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Floppy legs, a rubbery neck, flailing arms … the thought of bathing your newborn or taking her temperature may scare you, but tasks like these actually aren’t as hard as they look. Here are expert tips on caring for your baby with ease.
1. Bathing an infant Use a baby bathtub until your child is 6 to 8 months old, suggests New York pediatrician Michel Cohen, M.D., author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent (Regan Books, 2004). “Hold her under her arms, then slip one arm around her back so it rests on your forearm,” he suggests. “Use the other hand to wash. Or just dip yourself into the regular bathtub while holding your baby against your body.”
2. Giving medication “If you’re breastfeeding, fill an infant dropper with the medication and put it in your baby’s mouth right along with the breast,” advises Kathleen Smith, M.D., a pediatrician in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif. “If you’re bottle-feeding, fill a nipple with the medicine, hold the top and have your baby suck.”
3. Taking a temperature Smith recommends using a digital rectal thermometer in order to get an accurate reading quickly. “Lay the baby on your lap, tummy down,” she says. “Put a little Vaseline on the tip of the thermometer and insert it into the baby’s rectum just until the silver tip is covered—it’s thin, so it doesn’t hurt. Leave the thermometer in place until it beeps.”
4. Clipping fingernails “A baby’s tendency is to clench her fists, which is why clipping is so difficult,” Cohen says. “Try to do it while she is sleeping. But she will probably wake up, so make sure to use a baby-sized clipper and do it quickly and precisely.”
5. Aspirating a stuffed-up nose Cohen says it’s best to just let the baby’s nose run unless it’s so congested that she can’t eat, in which case an aspirator is useful. “Make sure you use a baby-size one with smooth edges,” he says. “Press one nostril closed to create a seal while you clear the other.”