What Will My Newborn Baby Do?

What will my newborn baby do - image

As you eagerly anticipate the moment that you meet your newborn, you might wonder, “What will my newborn baby do?” Each baby is unique, but they share some common behaviors and responses in their early days. Understanding these can help you feel more prepared and connected to your little one from the very start.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What Will My Newborn Baby Do Instinctually

Feeding Instincts

Babies begin practicing sucking long before they are born, while still in the uterus. You may have even seen your baby sucking on their hand or fingers in an ultrasound. But they will have to learn to breathe and suck at the same time during feedings. This may take some time to figure out.

They are also born with other reflexes to help them eat. You may notice that your baby turns toward anything that brushes their cheek and opens their mouth when their cheek or lip is touched. This reflex enables them to find their mothers’ breast and suck successfully.


Reflexes are movements or actions that are built into your baby’s brain and nervous system. Your doctor will check your baby’s reflexes to make sure they are on track developmentally. Some reflexes you will notice right away, like the suck reflex, which triggers your baby to start sucking when something touches the roof of their mouth. Or the grasp reflex, where your baby will close their fingers around anything that touches their palm. Others like the step reflex, where a baby who is held up with their feet touching a surface will begin stepping, are less obvious, but equally amusing.

Spit up

When babies are born, the sphincter muscle at the base of their esophagus is still weak. This makes it easy for milk to come back up out of the stomach after a feeding. Babies often spit up when they have eaten too much, have swallowed air, are coughing, or are crying. Many times it seems to come out of nowhere. To help manage spit-up, try burping your baby, holding them upright and relatively still after feedings, and avoid overfeeding. If your baby is otherwise happy and healthy, spit up is harmless. Most babies will grow out of it by the time they are one year old. 

Pee & Poop

Babies usually have their first bowel movement in the first 24 hours after birth. However, your baby’s first poop is actually meconium. Meconium is thick, dark green or black and tar-like and is made up of everything your baby ingested in the womb. It will take one or two days to pass through your baby’s system. After the meconium has passed your baby will start having normal baby poop. Every baby is different, but most will have a bowel movement about as frequently as they are feeding, and they may urinate as often as once every 1-3 hours.

Sleepy Time

Your baby will likely spend most of their time sleeping. The average newborn sleeps 8-9 hours during the day and 8 hours during the night. This 16-18 hours of sleep is broken up by feedings about every three hours throughout the day and night for the first few months. Because babies can easily startle themselves awake, swaddling may help your baby sleep. Always practice safe sleeping habits with your baby and lay them on their back to sleep. Read more about safe sleeping here.

What Will My Newborn Baby Do: Intentional Behaviors

When we discuss what will my newborn baby do intentionally, we use this phrase loosely. Much of what your newborn does is driven by instinct. However, as they grow and develop, you’ll start to see more intentional behaviors. This transition is gradual and a beautiful part of their development.

Looking & Focusing

Your baby will likely be born able to see, but their vision will not be very focused. Over time, they will develop their eye muscles and learn how to use them properly. Until then, highly contrasted objects will be the easiest for them to focus on. Take time to hold your baby and look into their eyes. Scientists have discovered that babies prefer to look at faces that engage in eye contact, and that they show more brain activity while doing so. It is an important part of their development- physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Facial Expressions & Movements

You’ll be treated to a range of facial expressions – from tiny smiles (often during sleep) to looks of concentration. These aren’t emotionally driven at first, but are delightful to witness.

Your newborn will also have small, jerky movements. These aren’t coordinated as their motor skills are still developing. They also have a strong grasp reflex and might grip your finger tightly.

Crying for Needs

While crying is a baby’s primary mode of communication, the reason they cry can be seen as a choice to express needs – be it hunger, discomfort, or the need for cuddles.

Hear, Smell & Taste

Most babies are born able to hear, smell, and taste. In fact, studies have shown that babies are born already knowing and preferring their mother’s unique smell, voice, and taste. All of these senses help babies connect and develop healthy attachment. This leads to more successful feeding, development of behavioral skills, and future language learning. Try to avoid loud noises and bright lights that may startle your baby. Familiar sounds, smells and tastes will help your baby feel stable and safe.

Looking for Touch & Comfort

Your newborn has been snuggled up next to you for months. When they are born they need that same physical contact to thrive. Skin to skin contact (placing the newly born naked baby directly onto their mother’s bare skin for at least an hour directly after birth) has been shown to have numerous benefits to both babies and mothers. And it doesn’t end there; holding, feeding, massaging, rubbing, and wearing your baby all facilitate growth, health, development, and attachment.

Coos and Gurgles

As they start to experiment with making sounds, you’ll notice coos and gurgles that are their early attempts at communication and interaction.

Meeting your newborn and learning “what will my newborn baby do” is a journey of discovery. Every coo, every yawn, every stretch is a part of getting to know this new little person. Remember, these early days are as much about learning about each other as they are about care. So, take a deep breath, soak in every moment, and know that you’re embarking on an incredible adventure of parenthood.


Ardiel, E. L., & Rankin, C. H. (2010). The importance of touch in development. Paediatrics & Child Health, 15(3), 153-156. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/15.3.153

Why Babies Spit Up. (April 2019). American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Why-Babies-Spit-Up.aspx

Newborn Reflexes. (Aug 2009). American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Newborn-Reflexes.aspx

Moses, S. (Aug 2020). Newborn Reflexes. Family Practice Notebook. https://fpnotebook.com/nicu/exam/NwbrnRflxs.htm

Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age. (n.d.). American Optometric Association. 


Browne, J. V. (2008). Chemosensory Development in the Fetus and Newborn. Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews, 8(4), 180-186. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.nainr.2008.10.009

DeCasper, A. J. & Fifer, W. P. (1980). Of Human Bonding: Newborns Prefer their Mothers’ Voices. Science, 208(4448), 1174-1176. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1683733

Safari, K., Saeed, A. A., Hasan, S. S., & Maghaddam-Banaem, L. (2018). The effect of mother and newborn early skin-to-skin contact on initiation of breastfeeding, newborn temperature and duration of third stage of labor. International Breastfeeding Journal, 13(32). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13006-018-0174-9

Farroni, T., Csibra, G., Simion, F., & Johnson, M. H. (2002). Eye contact detection in humans from birth. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 99(14), 9602-9605. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.152159999

Baby’s First Days: Bowel Movements & Urination. (Aug 2009). American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Babys-First-Days-Bowel-Movements-and-Urination.aspx

Newborn Sleep Patterns. (n.d.) Stanford Children’s Health. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-sleep-patterns-90-P02632

Hill, D. (May 2012). Baby’s First Bowel Movements. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/diapers-clothing/Pages/Babys-First-Bowel-Movements.aspx

Indrio, F., Riezzo, G., Francesco, R., Cavallo, L., & Francavilla, R. (2009). Regurgitation in healthy and non healthy infants. Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 35(1), 39. https://doi.org/10.1186/1824-7288-35-39

Here are some other birth articles and stories we know you’ll love.

Meet Katie Griffin

I’m a registered nurse, Lamaze certified childbirth educator, and the mother of 7. I help women realize their dream of a natural, intimate, and empowering hospital birth.

You may also like

As you eagerly anticipate the moment that you meet your newborn, you might wonder, “What will my newborn baby do?” Each baby is unique, but they share some common behaviors