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Taking care of a tiny infant can be scary. Here’s the knowledge you need to feel and act like a pro when it comes to three particularly intimidating tasks.
1. Deciphering His Poop
Sometime during your hospital stay, your baby will pass a thick black or dark-green substance called meconium; this is normal. Within a few days, a breastfed baby will begin having six to eight bowel movements daily; these will be soft and yellow-green and sometimes filled with seedlike particles. If your baby is formula-fed, he will likely have one to two stools per day; they’ll be thicker and yellow/tan in color. Unless your baby has signs of diarrhea, wide variations in color, consistency and frequency are normal.
2. Taking His Temperature
✱ Dip the end of a digital rectal thermometer (the most accurate type for infants) into petroleum jelly.
✱ Lay the baby on his belly, and slowly insert the thermometer just past the tip into his rectum.
✱ Gently press his buttock cheeks closed for one to two minutes, then remove the thermometer. See “The Truth About Your Baby’s Fever,”, for what to do if his temperature is high.
3. Dealing with Crying
✱ Rule out the obvious potential causes: Check to see if the baby’s diaper is soiled, if he’s too hot or cold or if his diaper or clothing is pinching him.
✱ Let him suck on your breast, a bottle, your finger or a pacifier. (If you’re breastfeeding, don’t offer a pacifier until nursing is going smoothly, usually when the baby is 4 weeks to 6 weeks old.)
✱ Re-create a womblike environment by swaddling him securely in a blanket with his arms tucked inside. Then hold him snugly on his left side or stomach and jiggle him gently while making loud “shushing” sounds in his ear.
Follow these four tips to swaddle your baby safely fitpregnancy.com/swaddle.
✱ Walk, rock, sway, take him for a car or stroller ride, or put him in an infant swing. (Babies love motion!)
✱ Above all, keep your cool! If you’re tense, your baby will be, too. Remember that babies just cry—and it will pass.
The Truth About Your Baby’s Fever:
Fever can be a sign of serious illness, especially in a baby younger than 2 months old. Call your pediatrician if your newborn’s rectal temperature hits 100.4° F; 102° F if your baby is 2 months or older. Also watch for other signs of illness: If your baby just isn’t acting right, eating or drinking, or seems to be in pain, contact the doctor regardless of his temperature. A low-grade fever (99° F to 100° F) itself isn’t harmful, so if your baby shows no signs of discomfort, trying to reduce it is not necessary
A temp of 101˚ F or higher might warrant medication. If your older baby’s temperature is this high, giving him Infants’ Tylenol may ease his discomfort and help him sleep and eat. (Never give aspirin to a child of any age.) Just remember that reducing a child’s fever can pose a problem: When he begins to feel better, it can be difficult to assess how sick he actually is.
However, any fever of 101° F or higher that lasts more than two days, especially if your baby is coughing, warrants a call to the doc to rule out urinary tract or other bacterial infections.
Call the Pediatrician if Your Baby:
✱ Has a fever of 100.4˚ F or higher if the baby is 2 months or younger; 102˚ F if he’s older than 2 months
✱ Shows changes in his eating patterns, such as refusing to nurse
✱ Has very watery or mucusy stools
✱ Is excessively sleepy, lethargic or unresponsive
✱ Is excessively irritable and cries unconsolably for longer than normal
✱ Has a red or swollen rash anywhere on his body
✱ Has redness or swelling at the base of his umbilical cord
✱ Exhibits discomfort (e.g., straining) when he moves his bowels
✱ Has a distended abdomen or vomits (as opposed to spitting up)