Your Baby's Early Weeks

NI Direct

In the first few weeks, you will be learning how to look after your baby. You will start to understand them and will learn what is normal and what may be a sign that something is wrong.

Getting to know your baby

Keeping your baby warm, fed and safe will be your first priority in the first weeks. Every second that your baby is awake they are learning from you. Learning about what it feels like to be touched gently, the sound of your voice and your very special smell.

They are learning about what the world is like and, above all, what it feels like to love and be loved. It is important to talk to your baby.

The most important thing to do in the first few weeks is to also to enjoy your baby. Spending time with them is the best way to help them feel safe and loved.

Talking to your baby

It is very important to talk to your baby. You can talk to them about anything and everything. Talking to young children, even very young babies helps them become good communicators later in life.

It will also help your baby build their early bond with you. If you or your family speak another language, use it to speak to your baby. It is quite amazing how babies and small children pick up and respond to two different languages.

Registering their birth

Your baby’s birth must be registered within six weeks from when they were born. This will take place at the register office in the district where they were born.

If you live in a different district from the one where your baby was born, you can go to your nearest register office. The registrar will take details from you and then send them to the district where your baby was born.

You will then be sent the birth certificate.


Babies often have minor illnesses that you do not need to worry about. It’s sometimes difficult to tell at first when a baby is ill, but you may have a funny feeling that things are not quite right. If you are at all worried, ask for help.

You are not fussing, it’s far better to be on the safe side, particularly with a very small baby. Trust your own judgement. You know your baby best.

If your baby is unwell, seek medical advice promptly. It can be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious and requires prompt medical attention.

Very urgent problems

Sometimes there are obvious signs that your baby is not well. Contact your doctor at once if your baby:

  • turns blue or very pale
  • has quick, difficult or grunting breathing, or unusual periods of breathing - for example breathing with pauses of over 20 seconds between breaths
  • is very hard to wake, unusually drowsy or doesn’t seem to know you
  • develops a rash of red spots that do not fade and lose colour (blanch) when they are pressed (see the ‘glass test’ as this may be the rash of meningococcal disease and meningitis which causes infection in the blood)

The ‘glass test’

The ‘glass test’ may help you to tell if a rash is a symptom of meningitis. Press the side or bottom of a glass firmly against the rash. You will be able to see if the rash fades and loses colour under the pressure.

If it doesn’t change colour, contact your GP, telephone 999 or take your baby to A&E immediately.

Problems that could be serious:

  • take your baby to GP if your baby has a hoarse cough with noisy breathing, is wheezing, or cannot breathe through the nose
  • if your baby is unusually hot, cold or floppy
  • if your baby cries in an unusual way or for an unusually long time or seems to be in pain
  • if you notice any bleeding from the stump of the umbilical cord or from the nose, or any bruising
  • if your baby keeps refusing feeds
  • if your baby keeps vomiting a substantial part of feeds or has frequent watery offensive/smelly diarrhoea - vomiting and diarrhoea together may mean your baby is losing too much fluid and this may need prompt treatment.
  • if your baby develops jaundice (looks yellow) when they are over a week old, or has jaundice that continues for over two weeks after birth
  • if jaundice develops in the first 24 hours after birth urgent medical treatment is required.

If you have already seen your GP and your baby is not getting better or seems to be getting worse, contact your GP again.

If you become very worried and cannot get hold of your GP, dial 999 for an ambulance or take your baby to the nearest hospital A&E department.

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