> First car rideThe time to figure out how to install your baby’s car seat—and get her properly secured in it—is before she’s even born. Following these steps well in advance of your due date will help you feel more comfortable during that special trip home from the hospital.
First, even if you normally aren’t the type to do so, read the car-seat manual carefully. Next, install the car seat in your vehicle’s back seat—preferably in the center of the seat—according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Note that all babies should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 1 year old and weigh a minimum of 20 pounds.) Finally, follow these tips from Joe Colella, a safety-training manager for the National Safe Kids Campaign:
> Recline the car seat so that your baby’s head rests flat against the back (again, follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
> Only add items such as a head support or rolled towel that are approved for use with your specific seat.
> Use harness straps in harness slots that are at or slightly below your baby’s shoulder level, and keep the straps snug and flat, with the chest clip at armpit level.
More than 80 percent of child safety seats are selected, used or installed improperly, according to Safe Kids, so you should have an expert check your work. For sites near you offering free inspections, visit www.safekids.org or call 800-441-1888. — samantha phillips
> First bath
Many doctors believe it’s OK to bathe a newborn even before the umbilical cord stump has fallen off, as long as the area is thoroughly dried afterward. (The American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends sponge baths only for the first seven to 10 days, or until the stump drops off.)
For the first full bath, have everything ready on the edge of the tub ahead of time—washcloth, baby soap and shampoo, cotton balls, towel and a plastic cup for rinsing. Soften the lights and warm the room.
Place a plastic tub specially designed for infants in your bathtub or sink. Fill it with a few inches of warm water (between 90° and 98° F) and ease your baby into it. Encircle her body firmly with one arm, keeping her head supported, and gently wash her body with the other. Pay special attention to the genital area, behind the ears, and the folds under the arms and neck. Wash you baby’s hair last (if at all) so she doesn’t get cold.
Never leave your baby in the bath unattended or turn your back on her. Finally, don’t go overboard and dry out her delicate skin: Two or three baths a week are plenty. — Elizabeth Rusch