Help your newborn get plenty of rest
Newborns need to get lots of rest to continue growing strong and healthy – some can sleep for up to 16 hours a day. Once your baby is around three months old, they may be able to sleep for 6-8 hours at a time. However, in the beginning, your baby may only sleep for 2-3 hours at a time and should be woken up if they haven’t been fed for 4 hours.
- Some babies have their days and nights confused when they are born. If your baby is more alert at night, try to limit night-time stimulation by keeping the lights dim and your talking low, and be patient until your baby begins a normal sleeping cycle.
- Make sure you place your baby on their back to lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- You should alternate the position of your baby’s head – whether it’s leaning to the left or the right – to eliminate the “imprint” that can appear on a baby’s face if they spend too much time sleeping with their head in one position.
You don’t have to be quiet while the baby is sleeping. The womb is loud, and newborns are used to the noise. When ours first came home, we watched television and I would vacuum, wash dishes and talk on the phone around her while she slept.
Changing your newborn’s diaper
If you plan on being attentive to your newborn’s needs, you’ll have to become a diaper-changing expert, and fast.
- You’ll need a clean diaper, diaper ointment (for rashes), a container of warm water, a clean washcloth, and some cotton pads or diaper wipes.
- Remove your baby’s dirty diaper. If it’s wet, place your baby on their back, remove the diaper and use the water and washcloth to wipe your baby’s genital area. Wipe baby girls from front to back to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you see a rash, apply some ointment to it.
- Open the new diaper and slide it under your baby, gently lifting your baby’s legs and feet. Move the front of the diaper up between your baby’s legs, over the belly. Then, bring the adhesive strips around and snugly fasten them so the diaper is nice and secure.
- To avoid diaper rash, change your baby’s diaper as soon as possible after a bowel movement, using soap and water to wipe your baby. Let your baby go without a diaper for a few hours each day to ensure the skin on their bottom is exposed to the air.
Bathing your newborn
During your baby’s first week, you should carefully give them a sponge bath. Once the umbilical cord falls off, you can start bathing your baby regularly, around two to three times a week. To do this the right way, you should gather your supplies, such as towels, soap, a clean diaper, etc., in advance, so that you don’t need to do all this while your baby is present. Fill the tub or baby tub with about three inches of warm water before you begin the bath. Here’s what you should do next:
- You may feel a little scared, so your partner or a family member can be involved. That way, one person can hold the baby in the water while the other person bathes the baby.
- Undress your baby carefully. Then, gently lower your baby into the tub feet first, while using one of your hands to support their neck and hands. Continue to pour warm cupfuls of water into the bath so your baby doesn’t get cold.
- Use mild soap and use it sparingly so you don’t get it into your baby’s eyes. Wash your baby with your hand or using a washcloth, ensuring you gently wash your baby from top to bottom and from front to back. Clean your baby’s body, genitals, scalp, hair, and any dried mucus that has collected on your baby’s face.
- Rinse your baby with cupfuls of warm water. Wipe your baby clean with a washcloth. Lift your baby out of the bath tub, continuing to use one hand to support their head and neck. Be careful – babies are slippery when wet!
- Wrap your baby in a hooded towel and pat them dry. After that, put a diaper and clothes on your baby and kiss them so they have positive associations with being bathed.
Know how to handle your newborn
Wash or sanitise your hands before you handle your baby. Newborn babies are susceptible to infection because their immune systems aren’t fully developed.
- Support your baby’s head and neck. To hold your baby, cradle their head whenever you carry them and support it when you’re holding your baby upright or lying them down. Babies can’t hold up their own heads yet, so don’t ever let a baby’s head flop around.
- Avoid shaking your baby, whether you’re playing or angry. This can cause bleeding in the brain, which can lead to death. Don’t try to wake up your baby by shaking them – instead, tickle their feet or give them another gentle touch.
- Learn to swaddle your baby. This is a great way to keep your baby feeling secure before they reach the two-month mark.
Hold your newborn. You have to make sure to give your baby as much head and neck support as possible when holding them. You should let your baby’s head rest inside your inner elbow, with the length of their body resting on your forearm. Their outer hip and upper legs should rest against your hand, with their inside arm resting over their chest and abdomen. Hold your baby snugly and give your baby all of your attention.
- You can also hold your baby by placing their tummy on your upper chest, while using your hand on the same side to hold their body, and using your opposite hand to support their head from the back.
- If your baby has older siblings or cousins or is around people unfamiliar with holding babies, carefully instruct them on how to hold your baby and make sure they are sitting down with a knowing adult nearby to keep your baby safe.
Give your baby “tummy time” every day. Since your baby spends so much of their time on their back, it’s important to also give your baby time to stay on their tummy so that they develop both mentally and physically and strengthen their arms, head and neck. Some doctors say babies should get 15-20 minutes of tummy time a day, while others say that you should just place your baby on their tummy for 5 minutes during different parts of the day as they develop.
- You can start with tummy time as soon as a week after your baby is
born, once the umbilical cord falls off.
- To make tummy time fun, get level with your baby. Make eye contact, tickle your baby, and play around.
- Tummy time is hard work, and some babies will be resistant to it. Don’t be surprised – or give in – if this happens.
Care for your newborn’s umbilical cord stump. Your baby’s umbilical cord stump should fall off within the first two weeks of their life. It will change in colour from a yellowish green to brown and black as it dries and falls off on its own. It’s important to care for it properly before it falls off, in order to avoid infection. Here’s what you should do:
- Keep it clean. Clean it with plain water and dry it with a clean and absorbent cloth. Make sure you wash your hands before handling the umbilical stump. Stick to giving your baby sponge baths until it falls off.
- Keep it dry. Expose it to the air so the base dries out, keeping the front of your baby’s diaper folded down so it is uncovered.
- Resist the urge to pull it off. Let the stump fall off at its own pace.
- Keep an eye out for signs of infection. It’s natural to see a bit of dried blood or a little bit of crust near the stump; however, you should see a doctor immediately if the stump produces a smelly discharge or yellowish pus, continues to bleed, or is swollen and red.
Know how to hold a newborn
You can carry your baby in a classic cradle hold position, a snuggle hold position by holding them on your chest like a kangaroo or by putting their head on your shoulder. The most important thing is to support your baby’s body and neck by grabbing their whole body with both hands while picking them up. Do not pick up your baby by grabbing their hands or picking them up with just one hand.
Know how to lay a newborn down
Newborn babies should be laid on their backs or on their sides with their backs supported. Putting your baby into bed face-down should be avoided since they have little control over their head.
Interact with your newborn
You can’t play with your baby just yet, but they do get bored just as we do. Try taking them for a walk to the park once a day, talking to them, putting pictures in the room where they spend most of their time, listening to music, or taking them in the car. Take your newborn to the doctor regularly. Your baby will pay frequent visits to the doctor during its first year, for scheduled check-ups and shots. Many first newborn visits occur just 1-3 days after you and your baby are discharged from the hospital. After that, each doctor’s programme will vary slightly, but you should generally take your newborn to the doctor at least two weeks to a month after birth, after the second month, and then every other month or so. It’s important to schedule regular doctor’s appointments for your baby to make sure that they are growing normally and receiving the necessary care.
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