9 instinctive things newborns do straight after birth

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In that magical hour after birth, while you’re soaking up every inch of your newborn, your new arrival goes through nine wondrous stages.

From the first cry to the first feed, these instinctive phases are common after most births, and it’s why many new mums opt for an entire hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin once their baby arrives.

Here are the nine stages to watch for as your baby explores their new little world.

1. Birth cry

That first, beautiful cry. It’s music to our ears, and it happens when baby’s lungs expand for the first time.

2. Relaxation

Once bub stops crying, they begin to relax their mouth and their little hands.

3. Awakening

Just three minutes after birth, your tiny newborn will finally begin taking in the world around them (which is whatever is just a few centimetres from their face). They may open their eyes, move their arms and shoulders and open their little mouths.

4. Activity

At around eight minutes after birth baby may begin getting more active. They might:

  • open their eyes
  • salivate
  • move head from side to side, looking for their first breastfeed
  • look at the breast
  • bring their hand to their mouth
  • stick out their tongue
  • look at mum
  • massage mum’s breast with their hands

5. Rest

At any time in the first-hour baby may take a minute or two to simply rest.

6. Crawling

While bub is having skin-to-skin, at around the 35-minute mark they will begin moving towards the breast. This is called the breast crawl and they will push and search for the nipple.

7. Familiarisation

At about 45 minutes after birth, bub will spend about 20 minutes displaying any of these behaviours:

  • looking at mum
  • making sounds
  • mouthing their hand
  • licking mum’s breast or nipple
  • moving their hand from mum to mum’s breast
  • sticking out their tongue
  • looking at other people

8. Suckling

An hour after birth baby will most likely take the nipple and suckle.

9. Sleep

About one to one and half hours after birth your newborn will fall asleep. And you may too, if you can stop looking at the beautiful creature you created.

(Sources: Research by Widström, et al and Loma Linda Children’s University Hospital)

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