the first time
Caring for a newborn can be overwhelming, as it often means experiencing brand-new challenges. Our guide will help you through that first car ride, first illness, first crying jag and moreÂwe even give you the scoop on poop.
> First crying jag
It’s difficult to listen to a baby cry, but think of it this way: Crying is her only way of communicating with you. Check to see if her diaper is soiled, if her feet or hands feel too warm or too cold (a sign that you need to remove or add clothing) or if her diaper is pinching her skin.
Watch your baby for a few seconds to try to read her cues. A hungry baby may lick her lips and try to suck on anything near her mouth. An overtired or overstimulated baby might flail her arms and turn her head away; her cry may be persistent and even escalate.
If your baby doesn’t seem hungry or overtired, try soothing her: Walk with her, rock her and sing to her. Taking her outside might work, too. Tight swaddling also soothes many babies because it imitates the comfort of the womb, says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block (Bantam Books, 2002). Try holding your baby sideways and jiggling her with fast, tiny motions while you “shush” near her ear. If you get frustrated, ask your husband or another caregiver to comfort your baby while you take a break. — e.r.
> First illness
Always err on the side of caution if your baby seems sick and you’re not sure whether to call the pediatrician. That said, the following symptoms should have you on the phone immediately (see box below for tips on calling).
> A fever of 100.4° F or higher (see below for the proper way to obtain the most accurate reading)
> Changes in eating habits, such as repeatedly refusing to nurse
> Very watery stools
> Excessive sleepiness or unresponsiveness
> Excessive irritability
> Redness or swelling at the base of the
> A red and swollen or painful rash anywhere on the body
The most accurate way to take an infant’s temperature is with a digital rectal thermometer. Coat the end with petroleum jelly and, with your baby lying on her stomach, slowly insert the thermometer into her rectum just beyond the tip. Gently press the buttock cheeks closed for one minute and remove the thermometer. — e.r.
> First outing
A change of scenery will do both you and your baby good, so get the stroller rolling or the front carrier snapped and take a walk together as soon as you feel up to it. During the first four to six weeks, you’ll want to take extra care to avoid exposing your baby to illness, says Linda Keller, M.D., a pediatrician in Miami. That means steering clear of the mall or other public places where strangers are likely to peer into the stroller at your cute newborn and pass along their germs.
Infants need some exposure to daylight because vitamin D, which the sun helps the body produce, can prevent the bone disease rickets. Ideally, your baby won’t be in direct sunlight, but if she is even for a short time, be sure she’s dressed in a long-sleeved cotton shirt and pants, as well as a hat with a brim. (Avoid overbundling, as newborns easily become overheated.) Apply a small amount of baby sunblock (at least SPF 15) on exposed areas 30 minutes before going outdoors. — s.p.