Caring for Your Newborn
Do not be afraid to touch and hold your baby. A healthy newborn is not as fragile as he/she may seem. Cuddle, rock, talk and play with your baby as often as possible.
Diapering your baby
One decision for new parents is the type of diaper to use. Each type (cloth, disposable, diaper service) has advantages and drawbacks. The decision is usually based on your time, access to a washer/dryer, concerns about the environment and costs. Many parents find that using a combination of cloth and disposable diapers is a viable option.
|Laundering cloth diapers:||STEP 1: Soak— Fill a diaper pail with water and one-half to one cup of chlorine bleach or diaper sterilizer. When you remove a soiled diaper from your baby:|
STEP 3: Dry — Either tumble dry or line dry your diapers. Be aware that the scented paper squares used in dryers to eliminate static or soften fabrics contain chemicals that might irritate your baby’s skin. A fabric softener may be used, but be sure to rinse it out completely to avoid irritation. If you line dry the diapers, they may become stiff.
|Proper disposal:||N/A||Disposable diapers that are soiled with stool should be disposed of properly. Discard the stool in the toilet whenever possible. Do not throw away diapers in wastebaskets. When you are away from home, wrap the dirty diapers in a plastic bag before you throw them away.|
Other diapering tips
Change your baby’s diaper after every bowel movement and whenever the diapers are wet. When changing your baby’s diapers, use plain water to clean your baby’s bottom. Some commercial diaper wipes may contain chemicals, such as alcohol, which may irritate your baby’s skin.
Parents usually prefer diapers with fewer chemicals, elastic around the legs and tape that refastens.
Diaper rash consists of red patches with tiny pimple-like bumps that appear in areas covered by the diaper.
- Change your baby's diapers more often.
- Change your baby after every feeding and when needed.
- Use plain water or diaper wipes that are alcohol-free.
- Dry your baby's bottom thoroughly before putting on a new diaper.
- Let your baby go without diapers as often as possible.
- You may want to use a barrier cream. Ask your baby's health care provider.
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Wrapping your baby tightly helps your baby feel warm and secure.
To swaddle your baby:
- Lay the blanket in front of you in a diamond shape, with a point at the top.
- Fold down the top point.
- Lay your baby backside down on the blanket so that the head is above the edge you have just folded down.
- Take one of the side points of the blanket and pull it firmly over your baby's chest, tucking it under the thighs.
- Bring the bottom point up over your baby's feet.
- Take the other side of the blanket, stretch it over your baby in the opposite direction, and tuck it under the thighs.
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Dressing your baby
Selecting baby clothes
Wash all new clothes, blankets and linens before they are used for the first time. Use mild detergent for the first year. Double rinse clothes, especially diapers, to protect your baby's delicate skin from irritation.
Keep in mind these pointers about style and design when choosing clothes for your baby:
- Your baby's clothes will require many washings.
- Check for well-made seams and sturdy zippers.
- The inside seams should be soft, not rough or scratchy.
When pulling clothes clothes over your baby's head:
- Bunch shirt up before putting it over your baby's head.
- Look for shirts with side or front openings, shoulder snaps or large, stretchable necklines.
Dress your baby as you would dress yourself, with one extra layer when your baby is small. Don’t expose your baby to extreme cold for long periods. When inside, keep your baby away from drafts. Babies lose heat very quickly through their head. It is important to cover your baby’s head with a cap or hat and your baby’s feet with socks when outside, especially on cold days.
On hot days, keep your baby away from direct sun. A baby’s skin can easily burn. Protect your baby with long-sleeved, lightweight clothing, a hat and sunshades as needed. If the temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit or above, all your baby needs is a diaper and t-shirt, a hat and shade from the sun. If dressed too warmly, a baby will feel hot all over and may even be sweaty and develop a heat rash. If too cold, a baby will have cold hands and feet and a cold back. When a baby is just right, the hands and feet should feel cool and the body warm.
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Bathing your baby
Babies do not need to be bathed every day unless that is what you prefer. Every other day is fine. However, the baby’s face, genitals and hands should be sponge bathed daily. Check with your baby’s health care provider for bathing recommendations. Bath time is also a good time to inspect your baby without clothes.
Bathe your baby in an area that is warm and free from drafts. Select a location for bathing your baby that is a good height for the person bathing the baby. Being comfortable will add to the enjoyment of bath time for all involved. Gather all necessary equipment before starting a sponge or regular bath. Make sure that the bath water temperature is kept warm. When giving your baby a regular bath, immerse your baby’s body in the warm water. Never leave your baby alone when bathing.
Supplies for the bath
- Soft washcloth/towel (hooded towels are helpful)
- Clean cotton balls (optional)
- Diaper, t-shirt, blanket
- Mild, non-scented soap
- Baby hairbrush
- Special tub (optional)
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Recommended oral hygiene steps:
- Pay proper attention to dental hygiene at the first tooth eruption.
- If there is a family history of dental cavities (caries), schedule a dental visit for your baby between 6 to 12 months of age and follow with regular check-ups.
- If there is no family history of cavities, begin dental check-ups at 12 months.
- Never allow a baby to be propped up with a bottle.
- Never allow a baby to got to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water.
- Breastfeeding at night should not be continuous, and the baby should be removed from the breast when done feeding.
- Follow the fluoride recommendations from your health care provider.
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Crying is a baby's main form of communication. Reasons your baby may cry include:
In the early days/weeks of life, hunger is the most common reason babies cry. New babies need to feed at least 8 to 12 times per 24 hour period (every 2-3 hours)when breastfeeding, or 6 to 10 times per 24 hour period (every 2.5-4 hours) when bottle feeding.
Need to suck
Babies love to suck and explore their mouth with their hands, so give your baby something to suck on, such as his/her thumb or fist or your finger (wash your hands before doing this). Studies show that using a pacifier in the first week of life makes it hard to get a baby to start breastfeeding.
Babies are uncomfortable in wet diapers, so change your baby’s diapers often.
NOTE: It may be hard to tell when disposable diapers are wet. They will feel heavy and warm when wet.
Newborns need to be burped often.
- Give your baby a back rub or move your baby's knees back and forth to his/her chest to help relieve gas pains
- Apply a warm compress to your baby's lower abdomen. (Use a warm, wet wash cloth in a plastic bag with a layer of cloth between your baby's skin and the bag).
It is common for babies to become tired from being over-stimulated. Crying may be a way of releasing tension, so your baby may need to cry for a short period of time. Try removing your baby from the stimulation. Sometimes just going to a quiet place can help.
Your baby’s crying may be a symptom of some type of illness. If you are worried that your baby is crying too much, contact your baby’s health care provider.
Comforting a Crying Newborn
As mentioned above, crying is the main way that your baby can tell you about his/her needs. As you get to know each other better, you will be able to understand why your baby is crying.
It is impossible to “spoil” a newborn. Pick up and cuddle your baby. The most important thing you can give your baby is lots of love.
Suggestions for comforting your crying baby:
- Change your baby's diaper if necessary.
- Rock your baby.
- Take your baby for a stroller-ride.
- Go for a ride in the car.
- Give your baby a warm bath.
- Swaddle your baby in a blanket.
- Put your baby in a baby sling around your chest and go for a walk, or step outside for fresh air.
- Hold your baby with his/her head against your chest, so your baby can hear your heartbeat.
- Talk or sing softly to your baby, or play tapes of lullabies or womb sounds. Some babies also respond to "white noise” (e. g., hair dryer, washing machine or a vacuum cleaner).
- Massage your baby.
- Check diaper pins. You can use diaper clips or diaper wraps instead of pins.
- Check for diaper rash.
- Change uncomfortable clothing.
- Remove some layers of clothes if maybe your baby is overdressed.
- Check to see if your baby needs to burp.
- Hold your baby up in front of your face or show him/her pictures of people's faces.
- Hang mobiles that your baby can easily see. (Remember, babies see mobiles from below when lying in their cribs.)
- Put your baby on a blanket on the floor and move the blanket around from room to room with you. Make sure the surrounding area is safe.
- Play some music; babies tend to like classical music.
- Sit your baby in an infant seat where he/she can see things of interest (e.g., you as you work around the house). Always place an infant seat on the floor for safety.
- Take your baby for walks. Use a stroller or a baby sling/snugly.
- Offer the breast or bottle. Warm fluids often comfort babies.
- Check for long hair that may have wrapped around your baby's fingers, toes or penis.
NEVER shake a baby or child or throw him/her in the air. The rapid movement of the head or spinal column during shaking could cause a whiplash injury. The younger the child, the more serious the danger.
We all experience the momentary anger and frustration brought on by stress. Prevent injury, be safe, not sorry…never shake a baby or child.
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Colicky babies cry almost every evening, usually between 6 PM and midnight. They may twist their face in pain, draw their knees up to their abdomen and pass gas. The cause of colic is unknown. Colicky babies usually feed well and gain weight normally.
Having a colicky baby is difficult. Fortunately, the condition usually disappears by the time the baby is four months old. Until that time, there is nothing that can be given to your baby or done to cure colic. If your baby cries a lot, check with your baby’s health care provider to rule out a physical cause.
The following techniques may help lessen the discomfort of colic until it goes away on its own:
- Cuddling your baby in arms
- Placing your baby across the parent's knees
- Warm water bottle or warm compress on the baby's abdomen (NEVER use a heating pad)
- Feeding your baby in a relaxed manner
- Positioning your baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding
- Car or stroller rides
- Appliance sounds (such as washing machine or vacuum cleaner)
- Singing or playing music
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