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First Few Days After Birth


Deborah M. Consolini

, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Reviewed/Revised Sep 2023
Topic Resources

Many hospitals and other organizations offer teaching to parents about how to feed, bathe, and dress a newborn baby and become familiar with the baby's activities, cues, and sounds. Parents also are taught about routine aspects of care regarding the umbilical cord, circumcision, skin, urine and bowel movements, and weight.

Umbilical Cord

A newborn usually has a plastic cord clamp on the umbilical cord. The clamp may be removed when the cord is completely dry.

No attempt should be made to pull on or remove the umbilical cord stump because it will fall off on its own in a week or two. The umbilical cord stump should be kept clean and dry. There is no need to apply alcohol or other antiseptic solutions to the stump.

Rarely, the umbilical cord can become infected, so any signs of redness, swelling or discharge should be checked by a doctor.


Circumcision in male newborns, if desired, is usually done within the first few days of life. The decision about having a newborn circumcised usually depends on the parents' religious beliefs or personal preferences.

There are few medical issues that require circumcision. Sometimes there is an unusually tight foreskin (phimosis Phimosis Phimosis and paraphimosis can develop only in uncircumcised males. In phimosis, the foreskin is tight and cannot be retracted over the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis). This condition... read more Phimosis ) that is obstructing the flow of urine, and circumcision must be done to remove the obstruction. Although circumcised males also have a lower risk of urinary tract infections, these risks can be minimized with proper hygiene. Also, circumcised males have a lower risk of cancer of the penis Penile Cancer Cancers of the penis are usually types of skin cancers. Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the penis, but it most commonly occurs at the glans penis (the cone-shaped end of the penis), especially... read more Penile Cancer , but this is a rare cancer, and a prevention strategy is vaccination Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against infection by the strains of HPV that are most likely to cause the following: Cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer in... read more against the most common cancer-causing strains of human papillomavirus.

Circumcisions are generally uncomplicated procedures. A small percentage of boys have a complication during the circumcision procedure, usually minor bleeding or local infection. However, serious complications occasionally occur.

Circumcision should not be done if the boy has not urinated yet or has a bleeding disorder or if the penis is abnormal in any way, because the foreskin may be used for any plastic surgical repair that may be needed later. Circumcision must be delayed if, during the pregnancy, the mother took medications that increase the risk of bleeding, such as anticoagulants (blood thinners) or aspirin. The circumcision should be delayed until all such medications have been eliminated from the newborn's system.


Most newborns have a mild rash sometime during the first week after birth. The rash usually appears in areas of the body rubbed by clothing—the arms, legs, and back—and rarely on the face. It tends to disappear without treatment. Applying lotions or powders, using perfumed soaps, and putting a cover over diapers that does not allow moisture to dry are likely to make the rash worse, especially in hot weather. Dryness and some skin peeling often occur after a few days, especially in the creases at the wrists and ankles.

Newborns may develop a yellow color to their skin (jaundice Jaundice in the Newborn Jaundice is a yellow color to the skin and/or eyes caused by an increase in bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow substance formed when hemoglobin (the part of red blood cells... read more Jaundice in the Newborn ) after the first day of life. Jaundice occurs because the newborn's liver needs to shift from functioning inside the womb to functioning outside the womb. However, jaundice that appears before 24 hours of age is of particular concern and may indicate more serious problems. If the newborn develops jaundice, the doctors usually do a blood test to measure the level of bilirubin, which is the main pigment in bile. If the level of bilirubin is above a certain number, treatment with phototherapy is begun. In phototherapy, the newborn is placed without clothes under special lights ("bili" lights Phototherapy or "bili lights" Jaundice is a yellow color to the skin and/or eyes caused by an increase in bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is a yellow substance formed when hemoglobin (the part of red blood cells... read more Phototherapy or ) to break down the bilirubin so it can be eliminated. The lights may be needed for 2 days to a week. Typical newborn jaundice should go away by 2 weeks of age. An infant who has jaundice that occurs after or continues after 2 weeks of age should be evaluated by a health care professional.

Urine and Bowel Movements

In the first 2 days of life, urine produced by a newborn is concentrated and often contains chemicals called urates, which can turn the diaper orange or pink. If a newborn does not urinate within the first 24 hours of life, a medical evaluation may be needed.

The first bowel movement is a sticky greenish black substance called meconium. Every baby should pass meconium within the first 24 hours after birth. If a baby does not do so, the doctor may do tests to determine whether there is a problem. Occasionally, for instance, a birth defect may cause a blockage of the intestines.


Discharge From the Hospital

Before the infant is discharged, parents are given specific information regarding when to call the pediatrician's office. For example, parents should immediately call the pediatrician if their infant has fever Fever in Infants and Children Normal body temperature varies from person to person and throughout the day (it is typically highest in the afternoon). Normal body temperature is higher in preschool-aged children and highest... read more Fever in Infants and Children (temperature should be taken rectally), respiratory distress, loss of appetite, bilious vomiting (vomiting greenish yellow material), or a blue discoloration of the skin (cyanosis Cyanosis Cyanosis is a bluish or grayish discoloration of the skin resulting from an inadequate amount of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis occurs when oxygen-depleted (deoxygenated) blood, which is bluish... read more ).

Once home, having a new baby in a household requires a great deal of adjustment for all involved. For a household that has had no children, changes in lifestyle may be dramatic. When other children are present, jealousy can be a problem. Preparing other children for the new baby and being careful to pay attention to them and include them in caring for the baby can ease the transition. Pets may also need some extra attention to help them adjust to the baby. In some cases, keeping pets away from the baby may be necessary.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Anacin Adult Low Strength, Aspergum, Aspir-Low, Aspirtab , Aspir-Trin , Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength, Bayer Aspirin Plus, Bayer Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Children's Aspirin, Bayer Extra Strength, Bayer Extra Strength Plus, Bayer Genuine Aspirin, Bayer Low Dose Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Womens Aspirin , BeneHealth Aspirin, Bufferin, Bufferin Extra Strength, Bufferin Low Dose, DURLAZA, Easprin , Ecotrin, Ecotrin Low Strength, Genacote, Halfprin, MiniPrin, St. Joseph Adult Low Strength, St. Joseph Aspirin, VAZALORE, Zero Order Release Aspirin, ZORprin
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