You can bond with your newborn baby
as soon as she arrives. Early skin-to-skin contact is a great way to do this, whether it’s cuddling your baby on your chest or encouraging baby to breastfeed.
How your baby will look and behave after birth
Some important changes happen in your baby’s body as he moves from the protected, quiet and warm environment of your womb to the outside world. As he cries and takes his first breaths, oxygen and blood flow through his lungs as they expand.
It’s normal for your baby to look blue or purple in the initial few minutes after birth. If your baby is breathing well, her skin colour will gradually become pink within 7-10 minutes after birth. Your baby’s hands and feet might stay blue for up to 24 hours. This is because the blood vessels in your baby’s hands and feet are very small, and it takes time for blood to circulate properly there and turn them pink.
If all is well, most babies cry immediately after birth. Most then quietly gaze with large open eyes at their surroundings before falling asleep. It’s normal for babies to fall asleep, but some might stay awake and want to feed.
If your baby seems ready, you can breastfeed him within a few minutes of birth. The midwife will help you attach baby to your breast.
The Apgar score
The Apgar score is a rating of your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, response to stimuli and skin colour. A score of 0, 1 or 2 is given for each of these five criteria, and the total is the Apgar score.
Your baby’s Apgar score measures how well your baby has made the transition from life inside the womb to life outside. Apgar scores are recorded in your baby’s child health and development book.
When your baby needs medical help after birth
If your baby isn’t breathing properly after birth and needs help to breathe, has a low heart rate (below 100 beats per minute) or is floppy, she’ll be moved to the warming station, where staff will decide whether she needs extra medical help.
The doctor or midwife might clear your baby’s airways and help him breathe by giving him normal air through a special baby mask and breathing device. The breathing device and face mask might stay on until your baby can breathe on his own.
If your baby’s breathing, heart rate and floppiness don’t improve, she might need oxygen through a mask or breathing tube.
If your baby needs a lot of resuscitation at birth, he’ll be taken to the special care nursery (SCN) or NICU for further assessment and close monitoring.
Most babies start breathing quickly in response to simple actions like drying and stimulation. Very few babies need help to start breathing. And fewer than 3 in 1000 babies need more active resuscitation like chest compressions (CPR) and drugs.
Checks and medications in the first 24 hours
Within the first hour of birth, the midwife will put two name tags on your baby.
Your baby will also be weighed at some time in the first few hours. When weighing your baby, the midwife will do a quick physical check.
The midwife will record when your baby first poos and wees. This is usually within the first 24 hours.
You’ll be asked to give your permission for your baby to have one or two injections into her thigh muscles after birth, either immediately or within a few hours. The injections are:
vitamin K – this can help prevent a bleeding disorder caused by a vitamin K deficiency (‘haemorrhagic disease of the newborn’)
hepatitis B immunisation – this is the only immunisation required at birth, and is given as part of Australia’s universal immunisation program.
You can discuss these procedures with your midwife, GP or obstetrician at one of your appointments towards the end of your pregnancy.