For many new parents, the first days of caring for their newborn baby can be overwhelming. Newborns require more specific and special care than even older babies, and a new parent can quickly feel they are out of their element. From learning to bathe your baby and care for his or her umbilical cord, to understanding your infant's sleep and wake cycles, the first few days of caring for a newborn can contain a lot of information. As time goes by, however, you will begin to decipher your baby's needs. By paying attention to your baby's needs, and following some simple care instructions, you'll quickly find your parenting style and confidence.
Umbilical Cord Care
Until your baby's umbilical cord has fallen off, you'll need to avoid giving your child tub baths. Keep the umbilical cord area dry. Some physicians still recommend swabbing the area around the base of the cord with alcohol, although this old advice is becoming controversial. Modern research shows that the cord falls off more quickly if the cord is left alone, without any increase in infection or complications. You'll have to ask which your doctor prefers - alcohol or no alcohol.
When you are diapering your baby, fold down the front of the diaper so that it rests under the umbilical stump, not on top of it. It usually takes from 10 to 21 days for the cord to fall off.
In warm weather, let your baby wear loose shirts with only a diaper and avoid body suits until the stump is healed. Watch the area for signs of infection such as redness or puss, and avoid pulling on the cord, even if it appears to be about to fall off.
Newborn Baby Care for the Skin
Babies typically have sensitive skin, and you may notice that your newborn has small bumps on her face and other areas of her body. This isn't unusual and will probably clear up on its own. Use gentle baby lotions on your baby's skin, and if she has an irritated diaper area, apply diaper cream that contains zinc oxide. You should not use baby powder on your infant, however.
Bathing a newborn can be intimidating, to say the least. Keep in mind that you won't actually place your baby into a tub of water until his umbilical cord has fallen off. Instead, undress your infant and wrap him in a hooded towel. You can then uncover each area that you are washing, while keeping the rest of your child covered, warm, dry and in your arms. Begin by gently wiping your infant's eyes with a damp cotton ball that doesn't have any soap on it. Wipe from the inside corner of the eye to the outside, and then wash the rest of the face with a soft cloth. You still don't need any soap.
Once you finish washing his face, go ahead and place some baby soap on the washcloth and wash the rest of his body. If he has been circumcised, avoid getting this area wet also. Finally, be sure your baby is securely wrapped and wash his head with a gently scrubbing motion, then rinse thoroughly.
Once the umbilical cord stump has fallen off, bathe your newborn in about two to three inches of warm water. There is no need to bathe the baby every day, and in fact, over-bathing may dry out his skin.
If your newborn baby boy has been circumcised, you will need to follow your pediatrician's directions for the care of the circumcision. Keep it clean with soap and water, and if your pediatrician agrees, use petroleum jelly covered gauze around the circumcised area until the area has healed. Most circumcised penises heal within 7 to 10 days.
Feeding Your Newborn
Your newborn baby will drink only formula or breast milk for several months. Most newborns will need to eat every two or three hours; experts recommend that you feed your baby on demand, up to 12 times a day. Your infant will let you know when she is hungry. You should not give juice or any type of baby food until your pediatrician or family practice practitioner instructs you to do so.
Your newborn will sleep many hours of the day, but these naps will be in spurts all day and night. Your baby may wake as often as every one to two hours, or may go longer. For the first few weeks, wake the baby every three to four hours to feed, if he is not waking himself.
If exhaustion is overtaking you, try and rest when your baby does. Some babies sleep better when they are swaddled in a receiving blanket. You can try this by snuggly wrapping a blanket around your infant, so that her arms are pressed close to her body. Some infants don't like to be swaddled, however, so use your best judgment. Many babies may also enjoy being swaddled at first, but by three months of age, may desire to sleep stretched out.
If you do swaddle your baby, make sure that the blanket fits snuggly. Otherwise, there should not be any blankets, pillows, loose-fitting sheets or toys in your baby's crib. Always lay your baby on her back to sleep. By following these precautions, you can help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Don't be surprised to discover that your newborn will go through many diaper changes throughout the day. One sign that your baby is getting enough to eat is by taking a look at his diapers. A well fed baby will have between 4 and 8 wet diapers a day.
Address Concerns Right Away
If you have any questions or concerns about your newborn baby care, contact your pediatrician. You will be taking your baby to the doctor quite regularly during his first year, but if you have any problems between those visits, you should still call your pediatrician. Babies don't come with instructions, and they may seem demanding at first, but remember, they need love most of all. Soon, you will find out that you have become an expert on newborn baby care.