This is what to expect on a newborn's first day on Earth.


A few hours after the baby is born, and just before I tuck everyone in for their nap, I give clients a quick little checklist - a 'Newborns 101' of sorts.

I tell clients the first 24 hours after birth are family nap time. Everyone is exhausted - mama, partner, baby - from their role during labor and birth. A day long nap together is such a lovely and necessary way to start the babymoon, that period of laying in, bonding, and recovering.

But before I let everyone go in for their nap, I tell them what to expect in the first 24 hours:

Baby Color

What it looks like: A newborn's hands and feet are usually much paler than their abdomen and face, sometimes even appearing bluish. This is perfectly fine.

What's happening: A newborn's circulation is different than ours. From the moment a baby starts breathing air, their entire circulatory system starts to change - the blood vessels that brought them oxygen through their umbilical cord are no longer needed and start to shut off. The pressure in their lungs is now different. Their heart structure actually changes, changing the way blood is pumped through their body. So, as their insides morph and change to suit life on the outside, their blood is sent to those areas that need it most - their internal organs.

When to act: If their abdomen or face turn blue, that is cause for immediate concern and action.

Related: Breastfeeding a Newborn? The 3 Positions Will Help

Baby Sound

What it looks (sounds) like: Newborns make some weird sounds in the early days. By far the most startling one sounds very much like a cat trying to bring up a giant hairball. Or, like an exorcism. When I'm explaining this in person to new parents or a prenatal class, I act it out. (It's one of my most charming moments.) I do it, though, because it almost has to be heard to be believed. If I don't tell people about this it can be terrifying to hear for the first time coming from your brand new bundle of sweetness.

What's happening: Your baby's lungs in utero were full of fluid and the little fella is just clearing it out. If you hear this noise, just roll her onto her side and rub her back as she works it out.

When to act: If your baby seems to be actually choking and struggling for air, it is cause for immediate emergency action.

Related: 2 Surprising Ways Your Labor May Affect Your Milk Supply

Baby Breathing

What it looks/sounds like: Much like the scariness of the exorcism sound described above, a newborn's breathing pattern can freak you right out. Your little muffin might be breathing, breathing, breathing and then... STOP. And then, a long pause….. and breathing, breathing, breathing. It's that stop and long pause that can be, understandably, alarming. Don't panic, wait a few seconds. Again, I would demonstrate for you if I could (it's slightly more charming than the hairball show).

What's happening: As their insides get organized, their breathing does too. This means that, unlike our breathing, which is rhythmic and regular, a newborn's is erratic and irregular.

When to act: If your baby appears to be actually struggling for breath, it is cause for immediate emergency action.

Baby Eating

What is looks like: Your baby just wants to be on you all the time, sucking non-stop. You don't even think he's actually getting anything from your breast and is just soothing himself.

What's happening: Just that. Your baby was literally a part of you a few short hours ago. Your breathing, your sound, your warmth, the smell of you - YOU are your baby's home, and what your baby needs and wants. Regarding the sucking: before your breastmilk comes in (usually around day 3 postpartum), your baby will be getting colostrum (a.k.a. liquid gold). It has everything your baby needs and is highly concentrated so he doesn't need much.

Even when he's not 'eating' it's no reason to take him off the breast. The act of sucking is, in itself, performing an important function. It is stimulating the release of hormones that lead to the production of breastmilk. So, the more baby sucks, the more milk your body will produce. Not only that, but it also releases oxytocin, that amazing happy hormone that made your uterus contract in labour, makes it contract postpartum to reduce the risk of hemorrhage, reduce the risk of postpartum depression, and promote bonding with your baby.

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Baby Pee and Poo

What it looks like: In the first 24 hours, you can expect one pee and one poo. The first pee will be very small because your baby hasn't consumed much liquid yet. For this reason, it will probably be difficult to detect in a typical disposable diaper. I suggest ripping off a small piece of facial tissue and putting it in the diaper to make it easy to detect the pee.

Your baby's poop for the first few days will be a very thick, black, tar-like substance called meconium. Meconium is the product of what your baby ingested in the womb. And that crap is suuuuuper sticky.

Use this pro tip and you'll save yourself some grief and your wee baby's tush a lot of scrubbing: before you put your baby's first diaper on, rub some olive oil over the entire area. The meconium will slide right off. Reapply olive oil for as long as the meconium sticks around, which will be for a few days or until your baby's tummy starts processing its new diet.

Baby Warmth

New parents are often tempted to overdress a baby, but if a baby is too warm (or too cool), it can interrupt her sleep patterns. Sleep patterns are connected to eating needs. Babies need one more layer than you do - no more, no less. So, if you wear a t-shirt and a light blanket to sleep (2 layers), then your baby needs to wear 3 layers - perhaps an undershirt onesie and two sleepers, maybe a light cap too. However, don't use blankets or loose-fitting clothing for your baby.

Photo Credit: Tim Bish