Taking care of a tiny newborn may seem daunting. These tips will give you confidence.
Every new parent is in the same boat. You wait longingly and perhaps impatiently for your baby to be born. Then he arrives—a soft, helpless bundle—dependent on you for everything. And you, no doubt, have moments of sheer panic. Whether you have had a slew of nieces and nephews or have never seen a newborn before, it doesn’t matter—this is your baby, and you’re in charge. Here are some basics to get you through those first weeks at home; before you know it, you’ll be a pro.
giving the first bath Keeping your baby clean doesn’t have to be a messy job. For the first few weeks, or until the umbilical-cord stump falls off, stick to spot cleaning with a warm washcloth. For the first big bath, follow these simple guidelines: >> Have your partner standing by to provide an extra pair of hands. >> Line up everything you need—washcloth, baby soap, dry towel, clean clothes—for after the bath. >> Make sure the room is comfortably warm. >> Run the bath water into a baby bathtub so it’s lukewarm and only a few inches deep. >> Speak reassuringly or sing to your baby while bathing him to keep the mood light. >> Run a damp washcloth over baby’s hair (save the shampoo for a later bath). >> Keep it short; it’s better to miss a few spots than let your baby become impatient. >> Never leave your baby unattended.
burping your baby Your baby will need to be burped after feeding. Do it when you switch breasts and again after the second breast. (If you’re bottle-feeding, burp him after he has drunk 2 to 3 ounces.) Here are three popular positions: >> Over the shoulder Lean your baby upright on your upper chest, with his chin and hands on your shoulder (see photo below). Gently pat his back with your hand. >> Sitting on your knee Sit your baby sideways on your knee, with his upper chest leaning on the palm of one outspread hand. Gently pat his back with your other hand. >> Lying on your lap Place your baby stomach-down across your lap with his head resting higher than his chest. Gently pat his back with your hand.
diapering your baby Follow these simple steps: >> Keep supplies close at hand: diapers, cotton balls or washcloths, warm water in a pump dispenser (don’t use wipes for the first six weeks), ointment, a change of clothes and a toy to entertain the baby. >> Place the baby on the changing table, put your hand on him and don’t let go. Talk to him to keep him calm. >> Lift the baby’s ankles and wipe. (For boys: Cover the penis with a cloth. For girls: Wipe from front to back). Slide the soiled diaper out and replace with a new one before you release the baby’s legs. >> Apply ointment, if needed, and fasten the diaper
loosely (circulating air helps prevent diaper rash).
Before you’re a parent, you may think you’ll be overwhelmed in those first few days, weeks or months. You will likely be pleasantly surprised as you feel your instincts kick in and you know how to hold, feed and cuddle your newborn. Love your baby. Hug your baby. Listen closely to your baby and you can’t go wrong. > Jay Gordon, M.D. pediatrician and author
treating a cold “A cold is primarily a nuisance,” says Sue Mahle, M.D., a pediatrician in Minneapolis. The telltale sign that your baby is developing a cold is a runny nose with discharge that can range from clear and watery to thick and yellow to even greenish. Your baby also may be sneezing, running a slight fever and acting cranky. Keep your baby comfortable by placing a humidifier in the nursery, increasing his fluids (breastfeeding is best, but if your baby is getting a bottle, you can dilute one or two feedings a day with water) and using saline drops to soften the mucus in his nose and then sucking it out with a rubber bulb syringe. Another trick: Let your baby sleep secured upright in his car seat (make sure to buckle him in) to let gravity help drain his nose. If your baby has difficulty breathing, has a raspy cough or is wheezing, call the doctor. Your baby could have respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus that is usually harmless in older children and adults but can be serious in young babies.
soothing your crying baby Your baby is crying. You want to ease his discomfort, so you rock, you swaddle, you suckle—all to no avail. Or so it seems. You’re on the right track; you just haven’t been putting all the pieces together properly, says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer. In his book and accompanying video (the latter from Starlight Home Entertainment), Karp outlines the five “S” steps which he has shown will turn on a baby’s “calming reflex” and soothe even the most distraught infant. Try these in order: >> Swaddling tightly in a blanket >> Side or stomach positioning, propped with a blanket >> Shhh-ing (your voice, the vacuum, or other constant, white noise) >> Swinging or jiggling (a number of specific techniques are described in the book and shown in the video) >> Sucking (using breast or pacifier)
cutting the nails
Your baby’s tiny but terribly sharp nails probably will need to be cut before you’re even discharged from the hospital. Nail scissors with rounded tips designed especially for infants give you more control than clippers. You might want to trim your baby’s nails when he’s asleep or after you’ve fed him and he’s calm and drowsy.
taking a temperature “Feeling a baby’s forehead is not a reliable indicator of fever,” says pediatrician Warren Rosenfeld, M.D. “Babies sometimes feel warm when they’ve been held closely or bundled in a blanket.” A rectal reading is still considered the gold standard for infants. Wash a digital thermometer (don’t use one with mercury), wipe it with alcohol and lubricate it with petroleum jelly. Remove the diaper, lay the baby across your lap, gently insert the tip of the thermometer into his rectum and hold it there for 30 to 60 seconds. Sing or talk to your baby; if he begins to wiggle, call it off and retry later. When accuracy is less critical (for instance, when you simply want to rule out a fever), hold the digital thermometer in your baby’s bare armpit for 30 to 60 seconds.