After giving birth – newborn baby care

Midwife Maria Sahlin explains the huge transition newborn babies experience at birth and what happens during the first 48 hours after giving birth.

BABYBJÖRN Magazine – After giving birth: a newborn baby can sleep for many hours.
After giving birth: newborn babies need a lot of closeness to cope with the huge transition.
Photo: Johnér

Maria Sahlin has worked as a midwife for 18 years and loves her job.

“I get to be there and share life’s greatest event – the birth of a baby. And then I support new parents as they discover all about newborn baby care. It’s a privilege,” says Maria.

Here she describes what usually happens in the first 48 hours after giving birth:

“Being born is probably the most traumatic experience of our lives. It’s warm and dark in the womb, your baby is safe in the amniotic fluid, with the steady, reassuring sound of Mummy’s heartbeat.

In the womb, your baby is constantly and effortlessly provided with all the nourishment they need. The moment they are born, this certainty and security disappear in an instant. And this transition is huge. From this moment on, your newborn baby doesn’t only have to breathe on their own, they have to maintain their own body temperature and begin to eat. This is why they can be restless and find it difficult to settle down.

First contact after giving birth

After giving birth, your baby will usually be quite alert for about two hours. This is the time for their first contact with you as parents. The very best thing for a newborn baby is to get skin-to-skin contact – especially with Mummy in this phase. Many factors are at play here.

A baby maintains their body temperature best when they get skin-to-skin contact. There are also many positive effects on Mummy when the baby begins to nudge and push against her breasts.

BABYBJÖRN Parental Magazine – After giving birth: a newborn baby lies close to Mummy’s breast.
Newborn babies need plenty of skin-to-skin contact with Mummy or Daddy.
Photo: Johnér

This releases the feel-good hormone Oxytocin. This hormone makes a new mother responsive to bonding with her baby, and stimulates breast milk production and uterine contractions. After a few hours, your newborn baby usually falls asleep and will sleep quite deeply.

Newborn babies can sleep for many hours

You are now new parents and you’ve probably been awake for many, many hours. Yet suddenly you don’t feel tired anymore! This is because the two of you have just experienced one of the greatest moments in your lives and are caught up in the magic of discovering your little miracle.

You new parents are suddenly not tired anymore.

If your baby is within the normal size range and has ingested a little colostrum after the birth, they can sleep for many hours; some babies may sleep for up to 24 hours, which is completely normal.

Different circadian rhythm in the womb

When your baby embarks on their second day of life, they often change their tune! Virtually all babies are restless when they wake up from their first sleep. Your baby wants to nurse frequently, they often pass a stool for the first time and generally find it difficult to settle.

This coincides with the new parents’ exhaustion finally kicking in. So much of everything that happens when a baby is born is cleverly designed by nature. But the fact that newborn babies have a different circadian rhythm to their parents is less ingenious.

Try to rest and sleep when your baby sleeps.

Furthermore, this period of alertness with a lot of loud crying often occurs around 10 p.m. Babies tend to stick with the pattern they had in the womb: almost all babies in the womb are more awake and active during the late evening and night. No-one is really sure why.

Carry your newborn baby close

By this stage, most new parents are usually feeling completely exhausted. This is only to be expected. It’s disappointing and sometimes difficult to accept that your newborn baby isn’t sleeping as much as you thought they would and at the times you had expected them to. But it’s important to understand that this is normal.

The birth process and adjusting to a life outside the womb is a huge transition for a newborn baby, both physically and mentally.

My advice to you as new parents is to carry your newborn close and when you’re awake give your baby plenty of skin-to-skin contact with Mummy or Daddy. Try to rest and sleep when the baby sleeps too. This will give you the energy and strength to get through the early days with your baby.