Taking care of your baby
Taking care of a baby is a lot of work. So, it’s good to have help from family members or friends. And the more you read about childcare, the better prepared you’ll feel. There are plenty of books and websites that you might find helpful.
Plus, we are here to help too. Learn more about taking care of your baby.
Holding Your Baby
Your baby will have very weak muscles in his neck. His head is heavy and hard for him to control. To stop neck or head injuries, keep your hand or arm under his head. You can hold him up to your shoulder, cradle him in one arm or hold him under your arm, like a football.
Feeding Your Baby
It is best to feed your baby when he is hungry, not at a set time. If you had more than one baby, you may have to feed them on more of a set time. Breast milk is the best baby food. It may protect your baby from illnesses. Your baby will get added help in growing if you can breast-feed, even for a short time.
Remember, both you and your baby are new at breast-feeding. It may not be easy. Sometimes problems start after you your take baby home. If you have problems breast-feeding your baby, ask for help right away. Don’t just stop breast-feeding. Before the problem becomes big, call your doctor’s office or the hospital where your baby was born. You can also call La Leche League USA at 1-877-4-LALECHE (1-877-452-5324).
Breast-feeding babies often eat every one to three hours. Your baby’s hunger will change from week to week. Sometimes when growth is fast, your baby needs to eat more often. Feed him when he shows signs of hunger.
Bottle-fed babies may only be hungry every three to four hours. Your baby’s hunger will change as he grows. It is important to hold your baby when you feed him. Hold your baby in your arms against your chest. Put the nipple into your baby’s mouth. Tip the bottom of the bottle up so the nipple is full of formula and not air.
Check with your baby’s doctor about which kind of formula to use. Be sure to follow information when you mix liquid with powder or liquid concentrate. If you use too much or too little water, the formula could cause health problems and hurt the growth of your baby. This could even be very dangerous. Here are a few important tips about bottle feeding:
- Bottles should be clean for each feeding.
- Don’t heat bottles in a microwave oven. Formula heats unevenly. It can burn your baby even if the bottle is not hot.
- Boil and cool water, or use bottled water for your baby, if you are not sure how clean the tap water is.
- Check how hot the formula is by putting a few drops on the inside of your arm. If it burns, it is too hot for your baby.
- Formula should flow from the nipple in slow drops. Babies can choke if formula is flowing too fast.
- When your baby is a newborn, he will not drink a full bottle. If you only mix a few ounces in the bottle at a time, you won’t waste as much.
- It is not good for your baby to be forced to finish every bottle.
- Throw out what your baby does not use at each feeding.
Is your baby getting enough to eat?
New moms often worry if their baby is getting enough to eat. You can be sure your baby is eating enough if he:
- Has six or more wet diapers every 24 hours and soft bowel movements (poop or stool)
- Has a weight gain after the first week - sometimes babies lose some weight the first few days
- Gets sleepy or calm after eating and burping
How to burp your baby
Babies often swallow air when they are nursing or drinking from a bottle. Burping helps to get rid of the swallowed air so that your baby’s tummy can hold more milk. Burping also helps to reduce spitting up and upset tummies. Try to burp your baby in the middle of a feeding and at the end.
You can hold the baby upright on your shoulder. You can also lay him on his tummy across your knees. You can hold him in a sitting position on your lap. You need to lightly pat or rub his back. Sometimes some milk or formula comes up when a baby burps. Use a burp cloth to cover your clothes.
Diapering Your Baby
The rule for cleaning a baby is to wash from the clean areas to the dirtier areas. Always wipe baby’s bottom from the front to the back. This keeps germs out of your baby’s openings.
- Use a clean baby wipe or a clean part of a washcloth for each wipe.
- If your baby is a girl, use a clean wet wipe or washcloth and wipe from front toward the back to clean any poop that may have collected in the folds of skin around her vagina.
- If your baby is a boy, the foreskin on the penis may not loosen until about three years of age. Don’t try to pull the skin covering back.
If your baby is circumcised, check with your doctor about how to take care of the penis after the circumcision. Drip warm water gently over the end of the penis to clean it with every diaper change. Put diapers on loosely. Don’t lay baby on his tummy until he has healed. It takes about two weeks to heal.
Circumcisions are not covered by AHCCCS - you will need to pay for this.
What is diaper rash?
Diaper rash is red and may have small bumps. It shows up on the baby’s skin usually around the area covered by a diaper. There are different causes of diaper rash:
- Wet or dirty diapers against the baby’s skin
- Reaction to the soap used to wash cloth diapers
- Reaction to disposable diapers
- A new food in your baby’s diet
How to take care of diaper rash
- Change diapers more often.
- Use a diaper rash cream when you change the baby.
- Let your baby go without a diaper for some time each day.
- Check with your doctor if diaper rash does not go away within a few days or if it becomes worse.
How to stop diaper rash
- Change your baby’s diaper after every poop.
- Change your baby’s diapers often when they are wet.
- Wash the diaper area with a soft, wet cloth. Dry the area before putting on a clean diaper.
- Leave your baby’s bottom bare for a while each day. The air helps stop diaper rash.
Baby’s bowel movements (poop)
The first few poops after birth are thick, dark green and sticky and are called meconium. After the first few green poops, a new baby has yellow poop. The way your baby’s poop looks depends on if he is fed breast milk or formula.
- Have yellow, lumpy and liquid poop, the color of mustard
- May have up to 10 dirty diapers every day in the first weeks
- May have only one poop each day or one every few days
- Have dirty diapers that do not smell bad
- Have poop that is a little firmer
- Have poop that looks like yellowish peanut butter
- Usually have dirty diapers one or two times a day
Contact your baby’s doctor right away if:
- He’s been unable to poop for several days or his poop is hard and dry, he may not be getting enough liquid.
- He’s been unable to poop and is throwing up or has a fever. Your baby may need more liquids.
Cleaning & Protecting Your Baby's Body
Before washing your baby, get all the things you need. Have a washcloth, gentle soap, towels, clean clothes and a diaper. Start washing your baby’s face and neck. Wash the diaper area last. Always hold onto babies in or around water. A child can drown quickly. Never leave a child alone in water.
After the belly button is okay, you can bathe your baby in a small tub or sink with only two to three inches of warm water. Bath water should be warm to your touch, not hot.
Tips for washing your baby:
- The first days after birth use a sponge to wash your baby
- It will help keep the cord dry
- If you keep your baby’s cord, genitals and face clean, he only needs a bath every few days
- Wash the diaper area and under the chin, arms and around the legs
- Dry these areas well to stop skin rashes
Caring for the umbilical cord (belly button)
The doctor or nurse at the hospital will tell you how to take care of your baby’s cord.
- Never try to pull the cord off.
- The cord will fall off by itself in seven to 14 days.
- Keep the cord clean. Dry by folding the top of diapers down below it.
- Call your baby’s doctor if the skin around the cord gets red or bleeds any more than one or two drops of blood.
- Binding the belly button (or taping coins on the cord) will not keep your baby’s belly button from sticking out.
- Do not put any type of covering over the cord, such as a bandage, because it will keep the cord from drying and falling out.
Dressing your baby
Unless your baby weighs less than 4 ½ pounds, he only needs to wear a little more clothing than you do. Too many clothes and blankets can make your baby too hot.
Protect your baby’s skin from the sun. For the first few weeks, it is best to keep your baby inside. Baby’s skin sunburns very easily. Stay away from the sun and keep baby in the shade or lightly covered. Use sunscreen for older babies and children when they go outside.
Cleaning Your Baby's Teeth
Baby teeth start to come in during the first year of your baby’s life. Taking caring of your baby’s teeth is important because they help your baby to:
- Talk well
- Eat well
- Think well of themselves
- Keep their next set of teeth in line
Mom’s dental health can affect baby’s teeth. When mom brushes her teeth, it helps to get rid of the germs in her mouth.
- Don’t share anything that will get saliva from mom’s mouth into baby’s mouth
- Mom and baby should not eat from the same spoon
- Mom should not chew food to feed to the baby
Other ways to protect your baby’s teeth are:
- Don’t put baby to bed with a bottle
- Limit snacks that will stick to baby teeth, like crackers or raisins
- Have your baby’s teeth checked often by a dentist, doctor or nurse
- Get any cavities taken care of
- Clean your baby’s teeth and gums with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush
- Children need help brushing their teeth until about age seven
- Don’t give your baby juice
The baby’s teeth start to appear around four to seven months. The first teeth to show are usually the two bottom front teeth. There are some signs where you can tell your baby is teething:
- Bulging gums
- Night waking
While your baby is teething, your baby may also have:
- A rash caused by drool
- Watery poop
- A cough
- Low-grade fever
Some help for teething includes anything cold or teething gels.
How to Put Your Baby to Sleep
Always place your baby on his back to sleep. (If your baby rolls over on his own, don’t try to force him to stay on his back.) Babies put on their backs to sleep have less chance of Sudden Infant Death (SIDS). SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant. After years of study, scientists still cannot find a reason for SIDS. These are some things that you can do to help stop SIDS:
- Do put your baby in different positions while he is awake. Putting your baby on his tummy to play helps his neck and shoulder muscles get stronger.
- Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke. Smoking near babies may cause health problems for babies, including SIDS.
- Breast-feeding your baby may also help to cut the chance of SIDS.
- Put your baby to sleep on a firm surface. Do not use fluffy blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, waterbeds, sheepskins or other soft bedding in his crib.
New mothers should take a nap whenever the baby is sleeping. Babies often get days and nights mixed up. When a baby sleeps, it may be the only time mom has a chance to get her rest. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Never shake your baby. Shaking is not safe even if it is done in fun and not anger. Shaking can hurt a baby’s neck and brain. Rough bouncing or swinging also could hurt your baby.