Significant dimensional variations may occur in paper-based materials when subjected to changes in moisture content. Moisture induced deformations are governed by the swelling of individual fibres, which is transferred through inter-fibre bonds to the entire fibrous network. Complex interactions between mechanical and hygro-expansive properties take place in the bonding areas, affecting the overall material response. In most network models, the role of these inter-fibre bonds is not explicitly incorporated. This work presents a periodic meso-structural model for the discrete fibrous network, which considers the free-standing fibre segments and inter-fibre bonds. Despite its simplicity, the reference unit-cell enables the incorporation of relevant micro- and meso-structural features such as network structure, fibres and bond geometry and hygro-elastic properties. The proposed model is solved analytically through a proper homogenization strategy, allowing to recover the paper’s anisotropic hygro-mechanical response in terms of effective elastic constants and effective hygro-expansive coefficients, exploiting the coupling at the meso-structural level between hygroscopic and mechanical behaviour. A comparison with experimental results obtained from the literature shows that the presented approach is quite accurate in predicting the overall paper response, thereby revealing the influence of several meso-scale parameters (e.g. fibre orientation, dimensions, mechanical strength).