Essential skills for every brand-new parent
How to bathe your baby
As long as you’re doing a good job of cleaning your baby’s diaper area during changes, two or three baths a week probably are plenty. A sponge bath with water usually will do the trick, especially until the umbilical cord stump falls off. In the winter months, when skin is likely to become dry or flaky, you may want to bathe her even less. Whether you’re giving a sponge or tub bath, always test the water temperature using your elbow or the inside of your wrist (the water should be lukewarm), and have all your supplies — towel, washcloth, baby soap and shampoo — within reach before you begin. Stick with mild, unscented products formulated for babies.
Encircle your baby with your arm and hold her firmly under her armpit. Wash her face with plain water only, then move from the cleanest to the dirtiest parts (do the diaper area last). “Pay special attention to the folds in the neck, under the arms and the creases in joints, which are especially prone to rashes,” says Linda Carlson, R.N., M.S., a pediatric nurse practitioner who teaches pediatrics at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. To keep your baby from getting cold, shampoo her hair at the end of the bath.
Although some little ones enjoy a post-bath massage, oils and lotions are not necessary, and many experts caution against using powders, which are easily inhaled.
How to care for the circumcised penis
After some circumcisions, the penis is wrapped in petroleum jelly-impregnated gauze for 24 to 48 hours. In this case, continue to cover the penis with petroleum jelly as the penis heals — usually less than a week. “This acts as a barrier to urine and stool, as well as a lubricant to keep any remaining foreskin or the diaper from sticking to the glans [the head of the penis],” says Miriam Bar-on, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Loyola University’s Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital in Chicago. If the penis is not covered by gauze and stool gets on it, all you generally need to do is clean the area with clear water.
You can use a rectal or underarm (also called axillary) reading to diagnose fever in a newborn. (Ear thermometers can be used but aren’t as accurate.) For a rectal reading, lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly, insert the instrument about an inch and leave it in, holding it steady, for three minutes. Fever in an infant is defined as an oral temperature of more than 100.5° F; to get the oral equivalent, add 1 degree to an underarm reading, or subtract a degree from a rectal reading.