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This postpartum survival guide culls our favorite experts' tried-and-true tips about how to make the best of this challenging rite of passage.
Here's what you'll need to know:
At the hospital, your baby is examined by the pediatrician, who will explain to you any obvious curiosities (for example, birthmarks or a pointy head shape).
After you get home, however, your baby may produce some unexpected sights and sounds; most are normal.
The Umbilical Cord
The stump of the cord may seem very black and unwieldy for such a tiny infant. This is OK; it will disengage within three weeks. Until then, keep it clean (fold diapers down clear of it), dry (give sponge baths only until it falls off), and dab the base with alcohol twice a day.
The Spit Up
Not to worry, just keep lots of cloth diapers at the ready. Two effective ways to diminish returns, offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Caring for Your Baby and Young Child (Bantam Books, 1994) are to burp your baby every three to five minutes during feedings, and to place the baby in an upright position in an infant seat or stroller right after feeding her. Or just do what comes naturally: Hold her.
The Color Poopoo
In the very beginning, it's blackish green, and then it approximates certain shades of green, yellow or brown, and it can be runny, pasty, seedy or curdy. Unsettling as this may be, it's all normal. An early breastfeeding bonus: Baby's poop usually doesn't smell at all.
You won't believe how you'll crane to hear your baby respire. Any fewer than 60 breaths per minute is normal, as are pauses of about six seconds, according to Barton D. Schmitt, M.D., in Your Child's Health (Bantam Books). Take note of any wheezing or rapid breathing, since this could indicate a respiratory problem.