: they sleep a lot during the daytime and are up at night, often until about 6 weeks old. Do what you can to foster a calming sleep environment at bedtime: dark, quiet room (or some white noise like a fan or recorded waves/rain in the background), and use the same routine at bedtime every night (see below).
  • Although there is no real schedule for a newborn, you can start a bedtime routine now: do the same things each night in the same order. These can be anything calming: a bath, reading a book, softly singing lullabies, rocking in a chair, massaging or rubbing your baby, saying a prayer. Put the baby down while she is sleepy (but not asleep) every time you put her to sleep (overnight, naps).
  • It’s better for a baby to sleep in an environment that is a little cool rather than a little warm. Over bundling the baby and sleeping in very warm environment has been associated with an increased risk of SIDS. A good rule of thumb is to dress the baby in one layer more than you feel comfortable in.
Ruben Rucoba
Dr. Rucoba has over 25 years of experience as a primary care pediatrician after completing medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. His clinical areas of expertise include caring for children with special health care needs and assisting families with international adoption. He has been a freelance medical writer since 2010, writing for health websites, continuing medical education providers, and various print outlets. He currently works at Wheaton Pediatrics in the suburbs of Chicago, where he lives with his wife and four daughters, including a set of twins.

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