First-time parents often feel insecure about how to handle and care for their newborn baby. The doctor’s office, midwife, or maternity ward can give you sound advice and provide you with initial experience in caring for the little one. Do talk to them if you have any questions about baby care. You may also wish to join a local parents’ group.
In most birthing centers and in some hospitals, your baby will be allowed to stay with you at all times. This is a good way for you to start to get to know each other. Encourage your partner to spend time with the two of you, also, in the first hours and days.
If you’re a single mother or working mother, be assured that you can do a great job of caring for your baby! Make sure that you take good care of yourself — and your baby — by getting enough rest and by accepting offers of help from family, friends, and support groups.
Most infants love to be bathed. Perhaps that’s because their skin was wet for 9 months when they were in the womb. If you talk to your baby when you bathe him or her, you’ll receive eye contact and smiles back. And yes, infants do smile — it’s not just gas! Most babies get sleepy after a bath.
Your baby can probably be bathed soon after birth, regardless of whether the umbilical cord stump has fallen off. If the baby’s skin isn’t too dry, he or she can have a bath every day or two. However, if the skin is dry, it’s best to not bathe your baby too frequently.
The room where the baby is being bathed should be comfortably warm (about 72°F). The bath water itself should be between 93°F and 99°F. If the water is warmer or colder, your baby may be afraid of the next bath.
Use a small plastic tub to help your baby feel more secure. Have a large towel ready to wrap the baby in after the bath, plus diaper and clothes. Use mild, fragrance-free soap in the water, but don’t apply soap directly onto the baby. Ease the baby slowly into the water and give him or her time to adjust. Keep a gentle but tight grip around your baby’s armpit and then slide your hand toward the bottom of the tub. Put your hand under the baby’s neck and wash him or her with your other hand. This will provide enough support for the baby and will prevent your arm from getting tired.
Use a soft face cloth and start by washing the face and the hair, then do the same with the rest of the body.
Wash the genital area carefully. Be especially careful not to rub girls too hard, as the skin down there is delicate and gets sore easily. Wash from the front to the back, so that bacteria from the bowel won’t get into the urinary tract and cause infection. With baby boys, it isn’t necessary to pull back the foreskin of the penis. If your baby boy has been circumcised, don’t tub bathe him until the area of circumcision is dry.
Remember to dry well behind the ears; otherwise the area may become sore. Don’t use creams or talcum powder. A little corn starch powder can be used in the crease of the baby’s neck, in the armpits, and around
the groin. Allow your baby to lie and kick without the restraints of clothes — most babies love it! If his or her bottom is a little sore, let it “air” for a while after each bath and diaper change.
Is there anything more lovely than the smell of a freshly bathed infant? Make this time something you both look forward to. Take your time bathing your child. You —and the baby and the rest of the family — are all learning what works best for all of you. Why not take the opportunity and give the baby a massage. Use a little oil (such as almond oil) after the bath and massage the whole body gently. The baby enjoys being handled, and often you will have wonderful closeness during these moments!
CARING FOR THE BELLY BUTTON
The umbilical cord is usually cut at birth, and a clip or elastic band is attached near the baby’s tummy to prevent the blood vessels in the navel (belly button) from rupturing. The cord stump will shrink and eventually fall off, often before you and the baby leave the maternity ward. However, even before the stump falls off, your baby can be bathed. The belly button sometimes oozes a little clear fluid, or some blood may trickle out. Use a cotton swab to clean it.
CHANGING THE BABY’S DIAPER
Take all the time you need to change your baby. He or she will need to be changed 5 or 6 times a day in the early going, so you’ll be getting a lot of practice! Infants like to be picked up and cared for, so make changings a time of enjoyment for both of you … You can use them to have nice little interactions. Remember, that’s far more important than whether the diaper is perfectly done!
The surface you change the baby on should be soft. You needn’t invest in a separate changing table (though they are convenient). You can use a table or low dresser instead, with a changing mattresses on top of it. Put a towel on the changing table or changing mattress, to make it even softer and easier to clean up. If your changing table has a strap, don’t use it.
Arrange the changing area so that everything you’ll need is in easy reach. This includes the diapers and any clothes you’re going to dress the baby in. Have a basket with these and other items right at your fingertips:
- pre-moistened baby wipes, or mild liquid soap and a damp wash-cloth
- baby lotion or baby oil
moisture-barrier creams and corn starch powders
- cotton balls
- cotton swabs
It’s very important to wash your hands before changing the baby.
Never leave an infant on the changing table, not even for a moment! If you have to interrupt a changing, put your baby back into the crib.
How to change a diaper
The diaper should be changed every time your baby has a bowel movement. If a baby is left in a dirty diaper for too long, the skin will get sore. Diapers will be wet frequently, however, since babies can’t control their bladder. Change the diaper if it’s very wet; if only damp it’s not necessary to change it. Most breast-fed babies will both wet and soil their diapers, so it may be wise to change the baby after feedings. Save a little milk if your baby falls asleep more easily right after being fed.
Wash your baby’s bottom while changing the diaper to remove any urine and bowel movements. After the washing, wrap your baby in a towel — babies love to have their bottoms “aired.” You may wish to apply a moisture-barrier cream after each changing.
Disposable diapers, which come in a variety of sizes, are easy to put on and secure with adhesive strips on the side. If you use cloth diapers, they’ll have to be folded on the top so :hat liquids don’t leak out. With baby girls, you fold the diaper twice at the back, and with boys twice in the front. Then, turn the baby again and continue dressing him or her. You don’t have to change the baby’s clothes each time, unless they’re wet or soiled.
Most infants wake up at least once am need of being changed. It’s often recommended that a baby try to regulate his or her own changing times, though that may be hard 😮 achieve. But parents also need their rest if :hey are to provide for their baby’s needs.
Try to adjust the baby’s rhythm to also suit vow. If, for instance, the evening changing’s take place just before midnight, you’ll get into a very tiring pattern. It’d probably be better to start at about 9:00 PM, to let you get a little sleep before the next changing at about 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM. (There are large variations here.) Don’t despair if your child doesn’t quickly find a set rhythm. But if you’re exhausted from getting up at night, maybe someone else in the family can take over so that you can get 1 or 2 full nights’ sleep.
If you wish, the baby can sleep in a crib next to your bed or in your own bed. Most parents are insecure at the beginning, and tend to check on their baby frequently. It’ll take a few weeks before you feel more confident.
Night changing’s should be a calm and quiet time, so avoid strong lighting and loud voices. The baby will gradually learn that night-time is sleep-time.
DRESSING THE BABY
Lay your baby on the back while you dress him or her. If you’re using a tee-shirt under the other clothes, pull it gently over the baby’s head. Put two of your fingers inside the sleeve. Take hold of the baby’s hand and carefully pull it through. If you need to snap or fasten anything on the back, turn the baby over onto the tummy, but remember to always support the head. Practice makes perfect! Babies usually don’t mind if you take your time changing and dressing them.
It can get hot and moist under a diaper, especially during the night when a longer time may pass between changing’s. Urine and warm dampness can easily cause diaper rash, in which the skin becomes red and spotty.
If your child develops diaper rash, it is important to let him or her be without a diaper for a while after each changing and at bedtime. Let the baby lie naked on a clean cloth, and make sure clothing is loose enough. In addition, use a barrier cream on the rash before putting the diaper on. Persistent rash, especially when normal barrier creams fail to help, can cause fungal infections, which are harmless but should be treated according to advice from a doctor or other health professional.
RASHES AND DRY SKIN
During the first few weeks of life, many babies develop a red, spotty rash on the skin. It usually appears as blotches, mainly on the face. This “heat rash” is quite harmless, and causes the baby little or no discomfort. Check to see if the baby is too hot, and adjust the clothing accordingly. You can also use some baby skin cream to keep the skin soft and smooth.
Infant skin is often dry, and may peel a little during the first few weeks. Although this isn’t dangerous, peeling skin can benefit from a little skin cream or baby lotion.
Many children develop red spots with a little white center. These spots are quite normal, and don’t require treatment. If, however, your baby has blisters that produce pus, contact the doctor.
A lot of infants develop a crusty scab on their scalp. This is called cradle cap. If it covers a large area, you can rub the scalp with a little oil (such as almond oil) at night and wash it gently away the next morning. If your child has hair, you can use a good comb to try to carefully remove some of the cradle cap from the head. Cradle cap disappears on its own without treatment, with no discomfort to the baby.
Right after you bring home your newborn is a time for “getting to know each other.” It’s not easy for either of you to settle into a clear sleep pattern, and you may wonder whether your baby is particularly restless.
Babies are little individuals in many ways, including their sleep patterns. Some children sleep a lot, and others sleep less. At about 6 weeks, you’ll begin to notice that your baby wakes up not only when hungry, but also when rested and ready to participate in what’s going on.
Some mothers notice that their baby wakes up both in the afternoon and in the evening. That can be tiring, especially if the baby refuses to calm down after being fed or played with. Perhaps a stroll outside in fresh air may help, or some massage to ease tummy ache. This problem eventually disappears after a few weeks. However, if you are exhausted and concerned that something might be wrong with the baby, do call your doctor.
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