Tips for Newborn Baby Care

Baby Care Basics

A baby getting baby lotion on her skin after a sponge bath.
A baby getting baby lotion on her skin after a sponge bath. Photo © Vincent Iannelli, MD

The first few months of your baby's life is a joyful time, but there is also a lot for new parents to learn about feeding a newborn, getting him to sleep, and regular care and safety. Here are some important tips to help you with these newborn baby care basics.

Feeding your Baby

In a few months, there will be a lot feeding choices to make -- homemade or jarred baby food, when to start finger foods, etc.

Right now, you only have one big decision to make -- breast milk or baby formula.

Depending on your decision, there are several things to keep in mind when feeding your newborn:

  • Breastfeed 8 to 12 times a day.
  • If formula feeding, give her two to three ounces of baby formula every two to four hours, working up to five to six ounces of formula by the time she is one to two months old.
  • Do not supplement with extra water, juice, or baby food until she is at least four to six months old.
  • Check that she has six or more wet soaking diapers and three to four loose yellow stools each day by the time she is five to seven days old (signs that she is getting enough to eat).
  • Burp after each feeding to prevent gas and fussiness.

Baby Sleeping Schedules

Expect your newborn baby to sleep a lot; the average baby sleeps for 16 hours a day. Most of your baby's sleep schedule is going to be broken into one long period of three to five hours of sleep, plus several shorter sleep periods of two to three hours.

Some important things to keep in mind about your baby's sleeping include that your baby:

  • Always put your baby to sleep on his back to help reduce the risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (so not put him to sleep on his side or stomach).
  • Have him sleep in a separate bassinet, crib, or cradle that is close to your bed in the same bedroom, but not in your bed.
  • Use a firm crib mattress that is covered by a sheet; do not place any additional soft objects, loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys in the crib, cradle, or bassinet.
  • Keep your newborn from getting overheated while sleeping by keeping your home temperature between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and do not over-bundle him.

Everyday Baby Care

Caring for a new baby can be overwhelming at first. Just keep these essentials in mind as you learn to meet her needs:

  • Give your baby sponge baths until her umbilical cord falls off.
  • Bathe her every two or three days unless she really needs or likes a daily bath.
  • Help to prevent diaper rashes by changing diapers frequently and soon after she has a wet or soiled diaper.
  • Wait to use a pacifier until your baby is breastfeeding well.
  • Expect your baby's stools to change within the first week from large, black, tarry meconium to green/yellow transitional stools to the more regular yellow bowel movements of an older baby.
  • Trim your baby's fingernails when needed with a baby nail clipper or a nail file, so that she doesn't scratch her face or eye.
  • Don't prepare baby formula using hot water from the tap. Instead, run the water for 15 to 30 seconds first; using cold water will reduce your baby's exposure to lead from tap water.
  • Be prepared to cope with a crying baby for two or three hours a day, which is how long the average baby cries.

Baby Proofing

While you have time before you need to put gates on stairs, locks and latches on cabinets, and covers on electrical outlets, there is some essential baby proofing to do now:

  • Review crib safety recommendations, such as having no more than 2 3/8 inches between the bars, having a firm mattress that fits snugly within the crib, keeping it away from windows and drafts, and removal of pillow-like bumper pads.
  • Set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 F to prevent scalding burns.
  • Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors .
  • Review your home's risk for causing lead poisoning, especially if it was built before 1950 or before 1978 and you plan on having it remodeled.
  • Use low or no-VOC paint and finishes in your home, especially in your baby's nursery to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals.
  • Never leave your baby alone on a bed or changing table to help prevent falls.
  • Begin fully childproofing before your baby gets mobile, preferably by the time he is four to six months old

Baby Products

Some baby products are almost essential, like a crib, car seat, and baby stroller.

Some things to consider about baby products:

Baby Health Tips

Keeping your baby healthy is a priority -- start with these tips:

  • Choose a pediatrician before your baby is born.
  • Plan your first visit to the pediatrician to be within your baby's first three to five days and then again when he is two weeks old.
  • Expect your baby to lose between five to ten percent of his birth weight during his first week; he should return to his birth weight by the time he is two weeks old.
  • Watch for common newborn problems such as jaundice, thrush, reflux, cradle cap, heat rashes, and baby acne.
  • Avoid letting your baby stay in the same position for too long when on his back to avoid getting a flat head (positional plagiocephaly) and learn about the importance of tummy time.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Don't expose your baby to second hand smoke.
  • Until your baby's immune system is stronger (at least two to three months old) it is probably best to keep him from large groups of people (including daycare, malls, sporting events, etc.) or other sick children to minimize his exposure to infections.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of illness: fever (Call your pediatrician right away if your baby has a temperature at or above 100.4 before he is 2 to 3 months old), decreased appetite, vomiting, irritability, and lethargy.

Sources:

AAP Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. PEDIATRICS Vol. 115 No. 2 February 2005, pp. 496-506.

AAP Policy Statement. The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. PEDIATRICS Vol. 116 No. 5 November 2005, pp. 1245-1255.

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