The first 24 hours of your baby's life will be a huge adjustment for you and for them. Besides your newborn going through the natural process of acclimating and adapting to the outside world, they will also be going through a lot clinically. There are some recommended medical procedures and tests your baby will need to endure, which will determine the overall health of your baby. As a mom who is getting ready for childbirth — no matter how you do it — you may be wondering about the things that happen in your baby's first 24 hours of life.
In those hours after my first daughter was born via C-section, I was pretty oblivious to what was going on. Much of what was happening felt like a whirlwind — partly because of the drugs, partly because I was exhausted, and partly because of the excitement of having a baby. Exams and tests were being done, paperwork was being thrown my way, and verbal consents were required on things I had never even heard about.
If I would've done a little research prior to my baby's birth, what was happening might not have felt so chaotic. I could've better prepared myself for what my baby had to go through, and what I wanted to say "yes" or "no" to. It's difficult to make a decision on the spot without advanced knowledge or education in the subject matter (and while really tired). The screenings and processes vary a bit with home births versus hospital, but there are nine things that happen to your baby in a typical hospital setting in the first 24 hours.
1. Your Baby Will Be Cleaned And Suctioned
With both of my babies, I remember their mouths and noses being suctioned right away. According to Parents, babies are suctioned as soon as they're delivered in both areas as to clear mucous and amniotic fluid so the baby can breathe on its own.
The baby will also be cleaned, although the detail to which they are cleaned may vary a bit. My first baby was whisked away immediately after my C-section and given a full blown bath by a nurse while I was getting stitched up. My second baby, also born via C-section, was wiped of the typical baby goo and blood in those initial moments and handed to me shortly after to help regulate her body temperature. About 10 or so hours later, the nurse came in to give her a bath with soap, water, and light head scrubbing.
2. Apgar And Ballard Scores Will Be Determined
The first screening is the Apgar test, which is done one to five minutes after a baby is born, according to Baby Center. The test rates a baby's appearance, pulse, responsiveness, muscle activity, and breathing on a scale from zero, the weakest, to two, the strongest. The numbers are totaled to give the Apgar score and this number will determine whether or not your baby needs additional and immediate medical attention.
The Ballard score is determined about two to three hours after a baby is born explained the same Parents article referenced above. Your baby's head and chest circumference will be measured and length to confirm gestational age.
3. A Vitamin K Shot Will Be Administered
Your baby will typically receive this injection within the first hour after being born. According to the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) the Vitamin K shot helps prevent clotting problems. This shot is totally optional, however the CDC urged parents to strongly consider getting the shot for their babies, as not getting it puts babies at risk for dangerous bleeding and brain damage.
4. Your Baby Will Be Encouraged To Breastfeed Immediately
Assuming your child is not moved to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), you will be encouraged to breastfeed as soon as possible. According to the Dr. Sears website, babies are put to the breast about one to two hours after child birth. The same site claimed that there is research showing a baby learns to latch better when they're in early contact with their mother. Obviously, if the baby or mother has health issues, this might not be possible right away and bonding or breastfeeding will need to be established later.
5. Your Baby's First Bowel Movement Will Pass
The baby's first bowel movement will pass, and you and your partner will learn how to change a diaper. Meconium is the first stool your baby will pass,which does not contain breast milk or formula, as explained in Parents. Sometimes a baby passes the meconium during the labor or birthing process and special care will need to be taken by medical professionals. According to the article, if it's ingested in the womb or during child birth the baby is at risk for inhaling it and will need to be monitored for complications.
6. Your Baby Will Be Checked For Jaundice
The Mayo Clinic explained that your baby will be checked for jaundice every eight to 12 hours while in the hospital. According to the same site, jaundice is a condition characterized by yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. It is caused by excess bilirubin, which is the pigment released from the breakdown of so called "used" red blood cells. The liver is supposed to filter bilirubin from the bloodstream, but often newborns are physiologically incapable of doing this process fast enough. Generally, their bodies get better at it and jaundice becomes a non issue for infants. If the baby needs help eliminating the bilirubin they'll be put under a special lamp, according to Web MD, which does not damage the baby's skin.
7. Baby's Heel Will Be Pricked To Determine Metabolic Diseases
Towards the end of the 24 hour mark your baby' heel will be pricked to screen for up to 50 different metabolic diseases, according to the aforementioned Parents article. The diseases your baby is tested for all depend on your specific state's requirements, but it will include sickle cell anemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). The screening is very important because if your baby has one of the diseases, detecting and treating it immediately will greatly improve their prognosis explained the article.
8. Physical Exam Will Be Performed By Pediatrician
The pediatrician you selected prior to your child's birth will be alerted of your child's birth and will come to your room. If no one is specified, a pediatrician on staff at the hospital will evaluate your child within the first 24 hours. According to Parents, the baby will be given a physical exam to check for any birth defects or malformations. You'll also be encouraged to follow up with a pediatrician three to five days after you get home with your newborn as well.
9. Hearing Test Will Be Administered
This is a test that can be done anytime within the first 24 to 48 hours. According to the Baby's First Test website, your baby will have miniature headphones placed over their ears and they'll be monitored for their response by a medical professional. The same site explained that they are painless tests and can be performed while the baby is asleep.
These are all things you can expect to happen to your baby if you have a hospital setting birth. These tests and practices might be carried out a bit differently if you have a home or birthing center birth. In those first 24 hours after the birth of your baby it may feel overwhelming, but don't hesitate to ask your doctors or nurses what is going on throughout the process.