Care of Your Baby

The following information is full of facts to help you care for your new baby.

Looks and Personality

  • Some babies' eyelids swell for the first few days; this will pass.
  • Many babies may have small white dots on their nose, chin and cheeks. These are called milia and will go away within the first few weeks.
  • Red to purple spots on the skin between the eyes, over the nose, on the forehead and on the back of the neck are known as "stork bites" or "angel's kisses." These will fade.
  • Newborns can see up to about 12 inches away - when held in your arms, they can see your face. Place toys or mobiles within 12 inches of the baby and crib.
  • Babies like patterns in black and white or contrasting colors such as red and green.
  • Babies like to see people's faces and hear people's voices. Talk as you feed, hold and change your baby.
  • They also like music. Play soft music, sing and have musical toys and rattles.
  • Babies enjoy being cuddled, stroked and swayed. This close contact gives them a secure feeling and lets them learn your face and voice.
  • When babies are held, talked to and played with, their senses are developed. They also learn that they are loved and safe and secure.

Baby's Reflexes

  • When babies are touched on their cheeks, they turn their faces toward the touch and open their mouths. This is called the rooting reflex. It helps babies locate food.
  • Rely on the rooting reflex when feeding your baby. Gently touch the baby's cheek with the bottle nipple or your own nipple and the baby will turn to you.
  • When something touches babies' lips, they begin to suck.
  • When babies hear a loud noise or experience a sudden change in their pose, they throw their arms out away from the body and seem startled. This is known as the Moro reflex.
  • The grasp reflex is when you put a finger into a baby's hand and the baby grabs onto the finger.

Hiccups or Sneezes

  • Many babies get the hiccups even before birth. Most babies won't hiccup for longer than five to 10 minutes. To relieve this, offer your breast or a bottle, or try burping the baby. Sometimes, a few sucks on a pacifier will get rid of the hiccups.
  • Newborns seem to sneeze for no reason. They breathe through their noses, so they may sneeze to clear their noses of dust or liquid. Do not worry if your baby sneezes unless there are other signs of a cold, such as a runny nose, a cough, or the baby does not seem to want food.

Bath, Skin Care and Nails

  • Babies should not be put in water until the umbilical cord has fallen off. Instead, you should give a sponge bath, using a washcloth with soap and water.
  • When babies are given a bath they should never be left alone, even for a few seconds. Have all the bath items within arm's reach before you begin. The items you will need are:
    • A basin of warm (not hot) water
    • Clean diaper and clothes
    • Two bath towels
    • Mild soap such as Dove or baby soap; do not use a perfumed soap
    • Soft wash cloth
    • Hair brush

    Cleaning steps:

  • Start by washing the face with plain warm water.
  • Clean eyes using plain water and wiping from the corner near the nose to the outer corner. Use a washcloth - a clean part for each eye - or two cotton balls - one for each eye.
  • When cleaning the ears and nose, clean only what can be seen. Do not put a cotton swab in the ears or nose.
  • Wash the rest of the baby with mild soap. Rinse with warm water.
  • Leaving the diaper area for last, make sure to wash all the creases and folds.
  • After rinsing, pat the baby dry.
  • Shampoo the hair while you hold the baby in the crook of your arm. Put mild soap on the hair, gently scrub and rinse out all of the soap. Don't be afraid to shampoo the soft spots to prevent cradle cap (yellow, oily, scaly flakes).
  • Towel the hair dry and then brush it with a soft baby brush.
  • Do not use any oil on the baby's scalp because oil may cause a rash. In fact, most lotions and oils are too harsh for your baby's skin.
  • To prevent scratches, cut your baby's fingernails. If the nail has a rough edge before it is long enough to cut, use a nail file made for babies.
  • It's easy to trim the baby's nails after each bath because the nails soften in the water.
  • Trimming the nails is also easy while your baby sleeps.
  • Using a baby nail clippers, hold the skin away from the nail and cut straight across.

Umbilical Cord Care

  • The umbilical cord will be bluish-purple and have a plastic clamp on it. The clamp will be taken off at the hospital before the baby goes home. The cord will fall off in about two or three weeks.
  • Until it falls off, keep the cord clean and dry.
  • Fold the diaper below the cord.
  • When the cord falls off, there may be a bit of bleeding. That is normal.
  • Watch the umbilical cord area for signs of infection, including:
    • Foul odor
    • Red skin around the cord
    • Yellow fluid coming from the cord
    • Fever - rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher
  • If you think the umbilical cord is infected, call your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Circumcision

Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis. This is usually done after birth while the baby is in the hospital. A consent form must be signed before the circumcision. After the circumcision, your baby will hurt for a few hours and will need some extra cuddling.

Clothing

  • Dress your baby as warmly as you would dress yourself.
  • If it is hot outside, you may only need to dress your baby in an undershirt and a diaper.
  • Cover the baby's skin when in direct sunlight. A hat is a good idea.
  • If it is chilly outside and you are wearing a sweater or jacket, dress your baby the same way.
  • Put a hat on your baby in cool weather, because heat is lost through the head.
  • Until babies walk, they need shoes only for warmth and protection. Socks, booties or bare feet are fine.
  • When leaving the house, pack an extra layer of clothing and an extra outfit for your baby.

Illness/Temperature Taking

When babies are sic, they stop being their usual selves. They may fuss, refuse to sleep or refuse to eat. They may vomit, have diarrhea, have a fever or find it hard to breathe. If you think your baby is sick, take a rectal or axillary temperature:

Sleep

Every baby has unique sleep habits. As you get to know your baby, you will learn how your baby sleeps.

Outings, Visitors, Brothers and Sisters

  • Babies can go outside in good weather at any age. For the first few months, it is a good idea to avoid crowded places to prevent infections.
  • Visitors are fine as long as they are not sick.
  • Brothers and/or sisters may feel jealous of your new baby. For awhile, younger siblings may wet their beds or want a bottle. This is normal.
  • Have your children visit the new baby in the hospital and let them bring a gift for their new brother or sister.
  • At home, set aside a special time for the older children.
  • Let the older children help with the baby's care - but only under direct supervision.

Bulb Syringe Usage

A bulb syringe can be used to help with clear mouths and noses if babies have spit up or have a stuffy nose. To use the bulb syringe:

To clear your baby's mouth

  • Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe
  • Gently insert the tip into one side of the baby's mouth in the pocket of the cheek
  • Slowly release the pressure and remove the spit up or mucus
  • Remove the syringe and squeeze the bulb and empty it into a tissue
  • Repeat the steps above on the other side of the baby's mouth

To clear your baby's nostrils

  • Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe
  • Gently insert the tip into your baby's nostril
  • Slowly release the pressure and remove the mucus
  • Remove the syringe and squeeze the bulb to remove mucus from the bulb into a tissue
  • Repeat the steps above in the other nostril

Cleaning the bulb syringe

Clean the bulb by rinsing it out with warm soapy water after each use

Safety

Babies can roll and wiggle and fall off beds, sofas, dressing tables, infant swings and car seats. Always strap (and tighten strap) baby into swings or infant car seats, and never leave your baby alone. Before you know it, your baby will start to crawl and get into things. The following are suggestions for baby-proofing your home:

  • Start by washing the face with plain warm water.
  • Clean eyes using plain water and wiping from the corner near the nose to the outer corner. Use a washcloth - a clean part for each eye - or two cotton balls - one for each eye.
  • When cleaning the ears and nose, clean only what can be seen. Do not put a cotton swab in the ears or nose.
  • Wash the rest of the baby with mild soap. Rinse with warm water.
  • Leaving the diaper area for last, make sure to wash all the creases and folds.
  • After rinsing, pat the baby dry.
  • Shampoo the hair while you hold the baby in the crook of your arm. Put mild soap on the hair, gently scrub and rinse out all of the soap. Don't be afraid to shampoo the soft spots to prevent cradle cap (yellow, oily, scaly flakes).
  • Towel the hair dry and then brush it with a soft baby brush.
  • Do not use any oil on the baby's scalp because oil may cause a rash. In fact, most lotions and oils are too harsh for your baby's skin.
  • To prevent scratches, cut your baby's fingernails. If the nail has a rough edge before it is long enough to cut, use a nail file made for babies.
  • It's easy to trim the baby's nails after each bath because the nails soften in the water.
  • Trimming the nails is also easy while your baby sleeps.
  • Using a baby nail clippers, hold the skin away from the nail and cut straight across.
  • The umbilical cord will be bluish-purple and have a plastic clamp on it. The clamp will be taken off at the hospital before the baby goes home. The cord will fall off in about two or three weeks.
  • Until it falls off, keep the cord clean and dry.
  • Fold the diaper below the cord.
  • When the cord falls off, there may be a bit of bleeding. That is normal.
  • Watch the umbilical cord area for signs of infection, including:
    • Foul odor
    • Red skin around the cord
    • Yellow fluid coming from the cord
    • Fever - rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher
  • If you think the umbilical cord is infected, call your doctor or nurse practitioner.
  • Care for your baby after the circumcision:
    • After the circumcision, the doctor will wrap your baby's penis with a thin strip of gauze and petroleum jelly.
    • At each diaper change, apply a clean gauze pad with petroleum jelly until the redness goes away and the discharge stops - usually two or three days.
    • Gently wash the penis with warm water and pat dry. A tub bath can be given after the umbilical cord has fallen off and the penis has healed. The penis usually heals in five to seven days.
    • Keep this area clean and dry. Change diapers often, and each time, change the petroleum jelly and gauze pad.
  • Call your baby's doctor, nurse practitioner or the emergency room if any of the following happens:
    • There is heavy, bright-red bleeding that cannot be stopped by pressing on the bleeding area.
    • The baby has not had a wet diaper by eight to 10 hours after the circumcision.
    • The penis shows signs of infection - swelling, increased redness or foul-smelling discharge.
    • The rectal temperature is over 100.4 degrees F. Check his temperature if he has lost his appetite, looks redder than usual, has very warm skin, is less active or has many watery bowel movements.
  • Dress your baby as warmly as you would dress yourself.
  • If it is hot outside, you may only need to dress your baby in an undershirt and a diaper.
  • Cover the baby's skin when in direct sunlight. A hat is a good idea.
  • If it is chilly outside and you are wearing a sweater or jacket, dress your baby the same way.
  • Put a hat on your baby in cool weather, because heat is lost through the head.
  • Until babies walk, they need shoes only for warmth and protection. Socks, booties or bare feet are fine.
  • When leaving the house, pack an extra layer of clothing and an extra outfit for your baby.
  • Rectal Temperature
    • Shake the rectal thermometer so the silver line is below 96 degrees F or turn on the digital thermometer.
    • Put petroleum jelly on the end with the silver bulb.
    • Gently put the tip into the rectum 1/2 inch.
    • Hold the thermometer for two to three minutes.
    • Remove and read.
    • Normal rectal temperature is 99.6 degrees F.
  • Axillary Temperature
    • Place the thermometer under the armpit for 10 minutes.
    • Remove and read.
    • Normal axillary temperature is 97.6 degrees F.
  • Initially, newborns sleep most of the day with brief periods of wakefulness lasting one to two hours each, and they typically wake up at night for one or two feedings.
  • Babies may also wake at night if they are cold or have a wet/dirty diaper.
  • Most babies will sleep through normal household noises.
  • Never put babies to sleep with bottles in their mouths. Fluids from the bottle can cause ear infections and, when babies are older, tooth decay.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing babies on their backs in their cribs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To reduce the risk of SIDS:
    • Don't let your baby get over-heated. Room temperature should be comfortable for an adult.
    • Don't smoke or let others smoke around your baby.
    • Remove all fluffy and loose bedding from the sleep area. Avoid blankets and top sheets.
    • Place your baby on a firm mattress in a safety-approved crib.
    • Make sure your baby's face is uncovered during sleep.
    • Teach all caregivers to place your baby on his/her back during nap and sleep time.
  • Babies can go outside in good weather at any age. For the first few months, it is a good idea to avoid crowded places to prevent infections.
  • Visitors are fine as long as they are not sick.
  • Brothers and/or sisters may feel jealous of your new baby. For awhile, younger siblings may wet their beds or want a bottle. This is normal.
  • Have your children visit the new baby in the hospital and let them bring a gift for their new brother or sister.
  • At home, set aside a special time for the older children.
  • Let the older children help with the baby's care - but only under direct supervision.
  • Squeeze the bulb to get all the air out, and hold the bulb down while insering in the nostril.
  • Put the tip of the syringe into the nostril and gently release the bulb.
  • Take the syringe out of the nostril and squeeze it out into a tissue a few times.
  • Clean the bulb syringe by squeezing it full of hot soapy water, and rinse by squeezing it a few times in clean hot water.

Crying

When babies cry it can mean they're hungry, wet, hurting, too excited, cold, hot or frustrated. In time, you will learn the cries your baby makes and know what each cry means. When your baby continues to cry, try the following:

  • Cuddle, rock or wrap your baby in a blanket with arms and legs curled in their birth position.
  • Pat or rub the back to help calm and relax.
  • Try burping your baby.
  • Move around - rock in a rocking chair, walk around the room or outdoors, go for a stroller or car ride.
  • Do not worry about spoiling your baby by holding him/her too much. Babies need all the holding they can get. It helps them to trust and love you and feel secure.
  • Put locks or clips on cabinets.
  • Put gates across stairways.
  • Put covers on electric outlets.
  • Keep poisons, cleaning products and medicine locked in a cabinet. Use childproof caps and containers so baby can't get the cap off and taste or spill the contents.
  • If you think your child has swallowed a poison, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800- 942-5969 immediately.
  • Your drugstore can sell you activated charcoal. Keep it on hand to use if your baby swallows something dangerous, but only use it if a doctor, nurse or the Poison Control Center tells you to. Some poisons should not be spit up.
  • Be sure your baby's toys cannot be chewed or broken into small pieces that could be choked on or swallowed.
  • Be sure your baby's furniture meets safety standards set by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Sign-up for e-mail notification of recalled products.
  • Keep crib sides raised at all times.
  • Never shake your baby.

Car Seat Safety Instruction

Did you know that nearly 84 percent of car seats are misused, which can lead to injury and death in the event of an accident. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we offer car seat installation instruction classes with certified Child Passenger Safety technicians.