Somehow, just like that, your baby is turning one month old. This will probably be both the fastest (and most sleep-deprived) month of your life, but somehow, you’re making it through.
Here’s what to expect from your 1-month old baby.
Welcome to the Fourth Trimester
OK, sure, you expected this to be a guide all about your baby, and we’ll get to that, promise. But first, let’s talk about you.
That’s right—you, mama. The one probably holding a baby in her arms right now, unsure of when you last showered, perhaps fantasizing about drinking another cup of coffee, yet not really wanting to walk all the way to the coffee maker and risk waking the baby up.
The first 6 weeks after you welcome a baby are now recognized as the “fourth trimester” by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for an important reason—so you don’t forget that the drastic changes and challenges of motherhood don’t end with delivery. You still need a lot of care and time to rest and recover. Some of the changes you can expect in this fourth trimester include:
- Bleeding. It’s normal to bleed for 6-8 weeks (and sometimes even longer) after having a baby, especially with a vaginal delivery. Your bleeding may be steady for the first 2 weeks, like a period, then taper to more spotting or spurts. If you have any large clots or experience a sudden increase in bleeding, call your doctor.
- Massive hormone shifts. Your hormones will be all over the place after delivery, as the hormones your body used to maintain your pregnancy decrease and hormones you need for milk production, healing, and bonding ramp up. Don’t be surprised if you experience a “high” for about a week after birth, followed by a low. There’s usually a peak of “baby blues” around week 2 postpartum, but be careful to monitor your emotions and if you ever feel like hurting yourself or your baby, have intrusive thoughts, or are unable to take care of yourself or your baby, call your doctor immediately.
- Night sweats. If you notice that you’re waking up in the middle of the night completely soaked through with sweat, don’t panic. The first time this happened to me, I was completely grossed out, but turns out, it’s normal. Especially if you had a lot of swelling and/or IV fluids during labor, your body has to flush out all that extra water—so just get ready to change your sheets and wear loose PJs to bed if you can.
- C-section incision discomfort. You may experience some increased soreness around your incision site and in general achiness after your C-section. (Think about how your muscles are the sorest 2 days after a workout—same principle applies here.) However, in general, after the first few days, your discomfort should improve, so if you have any increased pain, and especially if your incision site becomes red, bleeds, or opens up, call your doctor immediately.
- Breast engorgement. Around day 3 postpartum, your milk starts to come in, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. Be prepared for some epic-sized boobs and discomfort from engorgement. If you’re nursing your baby, keep nursing on-demand and your milk supply will regulate itself after a few days. (If your baby is having trouble nursing, however, consult a lactation consultant, because if your baby isn’t nursing enough, it will affect your supply.) If you’re not nursing, take Ibuprofen, use cool compresses as necessary, and avoid expressing a lot of milk, because your supply operates on a milk out-replenish system.
- Perineal area healing. If you had any vaginal or perineal tears, lacerations, or an episiotomy, you can experience quite a bit of pain as a result. Depending on how severe the tears were, they can take several weeks to heal properly. Take any pain medicine your doctor or midwife prescribed, because it will help you stay ahead of the pain (it’s harder to “catch up” to pain, take my OB nurse advice on this!) and use your sitz bath and perineal bottle when you go to the bathroom for as long as you need. Remember, the goal should be improving as the days go on, so if you experience any increase in pain or symptoms, call your doctor.
- Uterine cramping. After you give birth, either vaginally or through a C-section, your uterus is focused on returning to its pre-pregnancy size. It accomplishes this valiant goal by contracting until it gets there. If you are breastfeeding, the oxytocin produced by your body when you nurse triggers the uterus to contract, so you may feel intense cramps then. The common timeline for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy state is often said to be 6 weeks, but it can take much longer, even past 2 months, especially for women who have had other deliveries.
And if you need a reality check on just how much healing needs to take place in your body, consider this: The Journal of Prenatal Medicine states that on a purely physical level, a woman’s body does not return to what it was before getting pregnant until 6 months after giving birth. Not 6 weeks, 6 months. Remember that the next time you feel guilty about resting.
1-Month-Old Baby Milestones
All right, so now that we’re clear that your recovery is just as important as taking care of your baby, let’s talk about that adorable newborn of yours. Wondering what 1-month-old milestones your baby should be reaching? Here are some of the important developmental milestones you can watch for:
- Your baby’s hearing is fully developed
- They will start to recognize some sounds (for instance, it’s never too early to start initiating a “sleep” cue, like white noise you only play at bedtime)
- Will react to familiar sounds and voices, like yours!
If your baby needs a repeat hearing screen (the hospital you delivered at will let you know if this is necessary), it will be done this month. And if your notice that your baby isn’t reacting to loud sounds at all, like getting startled, be sure to let your doctor know.
Your Baby is Starting to See Objects
The AAP also lists the following visual milestones that your baby is reaching:
- Can focus on objects that are about 8-12 inches away—interestingly enough, this is usually the exact distance from a baby in your arms to a parents’ face (nature is cool, right?)
- It’s normal for your baby to look cross-eyed at times
- Can see black-and-white and high-contrast colors the best
- Loves looking at your face the best (this may change by the teenage years)
If your baby shows any of the following signs by the end of the month, you will want to discuss them with your doctor at your baby’s one-month check-up:
- Doesn’t blink with bright lights
- Can’t focus or follow an object from side-to-side
That First Smile
You’re probably anxiously awaiting that first “real” smile from your baby, but chances are, it won’t happen this month. Any smiles you see from your baby in the first month are most likely related to gas or reflexes, but keep interacting—you can look forward to those first real smiles happening in the next month or so.
Although your baby will start reaching more important milestones as they grow, keep in mind that every baby develops at different speeds. Some babies may start smiling earlier, while others will hang out in the grumpy potato stage a little longer. The best thing you can do as a parent is be aware of the developmental milestones, keep all of your baby’s well-child checkups so all milestones can be monitored by a professional, and bring up any concerns you may have with your baby’s doctor.
1-Month-Old Baby and Your New Normal
It’s almost a bit unbelievable that the hospital just sends you on your way with a brand-new baby, isn’t it? There are a lot of questions you will have as a new parent, and you should never feel silly for asking your doctor about any concerns you have. Here are some of the basic questions you might need answered for your baby:
How Much Should a 1-Month-Old Eat?
If you’re breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding = nursing your baby on demand. This means that you will nurse your baby when they give hunger cues, such as:
- turning their head towards your chest
- trying to latch
- opening their mouth
During the first month of life, a breastfed baby will nurse about every 2-3 hours, about 20 minutes on each side. Your baby may alternate breasts, or nurse from both breasts each session. And keep in mind that a breastfeeding session starts when your baby latches, so if your little one takes a full hour to eat, it is entirely possible they could be hungry an hour later. I know, it’s hard, and yes, you are basically an around-the-clock all-you-can-eat milk buffet.
Although it’s hard to know if your baby is getting enough at the breast, you can check the following clues to get some insight:
• Do you feel the tingly “let-down” feeling at the beginning of each nursing session, followed by relief as the milk empties?
• Is your baby fully relaxed at the end of each nursing session, or does she still seem fussy?
• Do your breasts feel fully emptied at the end of a feeding, or are they still full and/or leaking?
If you’re bottle feeding:
According to the AAP, if you’re bottle feeding, your baby will still need to eat about every 2-3 hours in the first month of life.
• Weeks 1 and 2: Your baby will most likely eat 1-2 ounces per feeding. Keep in mind that if you’re pumping breast milk to feed your baby through a bottle, colostrum is super concentrated so even if it doesn’t look like a lot, it’s enough to keep your baby satisfied.
• Weeks 2-4: Your baby will increase to 2-3 ounces.
And no matter if you’re bottle feeding or breastfeeding, or a combination of both, the best way to know if your baby is eating enough is monitoring their growth. Be sure to keep all well-child check-ups with your doctor.
Should You Wake a Sleeping Baby to Eat?
The official answer to this, if your baby has slept more than 4 or 5 hours, then yes, it’s recommended that you wake them up and offer the breast or bottle. This is especially important if your doctor has any concerns about your baby’s growth or weight.
Unofficially, if your baby is eating and sleeping well, and there are no growth concerns, you should check with your doctor to see what they recommend about letting your baby (and you!) sleep more than 4 or 5 hours at a time.
How Much Should a 1-Month-Old Sleep?
The good news? A one-month-old will sleep a lot—about 16 hours of the day. The bad news? It’s just not always at night.
Babies’ sleep patterns, according to Nature and Science of Sleep, do not have an established circadian rhythm, so they will sleep at different times through the day and night. The first signs of a circadian rhythm start to develop around 10-12 weeks of age, which is when your baby may start sleeping more at night.
This means that although you may not be able to start officially expecting any regular bedtime sleep, it’s always a good idea to initiate a bedtime routine and sleep cues with your baby, such as a nightly bath, bedtime story, and snuggle time.
How Often Should a 1-Month-Old Poop?
Newborns can poop a lot—even 10 dirty diapers per day is not unusual. On the opposite end of the spectrum, as long as your baby is pooping regularly and does not seem uncomfortable, have hardened stools, or trouble going, your baby is probably pooping enough (always check with your own doctor, of course). Breastfed babies can even go up to 1 week without pooping, although this usually won’t happen until after the first month of life, since they are eating so much those first few weeks.
What’s more important than baby poop however, is how often your baby pees. Making sure that your baby is having enough wet diapers is an important indicator that they are getting enough to eat. According to the AAP, your baby should have at least 5-6 diapers every day.
The Newborn Stage Applies to You Too
The truth is, while there is so much focus on the baby this month, when everything is fresh and unknown and you have to learn brand-new skills, like how to change a diaper in the dark and how not to hate your partner if they manage to snooze right through that 7,574th nighttime wake-up call, this is the month that should also focus on you.
Let’s think about it for a minute: if you became a mom through pregnancy, there was a lot of focus on you, from how you were feeling, to if you had morning sickness or cravings to what you wanted from your birth experience, while adoptive moms focused on preparing themselves through piles of paperwork, getting supplies, and making sure they were ready. But the second that baby arrives, it’s like the lens switches over to do a superzoom on the baby, while moms are left wondering what on earth just happened.
It’s incredibly important that you realize how much your body has gone through and that taking care of your needs during this first month especially is part of taking care of your baby. Keep in communication with your partner/support system about how you are feeling, be honest about what your needs are, whether that’s alone time or a chance to nap, and don’t forget that you’re a “newborn” mom who needs time to adjust too.