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Caring For Your Baby

What do I need to know about caring for my baby?

Care for your baby includes keeping him safe, clean, and comfortable. Your baby will cry or make noises to let you know when he needs something. You will learn to tell what he needs by the way he cries. He will also move in certain ways when he needs something. For example, he may suck on his fist when he is hungry.

What should I feed my baby?

Breast milk is the only food your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. If possible, only breastfeed (no formula) him for the first 6 months. Breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first year of your baby's life, even when he starts eating food. 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 possible. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best formula for your baby. He can help you choose one that contains iron.

How do I burp my baby?

Burp him when you switch breasts or after every 2 to 3 ounces from a bottle. Burp him again 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 his bottom with one hand. Use your other hand to pat or rub his back gently.

  • 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?

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. Wash your hands before and after you change your baby's diaper.

  • Put a blanket or changing pad on a safe surface. Lay your baby down on the blanket or pad.

  • Remove the dirty diaper and clean your baby's bottom. If your baby 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 between 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.

How do I care for my baby's skin?

Sponge bathe your baby with warm water and a cleanser made for a baby's skin. Do not use baby oil, creams, or ointments. These may irritate your baby's skin or make skin problems worse. Ask for more information on sponge bathing your baby.

  • Fontanelles (soft spots) on your baby's head are usually flat. They may bulge when your baby cries or strains. It is normal to see and feel a pulse beating under a soft spot. It is okay to touch and wash your baby's soft spots.

  • Skin peeling is common in babies who are born after their due date. Peeling does not mean that your baby's skin is too dry. You do not need to put lotions or oils on your newborn's skin to stop the peeling or to treat rashes.

  • Bumps, a rash, or acne may appear about 3 days to 5 weeks after birth. Bumps may be white or yellow. Your baby's cheeks may feel rough and may be covered with a red, oily rash. Do not squeeze or scrub the skin. When your baby is 1 to 2 months old, his skin pores will begin to naturally open. When this happens, the skin problems will go away.

  • A lip callus (thickened skin) may form on his upper lip during the first month. It is caused by sucking and should go away within your baby's first year. This callus does not bother your baby, so you do not need to remove it.

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

  • Use a wet washcloth or cotton ball to clean the outer part of your baby's ears. Do not put cotton swabs into your baby's ears. These can hurt his ears and push earwax in. Earwax should come out of your baby's ear on its own. Talk to your baby's healthcare provider if you think your baby has too much earwax.

  • 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 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.
    Proper Use of Bulb Syringe

How do I care for my baby's eyes?

A newborn baby's eyes usually make just enough tears to keep his eyes wet. By 7 to 8 months old, your baby's eyes will develop so they can make more tears. Tears drain into small ducts at the inside corners of each eye. A blocked tear duct is common in newborns. A possible sign of a blocked tear duct is a yellow sticky discharge in one or both of your baby's eyes. Your baby's pediatrician may show you how to massage your baby's tear ducts to unplug them.

How do I care for my baby's fingernails and toenails?

Your baby's fingernails are soft, and they grow quickly. You may need to trim them with baby nail clippers 1 or 2 times each week. Be careful not to cut too closely to his skin because you may cut the skin and cause bleeding. It may be easier to cut his fingernails when he is asleep. Your baby's toenails may grow much slower. They may be soft and deeply set into each toe. You will not need to trim them as often.

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

Your baby's umbilical cord stump will dry and fall off in about 7 to 21 days, leaving a bellybutton. 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 boy's circumcision?

Your baby's penis may have a plastic ring that will come off within 8 days. 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.

What should I do when my baby cries?

Your baby may cry because he is hungry. He may have a wet diaper, or be hot or cold. He may cry for no reason you can find. 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, or swaddle him in a soft blanket.

  • Gently pat your baby's back or chest. Stroke or rub his head.

  • Quietly sing or talk to your baby, or play soft, soothing music.

  • Put your baby in his car seat and take him for a drive, or go 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 lay your baby on his back to sleep. This position can help reduce your baby's risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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

  • Use a crib or bassinet that has firm sides. Do not let your baby sleep on a soft surface such as a waterbed or couch. He could suffocate if his face gets caught in a soft surface. 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. Ask for more information on childproofing.

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.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel like hurting your baby.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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.

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

When should I contact my baby's healthcare provider?

  • Your baby's armpit temperature is higher than 99°F (37.2°C).

  • Your baby's rectal temperature is higher than 100.4°F (38°C).

  • 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.

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.

© 2015 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.