Newborn Instincts

Your newborn is amazing.

And for more reasons than you might think.

Aside from being exceptionally cute, they have incredible instincts that are broken down to 9 specific stages in their first few hours postpartum.

When you meet your new baby you might be wondering how they know to start feeding, how they can hold onto you and have all these instincts that help them transition to their first day in the great big world. 

The Birth Cry

This is music to every new mother's ears. That initial cry indicates a healthy gasp of air for the first time, as the lungs expand. This is the first peep you'll hear out of your new baby and it's incredible to hear. There's nothing to be concerned about, all babies need to let out a gasp and a cry to get the fluid out of their lungs and start breathing air outside the womb.


Birth is exhausting! Once they've cried a healthy supply of oxygen into their new lungs, it's time to take a load off. During this stage, the body relaxes and the baby gets bundled into a warm towel, blanket or gets warm skin to skin contact with mom. They're usually not "awake or alert" during this stage and just relaxing from the stress of birth.


Good morning sunshine! After getting some time to relax, a newborn wakes up. A little under five minutes into the world, a baby wakes up and starts moving around. After all there's plenty to see in this new space and tons of room to start wiggling around. During the awakening stage, a newborn will start opening their eyes, moving hands, arms shoulders and feet while opening their mouth. Sometimes babies will even crack a smile.


Around ten minutes after birth, a newborn is awake and starting their rooting reflexes. You'll see more mouth movements and they'll start rooting around for their first meal. They've been through quite the journey and it's just about dinner time. 


At any point in the first hour or so postpartum, a new baby might take the opportunity to rest. New babies have quite a bit of developing to do and require a ton of rest. Through the first hour or so after birth, your baby will periodically rest or doze off in between activity. 


While they can't crawl across the floor, your baby can actually do a fair amount of crawling. It's incredible how they can move so much of their body weight so soon after birth and within the first half hour, they're crawling toward a mother's breast to start feeding. Crawling isn't exactly what you'd think and it's more like reaching and searching for food. 


Everything is so new and where's a baby to find some directions? During familiarization, a newborn is acquainting themselves with the mother's skin, breast and nipple. This will help them feed better and be the first bonding experience the mother and baby will share. This is an opportunity for skin to skin contact, keeping the baby warm and familiarizing with the scent, feel and sound of their mother outside the womb. 


Time for dinner. During the 8th phase, the newborn begins suckling and feeding. The newborn gets itself to this point when they're ready and it usually takes between 40 minutes to an hour to get them to latch for the first time. They won't consume too much volume, but don't worry there will be plenty of time to fill their bellies later on. Your labor doula can help you facilitate this process and find a position that's comfortable for you and your new baby. 


What a day! After they've suckled, the newborn (and the mother) usually falls asleep. They've been through a lot and it's left them exhausted. A new baby typically sleeps 1 to 2 hours after birth and will snooze on and off all day and night throughout the first few weeks. 

What a process!

It's incredible how many instincts help a new baby transition into the world in their first hour after birth. Knowing these stages help parents prepare and relax as they watch their new baby take their first breaths, learn to eat and how to snooze. 


Are you drinking that? I thought you were breastfeeding!

‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings, celebrations and festivities. For breastfeeding mothers it often feels like a really gray area – breastfeeding and alcohol consumption. Champagne toasts, festive cocktails, egg nog, hot toddies, wine with dinner or appetizers, whatever you like to indulge in during the season it all comes into question when we are now breastfeeding a new or even an older baby. What are you supposed to do? Pump and dump? Supplement? Breastfeed as usual? It's all so confusing!


Let the doulas and the lactation professionals ease your mind a little bit.

Current research shows that the occasional use of alcohol does not appear to be harmful to breastfed babies (1-2 drinks) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg of body weight – SAY WHAT? 

Here's the breakdown -  a woman weighting about 60 kg (132 lbs) can have approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine (two 4 oz glasses) or 2 beers (two 12 oz beers). They recommend that nursing should take place 2 or more hours after the alcohol intake to “minimize its concentration in the ingested milk”. But when it comes to pumping and dumping breast milk, let's use our judgement and consider all the facts: 

  • Less than 2% of the alcohol you drink actually reaches your blood and milk and alcohol peaks in your system ½ - 1 hour after ingestion (of course variables include whether you've eaten or not, your body weight, percentage of body fat, etc.).
  • There is nothing that shows it speeds the elimination of the alcohol from the breastmilk. 
  • Alcohol does not hydrate you, in fact it does the opposite so it will not increase your milk supply
  • Alcohol can also slow the milk ejection reflex or “let down” process so it may take longer to let down during your post alcoholic beverage nursing session.
  • Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk.


What does that look like to the breastfeeding mother at a holiday party? 

One option might be to nurse your baby before the alcoholic beverage and, if it makes you feel comfortable, wait two hours after the beverage to nurse the baby again.

Fairly simple, right? 

With all the information out there, and guidelines available, the bottom line is use your best judgment: if you don't feel able to drive, you should not breastfeed your baby. 

We hope this eases your mind a little to enjoy a beverage or two at your festivities this holiday season. 

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Our contributor today is the lovely Alison Vanderburgh; CLC, and birth & postpartum doula. She is mom to son, Luke, 4, as well as two step-daughters. Her passion for breastfeeding education and support was ignited when her son was born and she hasn’t looked back! It is her goal: 

to support mothers and partners through this incredibly life changing time.  To help mom bring her baby earth side in a peaceful, loving, supportive manner.  To help support mom transitioning to a new normal in the postpartum period and facilitate feeding assistance and education when needed.  I am honored to be chosen by you and consider this time very sacred.

You can reach her at or 207.446.0276.