Lyndsey Garbi, MD, is a pediatrician who is double board-certified in pediatrics and neonatology.
Marley Hall is a writer and fact-checker who is certified in clinical and translational research. Her work has been published in medical journals in the field of surgery, and she has received numerous awards for publication in education.
Bringing your new baby home from the hospital is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. You may worry about how breastfeeding will go or how you'll get your baby to take a bottle or whether your baby will have colic. Changing diapers, pumping milk or preparing formula, and knowing how many layers your baby should be dressed in may not be as simple as it seemed at first.
There's a lot to get a handle on when caring for a baby, but with time, you will get the hang of it. No matter how new you are to newborn care, you are the best parent for your child. Your family is growing, and that's a beautiful thing! These resources can help you care for your baby and troubleshoot challenges, every step of the way.
Taking care of a newborn includes feeding, diapering, and keeping your baby clean and comforted. Newborns need to drink breast milk or formula about every two to three hours. If your baby is still asleep at the three-hour mark, you'll need to wake them to feed. When changing a baby's wet diaper, there is no need to use wipes or baby powder. If your baby's diaper is soiled, you will need to thoroughly clean the area. Newborns only need baths about three times per week. Wait 24 hours to bathe your baby for the first time, and stick with sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off.
Taking care of a baby costs roughly $1,200 per month, but it can vary considerably between families. Diapers and formula may be some of your biggest expenses. Babies also need clothing, which they grow out of every few months. Cribs can be expensive, but it's also safe for a baby to sleep in a play yard, which costs much less. Paid childcare is another major cost for many families, whether that's a nanny, a home daycare, a daycare facility, or one parent staying home to care for baby while the other works.
You should bathe your newborn about three times a week. Bathing more frequently is not necessary and it may dry out your baby's sensitive skin. When your baby is first born, it is advisable to wait 24 hours before giving them their first bath. Delaying the first bath has been found to reduce your baby's risk of developing hypothermia or hypoglycemia, and it greatly increases your chance of breastfeeding success.
Also, you don't want to wash a special substance called vernix off your baby's skin. Vernix has antibacterial properties and it helps keep your baby's skin moist. Your newborn's umbilical cord stump will still be attached for about a week or two after birth. The stump needs to stay dry to avoid infection, so it's important to stick to sponge baths only until the cord falls off.
Your baby is very attuned to your emotional state, and they pick up on your stress. Research indicates that a baby's stress level rises when its mother's stress level rises. Focusing on self-care as much as possible during the early days of your baby's life benefits both of you. If you are experiencing a stressful life situation or you have an anxiety disorder, make your mental health a priority as much as you can, and reach out to your healthcare provider when necessary.
You can start tummy time as soon as you bring your new baby home from the hospital. Place your baby on their stomach and interact with them for three to five minutes, a couple of times per day to start. As your baby gets used to tummy time, you can gradually increase the duration.
Tummy time helps your baby build neck and core strength, preparing them to meet milestones like sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking. It also helps reduce your baby's chance of developing a flat spot on their head. You should always place your baby to sleep on their back for all periods of sleep and do tummy time while your baby is awake and alert.
Warm milk may help your baby sleep better. If you are nursing your baby, your milk is already at the perfect temperature. Pumped milk or formula may be warmed, and temperature tested by dropping a few drops on the inside of your wrist. Never use a microwave to warm milk. In the evenings, breast milk has higher levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone. If you pump your milk, it may help to label your milk with the time you pumped it, so you can feed your baby melatonin-rich milk in the evenings and at night.
Starting a bedtime routine early will help teach your baby that it's time for sleep. First, dress your baby for bed and give them a fresh diaper. Next, breastfeed your baby or give them a bottle. Last, read them a book and sing them a song. What your baby wears to bed will vary based on climate. They may wear a onesie, footed pajamas and a sleep sack or swaddle. It's important that babies do not overheat, so avoid over-bundling. Reading and singing to your baby at bedtime is a good way to make sure that you are sharing books and language with them every day. It also helps your baby understand what bedtime is, when they have multiple signals that always occur in the same order.
If your baby's eye is red or has green or yellow discharge, they may have pink eye (conjunctivitis). Pink eye is the inflammation of the eye's tissue, and it may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, an allergic reaction, or chemical contact. You should keep your baby out of playgroups or daycare if they are infected with bacterial or viral pink eye infections, which are contagious. Pink eye generally resolves on its own, and it's important to use good hand hygiene until that point to prevent spread. In some cases, your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics.
Baby hives are small red or pink raised areas on the skin's surface. Your baby may be itchy and uncomfortable. Hives are an immune response and they may appear if your baby has an allergy or an infection. In some cases, other causes such as sunlight, the cold, or stress may lead to hives. Your child's pediatrician may prescribe medication to help the hives resolve. If the hives were a result of a certain food or other substance, avoid this substance in the future.
Cloth diapers are washable and reusable, making them an economical option if you wash them yourself. Cloth diapers may be a better fit for babies with sensitive skin. They do need to changed more often than disposables, which are more absorbent.
PURPLE crying refers to babies' persistent and often unexplained crying between the ages of 2 weeks and 4 months old. It was coined by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS). Shaken baby syndrome, which can be deadly, occurs when a caregiver shakes a baby, often out of frustration when the baby won't stop crying. Some ways to help soothe your baby's intense crying include swaddling, skin-to-skin contact, or getting outdoors.
Trim your baby's toenails once or twice a month to prevent ingrown toenails. It is generally the big toe that can become ingrown, when the nail grows into the skin, causing pain and swelling. Babies' toenails are very soft and they may sometimes look ingrown when they really are not. It's OK for the toenails to grow longer than the fingernails. You should only be concerned if you see redness around the toenail or if the skin becomes inflamed.
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