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Caring For Your Baby

How should I feed my baby?

You can choose any of the following ways to feed your baby:

  • You may breastfeed. Whenever possible, only breastfeed (no formula) your baby for the first 6 months of life. Once additional foods are added to your baby's diet, breastfeeding is still as important.

  • You may pump your breasts and feed breast milk from a bottle.

  • You may feed your baby formula from a bottle if breastfeeding is not an option.

  • You may feed your baby both breast milk and formula.

How do I burp my baby?

Your baby may swallow air when he sucks from your breast or a bottle. This can cause gas pain. Burp him when you switch breasts if you breastfeed. Burp your baby after every 2 to 3 ounces if you feed him with a bottle. Always burp your baby when he is finished eating. Your baby may spit up when he burps. This is normal. Hold your baby in any of the following positions to help him burp:

  • Hold your baby against your chest or shoulder: Support your baby's bottom with one hand. Use your other hand to gently pat or rub your baby's back.

  • Sit your baby upright on your lap: Use one hand to support his chest and head. Use the other hand to pat or rub his back.

  • Place your baby across your lap: He should face down with his head, chest, and belly resting on your lap. Hold him securely with one hand and use your other hand to rub or pat his back.

How do I change my baby's diaper?

  • Lay your baby down on a flat surface: Put a blanket or changing pad on the surface before laying your baby down.

  • Never leave your baby alone when you change his diaper: If you need to leave the room, put the diaper back on and take your baby with you.

  • Remove the dirty diaper and clean your baby's bottom: If your baby has had a bowel movement, use the diaper to wipe off most of the bowel movement. Clean your baby's bottom with a wet washcloth or diaper wipe. Do not use diaper wipes if your baby has a rash or circumcision that has not yet healed. Gently lift both legs and wash his buttocks. Always wipe from front to back. Clean under all skin folds and creases. Apply ointment or petroleum jelly as directed if your baby has a rash.

  • Put on a clean diaper: Lift both your baby's legs and slide the clean diaper beneath his buttocks. Gently direct your baby boy's penis down as the diaper is put on. Fold the diaper down if your baby's umbilical cord has not fallen off.

  • Wash your hands: This will help prevent the spread of germs.

What do I need to know about my baby's breathing?

  • Your baby's breathing may not be regular. This means that he may take short breaths and then hold his breath for a few seconds. Your baby may then take a deep breath. This breathing pattern is common during the first few weeks of life. It is most common in premature babies. Your baby's breathing should be more regular by the end of his first month.

  • Babies also make many different noises when breathing, such as gurgling or snorting. These sounds are normal and will go away as your baby grows.

How do I care for my baby's umbilical cord stump?

Your baby's umbilical cord stump dries and falls off in about 7 to 21 days, leaving a belly button. If your baby's stump gets dirty from urine or bowel movement, wash it off right away with water. Gently pat the stump dry. This will help prevent infection around your baby's cord stump. Fold the front of the diaper down below the cord stump to let it air dry. Do not cover or pull at the cord stump.

How do I care for my baby's circumcision?

Your baby's penis may have a plastic ring that will come off within 8 days. Or, his penis may be covered with gauze and petroleum jelly. Keep your baby's penis as clean as possible. Clean it with warm water only. Gently blot or squeeze the water from a wet cloth or cotton ball onto the penis. Do not use soap or diaper wipes to clean the circumcision area. This could sting or irritate your baby's penis. Your baby's penis should heal in about 7 to 10 days.

How do I clean my baby's ears and nose?

  • Ears: Earwax helps keep your baby's ears clean and healthy. Do not put cotton swabs into your baby's ears. These can hurt his ears and push wax further into the ear canal. Earwax should come out of your baby's ear on its own. Use a wet washcloth or cotton ball to clean the outer part of your baby's ears. Talk to your baby's caregiver if you think your baby has too much earwax.

  • Nose: Use a rubber bulb syringe to suction your baby's nose if he is stuffed up. Point the bulb syringe away from his face and squeeze the bulb to create a gentle vacuum. Gently put the tip into one of your baby's nostrils. Close the other nostril with your fingers. Release the bulb so that it sucks out the mucus. Repeat if necessary. Boil the syringe for 10 minutes after each use. Do not put your fingers or cotton swabs into your baby's nose.

What should I do when my baby cries?

Crying is your baby's way of talking to you. He may cry because he is hungry. He may have a wet diaper, or be hot or cold. You will get to know your baby's different cries. It can be hard to listen to your baby cry and not be able to calm him down. Ask for help and take a break if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Never shake your baby to try to stop his crying. This can cause blindness or brain damage. The following may help comfort him:

  • Hold your baby skin to skin and rock him.

  • Swaddle your baby in a soft blanket.

  • Gently pat your baby's back or chest.

  • Stroke or rub your baby's head.

  • Quietly sing or talk to your baby.

  • Play soft, soothing music.

  • Put your baby in his car seat and take him for a drive.

  • Take your baby for a stroller ride.

  • Burp your baby to get rid of extra gas.

  • Give your baby a soothing, warm bath.

How can I keep my baby safe when he sleeps?

  • Always place your baby on his back to sleep.

  • Do not let your baby get too hot. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult.

  • Use a crib or bassinet that has firm sides. Do not let your baby sleep on a waterbed. Do not let your baby sleep in the middle of your bed, couch, or other soft surface. If his face gets caught in these soft surfaces, he can suffocate.

  • Use a firm, flat mattress. Cover the mattress with a fitted sheet that is made especially for the type of mattress you are using.

  • Remove all objects, such as toys, pillows, or blankets, from your baby's bed while he sleeps.

How can I keep my baby safe in the car?

Always buckle your baby into a car seat when you drive. Make sure you have a safety seat that meets the federal safety standards. It is very important to install the safety seat properly in your car and to always use it correctly. Ask for more information about child safety seats.

When should I contact my baby's caregiver?

Contact your baby's caregiver if:

  • Your baby's armpit temperature is 100.2 °F (37.9 °C) or higher.

  • Your baby's eyes are red, swollen, or draining yellow pus.

  • Your baby coughs often during the day, or chokes during each feeding.

  • Your baby does not want to eat.

  • Your baby cries more than usual and you cannot calm him down.

  • Your baby's skin turns yellow or he has a rash.

  • You have questions or concerns about caring for your baby.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your baby's abdomen is hard and swollen, even when he is calm and resting.

  • You feel depressed and cannot take care of your baby.

  • You feel like hurting your baby.

  • Your baby's lips or mouth are blue and he is breathing faster.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your baby's care. Learn about your baby's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your baby's caregivers to decide what care you want for your baby. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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