Your Newborn: What Happens to Baby After Birth?

Newborn baby after birth - image

You have spent so long dreaming of the day your little one finally arrives. You learned all about pregnancy, baby’s development, and what to expect from labor and delivery. But then what? What are things like in the time between baby’s birth and the time you get to take her home from the hospital? Let’s talk about what happens to a newborn baby after birth.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

First Breath and Cries

The very first thing your newborn does is take a breath. Until now, their lungs were filled with fluid, but as they exit the birth canal, this fluid is pushed out, and air takes its place. This first breath might come with a cry, a sound that is music to a parent’s ears. It’s not just a sign of life; it’s a sign that their lungs are working!

Apgar Score in Newborn Baby Immediately After Birth

Immediately after you deliver your baby, the doctors and nurses will evaluate her and give a score to indicate her general condition. They will repeat this assessment 5 minutes later. These scores are based on your baby’s heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response, and color (1). They help the doctors and nurses determine if your baby needs extra care and assistance. If your baby scores low, your providers will take any necessary steps to give her the help she needs.

Most of the time, baby is well enough to be handed right to mom after she emerges from the birth canal. If she needs a little extra assistance, they may take her to another part of the delivery room, or possibly even to the nursery or neonatal intensive care unit. As soon as she is well enough, a nurse will bring her to mom.

Skin to Skin Contact

One of the most beautiful moments after birth is skin-to-skin contact. Directly after delivery, your baby will be placed on your bare chest to have at least one hour of skin-to-skin contact. While this may seem unimportant, it has amazing benefits for both baby and mom:

  • Aids in regulating your baby’s temperature, breathing, blood sugar levels and heart rate
  • Releases hormones that help you feel calm, responsive, and relaxed
  • Improves your baby’s blood flow
  • Initiates your baby’s feeding instinct (babies with skin to skin contact breastfeed before babies who don’t)
  • Allows the transfer of good bacteria from your skin to your baby’s
  • Supports bonding and attachment with your baby (2)

Feeding Newborn Baby After Birth

Your baby will likely be alert and ready to eat right away thanks to the surge of adrenaline she gets during birth. This is a good time to try breastfeeding for the first time. It takes practice — on your part and your baby’s — so don’t expect it to be perfect right away. Your baby’s stomach is still tiny, though, so she doesn’t need much to fill it. Focus on getting the latch correct, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a nurse or lactation specialist.

The Umbilical Cord

What about the umbilical cord? After your baby is born, the cord will stop pulsating, and it will be time to cut it. Delayed cord clamping, waiting for a few minutes before clamping, is becoming more common as it allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, providing extra iron and nutrients.

Learn more: Delayed Cord Clamping Benefits For Your Baby

Rooming In

A few hours after delivery, someone will take you and your baby to another room where you will stay for 1-2 days (or more if needed.) Your baby will likely stay with you in the same room, rather than in a nursery as was common in the past. This is called “rooming in.” Your baby will have a bed next to yours that you can access easily.

Keeping babies and moms in the same room has proven to be beneficial for everyone. First, it helps parents and babies begin to establish a routine early on. It is also helpful for parents to learn the skills needed to care for their newborn baby in an environment where they can ask questions and get help from doctors and nurses. Additionally, babies who room in are more easily soothed, spend more time sleeping peacefully, eat more, gain more weight, and are less likely to develop jaundice.

Newborn Baby’s Examination After Birth

Sometime in the first 24 hours, a doctor will do a thorough examination to check that your baby is healthy and is on track developmentally. They will test your baby’s reflexes, determine their weight, length, head circumference, and check their vital signs (3,4). If the doctor finds anything that concerns them, they will discuss it with you and may do extra tests or have a specialist evaluate your baby.

Eye Ointment/Drops

Babies may develop eye infections if they are exposed to a bacteria or virus as they pass through the birth canal. Because of this risk, all newborn babies are given antibiotic drops or ointment in their eyes immediately after birth.

Learn More: Newborn Eye Ointment Can I Refuse It?

Vitamin K Shot

All babies are born with low levels of vitamin K, which helps form clots and stop bleeding throughout the body. Without enough vitamin K, your baby is at risk of suffering from vitamin k deficiency bleeding (VKDB). This bleeding can occur in any baby (even those that appear healthy) anytime in the first six months (5). To minimize this risk, newborns are given a vitamin K shot that will last until they can get what they need from their diet. If you are worried about the pain of the shot, hold your baby and give them something to suck on to soothe them.

Learn More: Vitamin K Shot After Birth – Understanding Your Choices

First Bath

Your baby’s first bath might happen willing happen about 24 hours after baby is born. Delaying the bath can help preserve the vernix, a natural protective coating on the baby’s skin, and also helps to build your newborn’s healthy microbiome.

Hearing Test

Most hospitals perform a newborn hearing screen before discharge. It’s a simple, painless test to ensure your baby’s hearing is in good shape.

Heel Prick Test

Before you leave the hospital, your baby will have their heel pricked for a blood sample. The sample will be tested for a number of rare conditions. Tested conditions vary by state, but most states test for at least these 9 rare conditions: sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, congenital hypothyroidism, and inherited metabolic diseases. If found early, these conditions can be treated and prevent severe illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and even death.


Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the penis. This surgery is optional, and not widely done outside of the United States. If you do decide to have your baby circumcised, it will usually happen before you leave the hospital. (Sometimes it is done later, usually for religious reasons. For example, Jewish baby boys are typically circumcised in a ceremony called a bris on their eighth day of life.)

If your baby is to be circumcised at the hospital, he will be taken to a sterile room to have the procedure done, and the procedure takes about 10 -15 minutes. In the days following, simply apply petroleum jelly to the wound when you change your baby’s diaper (10).

Taking Your Newborn Baby Home After Birth

Moms who have vaginal deliveries will typically be able to go home after 1 – 2 days in the hospital, as long as everyone is healthy. Those who have c-sections often take longer to recover and will typically stay in the hospital for 3-4 days. When you leave the hospital, you may find yourself feeling a little scared or unsure of your future as a parent. A lot has changed in the last few days. Between the exhaustion of labor and delivery, the lack of sleep, and the new challenges of parenting, it can be overwhelming. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to adjust and learn. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family members, or friends.


  1. Apgar Scores. (Sept 2015). American Academy of Pediatrics.
  2. Crenshaw, J. (2007). Care Practice #6: No Separation of Mother and Baby, With Unlimited Opportunities for Breastfeeding. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 16(3), 39-43.
  3. Lewis M. L. (2014). A comprehensive newborn exam: part II. Skin, trunk, extremities, neurologic. American family physician, 90(5), 297-302.
  4. Newborn Screening. (Feb 2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding FAQs. (Dec 2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,K%20deficiency%20bleeding%20(VKDB).
  6. Conjunctivitis: Conjunctivitis in Newborns. (Jan 2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  7. Newborn Hearing Screening FAQs. (Dec 2018). American Academy of Pediatrics.
  8. Hearing Screening.(Sept 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  9. McDonald, S. J., Middleton, P., Dowswell, T. & Morris, P. S. (2013). Effect of timing of umbilical cord clamping of term infants on maternal and neonatal outcomes. Retrieved from Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
  10. Circumcision. (March 2013). American Academy of Pediatrics.
  11. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.(2012). Pediatrics, 129(3), e827-e841.

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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.

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You have spent so long dreaming of the day your little one finally arrives. You learned all about pregnancy, baby’s development, and what to expect from labor and delivery. But