Basic Baby Caretaking Tips And Tricks
Congratulations on the birth of your baby – You’re finally able to hold the beautiful human being that you’ve been waiting for these past 9 months. It’s an incredible mixture of feelings – joy, love, excitement – and apprehension!
When Baby comes home, parents often question everything about routine baby care – feeding, bathing, and diapering – even if they cared for younger siblings or were an all-star neighborhood babysitter. Having someone there to help is always a great idea, especially if it’s a homecare Nurse.
Let’s get prepared for the joyful and utterly exhausting experience of bringing Baby home from the hospital and navigate some basic caretaking of your new little bundle of joy. From how to bathe your baby, to when to call your pediatrician, it’s all covered here.
1. Newborn Feeding
In the first few days of life, from the stress and change of leaving an environment of perfect temperature and constant nutrition, newborns normally lose about 7 percent of their body fat. For a 7 lb baby, that’s almost a half of a pound!
Because Baby’s stomach is so tiny, she’ll need to eat small amounts frequently. Some babies will want to nurse or have a bottle every two to three hours and others may want to eat more often. Let your baby guide feeding times and amounts, and understand that sometimes he may eat a great deal and sometimes a lot less.
How do you know when he’s hungry? While some babies announce their hunger with strong cries, others will give more subtle hints such as smacking their lips or rooting; pursing their lips and turning their head toward the breast, chest or bottle.
Watch for those signs of readiness and hunger and start feeding before Baby begins full-blown crying. The sooner you begin each feeding, the more pleasant the feeding experience will be.
Feedings are a wonderful opportunity to bond with the newest member of your family, even when Mom is breastfeeding. Dad can bring Baby to Mom and help get any supports settled, can change a diaper after the feeding and of course, can burp Baby in the middle and at the end of feedings.
Baby’s eating patterns will change quickly and constantly. Your newborn will not necessarily eat the same amount of food every day or at the same time of day. Within weeks, you’ll notice growth spurts when Baby will want or need feeding more frequently.
Remember to trust your instincts and let your baby guide you. Parents often worry if Baby is eating too little or too much, but babies usually know just how much they need. Don’t focus on how much or how often your newborn eats.
• steady weight gain
• contentment between feeding
• by the fifth day after birth, at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements each day.
If you’re concerned that Baby doesn’t seem to be putting on weight, that you’re overfeeding or if Baby just doesn’t seem interested in eating, call your pediatrician – they will be happy to answer all your questions.
2. Bathing Your Newborn
It’s bath time! Bathing your baby for the first time is a special, exciting event. Bathing a baby can be tricky. They’re slippery and wiggly and they tend to cry through the whole process. However, there are things you can do to make the process go smoothly and enjoy the bonding experience together.
Your baby’s first bath will be a sponge bath. Gentle sponge baths are perfect for your baby the first few weeks until the umbilical cord stump falls off, the circumcision heals and the navel is completely healed.
Pick a small, draft-free room with a flat surface, like the bathroom or kitchen counter, or changing table. Babies get chilled easily so warm the room to around 75 degrees before you begin.
Make sure to have all of the essential baby bath products assembled before you prepare the bath or undress Baby. You will need:
- Baby bath sponge or clean washcloth
- Clean blanket or hooded bath towel
- Clean diaper
- Clean clothes
- Vaseline and gauze (if you have a circumcised boy)
- Warm water, just about 100˚ F.
How To Bathe Your Newborn!
- Undress your baby make sure to cradle the head with one hand. Leave the diaper as you’ll wash that area last. Wrap baby your baby in a towel, exposing only those areas that you are going to be washing.
- Dampen and wring out a clean cloth or sponge in clean water; there is no need for soap, no matter how gentle. Clean one area at a time. Start behind the ears, then move to the neck, arms, elbows, knees, legs, between fingers and toes. Pay attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck.
- Washing hair comes toward the end of bath time so baby doesn’t get a chill. Some newborns don’t have much hair and others have a bunch! Either way, you can gently sponge Baby’s head with clear water. To avoid getting water in the eyes, tip Baby’s head back just a little.
- Now it’s time to remove the diaper and sponge baby’s belly, bottom, and genitals.
- Gently wipe baby girls from front to back. A pink or reddish spot of vaginal discharge in the first few days is perfectly normal and can be gently wiped away. If your baby boy is uncircumcised, carefully wipe his penis with water and let the foreskin retract on its own over time. If circumcised, don’t wash the head of the penis until it’s healed; just rinse with drops of water and then reapply petroleum jelly.
- Carefully pat Baby dry as rubbing will irritate delicate skin.
NEVER leave your baby alone on a counter or changing table, even if Baby is strapped down – not even for a second. If you must step away, take Baby with you.
3. How Often Should Baby’s Diaper Be Changed?
Newborns pee and poop A LOT. Wet or messy diapers are very irritating to bare, delicate skin and can cause open sores much faster than you’d imagine. As soon as Baby finishes a bowel movement, his diaper should be changed.
Even with super-absorbent diapers, urine can cause diaper rash leading to open sores, and can also cause urinary tract infections in baby girls. Even if you aren’t sure how wet a diaper is, diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours. The exception is while Baby is sleeping. Unless there is a bowel movement, don’t wake a sleeping baby to change a diaper.
4. Be Patient With Yourself And With Your Newborn
Allow plenty of time for feeding, bathing, and diapering – and relax. While routine care may sometimes feel overwhelming, these are also important bonding moments; time for your and Baby to make eye contact, have skin-to-skin contact and communicate both verbally and non-verbally.
5. Call Your Pediatrician – Whenever You Have Questions About Your Newborn
Newborns bring a whirlwind of joy and excitement to your life – as well as anxiety and plenty of fatigue. Even on a good day, parenting can be a challenge. It’s an ever-evolving learning process and your pediatrician should be your first line of information and support.
Whenever your instincts are telling you something isn’t right, or when you have questions about any of your decisions, call your pediatrician. They will be happy to help make these newborn days confident and joyous.