Your Baby after Birth
There are a few choices you will need to make for your baby very soon after they are born, so it can be helpful to look into these whilst pregnant and discuss them with your partner. You can record them in your birth plan if you have made one.
You’ll be offered an injection of vitamin K for your baby. This helps to prevent a rare bleeding disorder called haemorrhagic disease of the newborn. Your midwife should have discussed the injection with you while you were pregnant.
If you prefer your baby not to have an injection, they can have vitamin K by mouth instead, but they will need further doses.
Skin to Skin
Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth will help to keep them warm and calm, and steady their breathing.
Skin to skin means holding your baby naked or dressed only in a nappy against your skin, usually under your top or under a blanket.
Skin-to-skin time can be a bonding experience for you and your baby. It's also a great time to have your first breastfeed. If you need any help, your midwife will support you with positioning and attachment.
Skin-to-skin contact is good at any time. It will help to comfort you and your baby over the first few days and weeks as you get to know each other. It also helps your baby attach to your breast using their natural crawling and latching on reflexes.
If skin-to-skin contact is delayed for some reason – for example, if your baby needs to spend some time in special care – it doesn't mean you won't be able to bond with or breastfeed your baby.
If necessary, your midwife will show you how to express your breast milk until your baby is ready to breastfeed. They will also help you have skin-to-skin contact with your baby as soon as it's possible.
If your baby is born by caesarean, you should still be able to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby straight after the birth. You can discuss how this will be facilitated with your theatre team.
Newborn Physical Exam
Every baby is offered a thorough physical examination soon after birth to check their eyes, heart, hips and, in boys, the testicles (testes). This is to identify babies who may have conditions that need further testing or treatment.
The examination is carried out within 72 hours of birth and then again at 6 to 8 weeks of age, as some conditions can take a while to develop.
Find out more here.
Newborn Hearing Screening
The newborn hearing screening test is done soon after your baby is born. If you give birth in hospital, you may be offered the test before you and your baby are discharged.
Otherwise, it'll be done by your health visitor or another health professional within the first few weeks.
It is not uncommon to have to repeat a newborn hearing test, especially after a caesarean, so do not be alarmed if you are asked to re-visit the hospital for this to take place.
Newborn Blood Spot Test (Heel Prick)
The newborn blood spot test involves taking a small sample of your baby's blood to screen it for 9 rare but serious health conditions.
When your baby is about 5 days old, a midwife will collect the blood sample by pricking your baby's heel and squeezing out a few drops of blood onto a blood spot card. This is then sent off for testing.
The heel prick may be uncomfortable and your baby may cry, but it's all over very quickly. Breastfeeding straight afterwards usually calms the baby too.
How you plan to feed your baby
It is helpful to plan how you are going to feed your baby, whether this is breastfeeding or bottle feeding (either formula or pumped breast milk).
If you plan to breastfeed, midwives can help you with positioning and attachment, and they will encourage skin-to-skin to help with the process. Check out our dedicated breastfeeding page.
If you plan to bottle feed, you will need to provide your own formula and the bottles (or ready made bottles with disposable teats). Check out our dedicated bottle feeding page. Skin to skin will still be encouraged.
If you have previously expressed colostrum before the birth (perhaps due to over supply), you should seek advice about how to store and then transport this if you go to hospital, and then how to feed this to your baby.
Source: NHS, www.aims.org.uk, NCT.org.uk
Information accurate at the time of publication.
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