Essential skills for every brand-new parent
How to dress her for comfort
Your baby generally should wear one more layer of clothing than you do. If her chest or abdomen feels cool, or if she’s shivering, she may not be dressed warmly enough. You can’t tell whether she is too chilly by feeling her hands and feet, which may be cool because her circulatory system still is developing. Instead, says Bar-on, look for mottling — blotchy, marbled-looking skin — on the shoulders and chest (mottled arms and legs aren’t cause for concern). Note: Darker-skinned babies may not appear mottled.
Not all babies sweat effectively, but a damp neck may signal an infant who is too hot. Fast breathing also can be a sign of overheating. Overbundling and soft bedding such as quilts and comforters have been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, so rather than bundling up your baby when she sleeps, turn up the heat a bit and dress her lightly.
How to trim your baby’s nails
Your baby’s tiny but terribly sharp nails probably will need to be trimmed before you’re even discharged from the hospital. Carlson suggests using nail scissors with rounded tips designed especially for infants, as they give you more control than clippers. You might want to trim your baby’s nails when she’s asleep or after you’ve fed her and she’s calm and drowsy, but keep in mind that you may not be able to do all 10 fingers in one sitting.
How to read a dirty diaper
Think of wet and poopy diapers as signs that your baby’s digestive system is working and she’s getting enough to eat. In this regard, urine is more important than poop. “Urine output determines if your baby is taking in enough fluid,” Bar-on explains. There should be a minimum of four to six wet diapers a day by the baby’s fifth day of life.
Poop output is more variable. “Formula-fed babies may have two or three bowel movements a day, probably tapering to once a day, once every other day, or once every three or four days,” says Corrigan. “Anything is normal as long as the baby is not passing hard little balls, which means she’s constipated.”
Some breastfed babies have a bowel movement for every feeding, while others go as long as several days. “You have to establish what’s normal for your child,” says Bar-on, but be on the lookout for diarrhea, which can quickly dehydrate a newborn. It’s normal for babies to have loose, mushy stools, but something is wrong if the poop is watery rather than the consistency of mustard or pudding. A breastfed baby’s stools typically are yellow and “seedy,” while a formula-fed baby’s can be tan, yellow or green.
When changing diapers, wipe little girls from front to back to avoid urinary tract infections. Some doctors say commercial baby wipes are too harsh for newborns, especially breastfed babies, who typically have more frequent bowel movements. If your pediatrician agrees, use a wet baby washcloth or cotton balls instead.