Caring for your Breastfed Baby
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You feel like hurting your baby.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your baby's abdomen is hard and swollen, even when he or she is calm and resting.
- You feel depressed and cannot take care of your baby.
- Your baby's lips or mouth are blue and he or she is breathing faster than usual.
Call your baby's doctor if:
- Your baby's armpit temperature is higher than 99.3°F (37.4°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 or her down.
- Your baby's skin turns yellow or he or she has a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about caring for your baby.
How to feed your baby:
It is best to give your baby only breast milk (no formula) for the first 6 months of life. Breastfeeding is still important after your baby starts to eat solid food.
Help your baby latch on correctly:
Help your baby move his or her head to reach your breast. Hold the nape of his or her neck to help him or her latch onto your breast. Touch his or her top lip with your nipple and wait for him or her to open his or her mouth wide. Your baby's lower lip and chin should touch the areola (dark area around the nipple) first. Help him or her get as much of the areola in his or her mouth as possible. You should feel as if your baby will not separate from your breast easily. A correct latch helps your baby get the right amount of milk at each feeding. Allow your baby to breastfeed for as long as he or she is able.
Signs of correct latch-on:
- You can hear your baby swallow.
- Your baby is relaxed and takes slow, deep mouthfuls.
- Your breast or nipple does not hurt during breastfeeding.
- Your baby is able to suckle milk right away after he or she latches on.
- Your nipple is the same shape when your baby is done breastfeeding.
- Your breast is smooth, with no wrinkles or dimples where your baby is latched on.
How to burp your baby:
Your baby may swallow air when he or she sucks from your breast. This can cause gas pain. Burp him or her when you switch breasts and again when he or she is finished feeding. Your baby may spit up when he or she burps. This is normal. Hold your baby in any of the following positions to help him or her burp:
- Hold your baby against your chest or shoulder. Support your baby's bottom with one hand. Use your other hand to pat or rub your baby's back.
- Sit your baby upright on your lap. Use one hand to support his or her chest and head. Use the other hand to pat or rub his or her back.
- Place your baby across your lap. He or she should face down with his or her head, chest, and belly resting on your lap. Hold him or her securely with one hand and use your other hand to rub or pat his or her back.
How to change your baby's diaper:
- Lay your baby down on a flat surface. Put a blanket or changing pad on the surface before you lay your baby down.
- Never leave your baby alone when you change his or her 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 or her 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 or her 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 you need to know about your baby's breathing:
- Your baby's breathing may not be regular. This means that he or she may take short breaths and then hold his or her breath for a few seconds. He or she 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 or her 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 to care for your 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 to care for your baby's circumcision:
Your baby boy'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.
How to clean your baby's ears and nose:
- Use a wet washcloth or cotton ball to clean the outer part of your baby's 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 or her ears and push wax further into the ear canal. 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 or she is stuffed up. Point the bulb syringe away from his or her 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 a cotton swab into your baby's nose.
What to do when your baby cries:
Crying is your baby's way of talking to you. He or she may cry because he or she is hungry. He or she 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 or her down. Ask for help and take a break if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Never shake your baby to try to stop his or her crying. This can cause blindness or brain damage. The following may help comfort him or her:
- Hold your baby skin to skin and rock him or her.
- 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 or her car seat and take him or her 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.
Keep your baby safe when he or she sleeps:
- Always place your baby on his or her 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 or her face gets caught in these soft surfaces, he or she 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 or she sleeps.
Keep your 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.
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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.
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