Caring for Your New Baby
A healthy newborn is not as fragile as he may seem, so don't be afraid to touch and hold your baby. 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, laundering facilities, environmental concerns, and financial considerations. Many find that using a combination of cloth and disposable diapers is a viable option.
Cloth Diapers (self-laundered)
- Less expensive than disposables.
- Flexible-cotton squares can be folded and refolded to fit your baby as he grows.
- Softer on your baby's skin than disposables.
- Time-consuming to soak, wash, rinse, dry and fold.
- Inconvenient when traveling.
- Must purchase diaper wraps or nylon elastic pants (prices vary).
- Fold the diaper according to the baby's gender — more material in the back for girls and more in the front for boys.
- Fold the front edge of the diaper down below the umbilical cord while it is healing.
- Protect your baby's skin — use velcro diaper covers which don't require pins or place your hand between the diaper and your baby's skin when pinning the diaper. If you are using diaper pins, before pinning them to the fabric, stick them into a bar of soap. It will make them slip through the fabric more easily.
- If you don't use diaper covers, nylon elastic pants are needed.
- Soak — Fill a diaper pail with water and one-half to one cup of chlorine bleach or diaper sterilizer. It is best to allow the diapers to soak for at least six hours before washing. When you remove a dirty diaper from your baby:
- If the diaper is simply wet — first rinse it, wring it out, and drop it in the diaper pail.
- If the diaper is soiled — shake the stool into the toilet, rinse the diaper in the toilet until the stain is well faded, then drop it into the pail.
Parents usually prefer diapers with fewer chemicals, elastic around the legs and refastenable tapes.
- Good for traveling
- Difficult to judge when wet
- Costly to maintain supply
- May cause more diaper rash because the plastic outer liners prevent air circulation
- Frequent trips to the store
- Lay the diaper flat, with sticky tape side up.
- Place your baby on his back on the diaper and bring the lower part of the diaper up and through his legs to the front.
- Bring the tapes around to the front and attach them close to the navel.
- Fold the front edge of the diaper down below the umbilical cord while it is healing or use newborn diapers which are specially designed to leave the umbilical cord exposed.
- No diaper covers are needed.
Disposable diapers which are soiled with stool should be disposed of properly. Discard the stool in the toilet whenever possible. Don't throw away diapers in waste baskets. Take all diapers home and discard them in separate trash bags, and when out of the home, wrap dirty diapers in plastic bags before disposal, as for your pet.
- Saves time. Don't need to wash diapers yourself.
- Less expensive than disposables
- Diaper services use special disinfectant soaps to help prevent diaper rash
- Softer than disposables on baby's skin
- Inconvenient when traveling
- More expensive than washing your own
- Must purchase diaper wraps or nylon elastic pants (prices vary)
Diaper rash consists of red patches with tiny pimple-like bumps which appear in areas that are covered by the diaper.
Prevention & Treatment:
- 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 diaperless as much as possible.
- You might use a barrier cream which contains zinc oxide such as Mustela's Vitamin Barrier cream (available at Newborn Connections). Ask your health care provider.
- 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 might irritate your baby's skin.
- Don't ever turn away from a baby on a changing table, and always keep one hand on your baby while on the changing table.
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Dressing Your Baby
Wrapping your baby tightly helps the 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 on his/her back on the blanket so that the baby's head is about the edge you have just folded down.
- Take one of the side points of the blanket, and pull it firmly over your baby, tucking it under his/her thighs.
- Next, bring the bottom point up over his/her feet.
- Take the other side of the blanket; stretch it over your baby in the opposite direction; and tuck it under his thighs.
When choosing clothes for your baby, keep in mind these pointers about style and design.
- Your baby's clothes will require numerous washings.
- Check for well-constructed seams and sturdy zippers.
- The inside seams should be soft, not rough or scratchy.
- To assist you in pulling clothes over your baby's head:
- Bunch shirt up before putting over his head.
- Look for shirts with side or front openings, shoulder snaps or large, stretchable necklines.
- Select clothes that allow easy access to your baby's diapers for changing.
- Purchase only a few clothes size 0 to three months as your baby will outgrow them very quickly.
- Gather the shirt over your baby's head and pull the shirt down around his neck and shoulders, starting at the back of his head.
- Bunch up each sleeve, place your baby's arm in the sleeve opening, and bring the baby's arm through the sleeve.
- Dress your baby one layer warmer than you clothe yourself. Try not to overdress. This can cause excessive sweating and rashes.
- In cold weather, use layers of clothing, especially receiving blankets, so you'll be able to add or subtract clothing according to the temperature inside or out.
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Bathing Your Baby
Babies do not need to be bathed every day unless it is your preference. Every other day is fine.
- Select a location for bathing your baby which is a good height for both parents. Being comfortable will add to the enjoyment of bath time for you and your baby. The kitchen sink is a great place to bathe a small baby. Baby tubs are also available.
- Sponge bathe your baby the first few days until the umbilical cord falls off.
- Once the cord has fallen off and the navel area has dried (approximately one to two weeks), you can immerse your baby in water.
- To avoid exposing your baby to the cold, make sure the room and the bath water temperatures are kept warm and keep your baby's body immersed in the warm water.
- Turn the water temperature gauge on your hot water heater DOWN to 120 degrees to decrease the chances of scalding your baby.
- Bath time is a good time to inspect your baby without clothes.
Be sure to wash your hands and gather up bathing supplies ahead of time.
- Soft washcloth/towel (hooded towels are helpful)
- Diaper, T-shirt, blanket
- Mild, non-perfumed soap (if desired), i.e., Dove™ or Neutrogena™
- Baby hairbrush
- Special tub (optional)
- Begin with your baby's face. Always wipe the eyes from the inside corner out and use a clean portion of the washcloth for each eye.
- Next, clean your baby's nose and ears with a washcloth. Do not use cotton swabs.
- Next, wash your baby's chest, abdomen and legs
- Clean the genitals last. When washing a girl's genital area, spread apart the labia and gently wipe downward toward the rectum.
- To avoid irritation, be sure to dry in the folds and creases of your baby's skin.
The football hold (holding your baby at your side, supporting her head with your hand) can be a convenient position in which to hold your baby for hair washing.
- Apply a small amount of gentle soap and warm water, being sure to avoid her eyes and face.
- Use a baby brush or your fingertips to gently stimulate her scalp.
- Finish by rinsing and towel drying her hair.
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Crying is a baby's primary form of communication. Babies require a lot of human contact. You can't “spoil” a baby by responding to him when he cries. There are many reasons your baby may cry:
Your baby's crying may be indicative of some type of illness.
New babies may need to feed as often as every hour and a half to three hours if breastfeeding, or every three to four hours if 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 thumb or fist or your finger. Many people have found that pacifier use in the first week may be detrimental to establishment of successful breastfeeding.
Babies are uncomfortable in wet diapers, so be sure to change your baby's diapers frequently. NOTE: It may be difficult to know when disposable diapers are wet; wet diapers will feel heavy and warm.
- Newborns need to be burped frequently.
- Give your baby a back rub or bring her knees into her chest back and forth to help relieve gas pains.
- Apply a warm compress to her 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).
- Apply pressure to baby's front to relieve gas. Use your hand or shoulder and gently rub baby's abdomen to stimulate the movement of gas through the intestines.
It is common for babies to become tired from overstimulation. Crying may be tension-releasing, and your baby may need to cry for a short period of time.
Comforting A Crying Newborn
As previously mentioned, crying is the primary way your baby can tell you of his needs. As you get to know each other better, you will be able to anticipate the cause of your baby's tears.
It is normal to feel frustrated if you are unable to calm a crying infant. It is important to recognize that an infant's fussiness is not a reflection of your parenting abilities.
Suggestions for comforting your crying baby:
- Rock your baby.
- Give her a stroller-ride.
- Go for a ride in the car.
- Give her a warm bath.
- Swaddle your baby.
- Put him in a baby sling and go for a walk, or step outside for fresh air.
- Hold your baby with his head against your chest, so he 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,” such as the sound of a hair dryer, washing machine, or a vacuum cleaner.
- Massage your baby.
- Check diaper pins (you can use “Snappis” or diaper wraps instead of pins).
- Check for diaper rash.
- Change uncomfortable clothing; maybe the baby is overdressed.
- Check to see if the baby needs to burp.
When your baby is one to two months old he may just want to play. Here are some suggestions:
- Hold your baby up in front of your face or show him 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 can see things of interest (i.e., 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/snugli.
- Offer the breast or bottle. Warm fluids often comfort babies.
- If crying continues and you have exhausted your supply of patience, consider leaving your baby in his crib for a brief period of time or asking someone else to try to comfort your baby. Call a parent stress telephone line (listed in Resources) if you need to talk.
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Babies with colic cry almost every evening, usually between 6 PM and midnight. They may grimace with pain, draw up their knees to their abdomen and pass gas. The cause of colic is unknown. Babies with colic usually feed well and gain weight normally.
Having a colicky baby is difficult for parents. Fortunately, the condition usually disappears by the time the baby is 4 months old. Until that time, there is nothing that can be given to or done for your baby to cure colic. If your baby cries excessively, check with your baby's health care provider to rule out a physical cause.
The following techniques may help your baby and you deal with the discomfort of colic until is goes away on its own:
- Cuddling infant in arms
- Placing infant across the parent's knees
- Warm water bottle or warm compress on the baby's abdomen, with a layer of cloth in between (NEVER use a heating pad)
- When feeding the baby, do so in a relaxed manner
- Positioning the baby upright for half an hour after feeding
- Car or stroller rides
- Appliance sounds (such as washing machine, vacuum cleaner, etc.)
- Singing or playing music
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