Newborn Care Tips
If you’re expecting your first baby, it’s normal to feel a little anxious when you think about caring for a newborn. It’s a lot to process, especially when you have advice (some unsolicited!) coming from every direction. Take comfort in the fact that all parents feel this way in the beginning; you’ll soon find your parenting groove.
Start with these basic newborn care tips – and keep in mind that you’ll figure out what’s best for your baby as you go.
Umbilical Cord Care
A newborn’s umbilical cord generally falls off within about two to four weeks of birth. Doctors recommend keeping the cord dry and not giving your baby a full bath until after the stump has fallen off and the area has healed. You can also dab a bit of alcohol on the cord each day to speed the healing process.
You don’t need to bathe a newborn every day. A few times a week is fine, keeping your baby clean without drying out her skin. While your newborn’s umbilical cord is healing, give her sponge baths. Plain water is usually fine, though you can also use a mild soap. In a warm room, wrap your baby in a towel, and lay her on another towel or blanket. Soak a washcloth in warm water, and wash her gently, exposing one part at a time and paying special attention to the diaper area and any folds in the skin. Dry her off well.
Once the umbilical cord area has healed, you can start giving your newborn baths in a freestanding baby bathtub or a basin that fits in the sink or tub. Gather all the supplies you need in advance, and keep a hand on your baby at all times. Support her head and torso as you lower her feet first into a few inches of water. Hold her with your arm around her back, keeping her secure under the armpit while you wash.
Sometimes babies develop a rash when skin becomes irritated as it rubs against a dirty diaper. To prevent this, change your baby often to keep him dry and clean. Remove the dirty diaper, using wipes (or mild soap and water) to clean the skin thoroughly, and apply a diaper cream.
Newborns need to eat around every two to three hours for the first few weeks – which is one of the reasons these early days are so exhausting for new parents. At the hospital, ask for help from nurses and lactation consultants on breastfeeding or formula feeding. Taking a class or asking a nurse to guide you as you’re getting started can be enormously helpful. When your newborn is hungry, she’ll usually let you know pretty clearly – stretching, making sucking motions, fussing and crying. When feeding, if she stops sucking or turns away from the bottle or nipple, wait for a minute to offer it again. When she’s done, burp her to release air in her stomach, keeping a cloth on your arm to avoid spit-up accidents.
Sleeping & Soothing
A newborn’s sleep schedule can feel anything but consistent in the first few weeks, but it will get better as your baby gets older and can go longer between feedings. Try to implement a consistent bedtime routine early on. Give him a bath, sing quiet songs, read stories, dim the lights – every baby is different, so experiment with different relaxing activities.
If your baby is fussy (but not hungry or wet), soothe him with movement or sounds. Many babies respond well to swaddling, rocking and swinging, as well as sounds such as talking, singing, shushing or even white noise apps.