Taking care of your newborn can be a joy—and sometimes a challenge. Newborns need special care as they adjust to life outside the womb. Taking an infant care class during or after your pregnancy can help you feel prepared as a new parent.
These classes will cover these basics and more:
Newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours whether you are using formula or breastfeeding. Even if it has not been 2 hours, your baby should be fed on demand. A newborn should only eat breastmilk or formula. They should not eat or drink anything else, including water.
Your baby will naturally lose weight in the hospital after they are born. You may need to wake your baby to feed them until they gain that weight back in a couple of weeks.
Formula-fed babies will drink about 2 to 3 ounces of formula at every feeding. Breastfed babies may take 10-20 minutes on each breast at each feeding.
In the middle of your baby’s feeding, whether they are taking a bottle or a breast, you should pause to burp them. You can burp a baby by putting their head on your shoulder and patting their back firmly. You can also lay your baby over your knees, making sure their head is supported and higher than their belly, and pat their back. You can also sit them up on your lap, supporting their chest and chin with one hand, and patting them with the other hand.
Your baby should not be submerged in water until their umbilical cord has fallen off, usually about 1-4 weeks after birth, and their circumcision has healed (about 2 weeks). To bathe them, use a washcloth, water, and a gentle cleanser to gently wipe them off. Always use warm, but not hot water.
Once your baby can be submerged, you can use a baby tub to wash them. Make sure to wash their face, hair, genitals, hands, and neck as these areas tend to get dirtiest in newborns. You only need to bathe your newborn every 2-3 days. If they take a bath too frequently, they can get dry skin.
After their bath, you can apply lotion to help protect their skin. No matter which type of bath you use, you should always bathe them in a warm room. Have a new diaper, a dry towel, and clothes ready as many newborns hate the feeling of cold after they get out of the bath.
Never leave your baby alone during bath time, even if they are taking a sponge bath. Babies can fall out of infant tubs or off surfaces and even drown in less than an inch of water.
Your newborn will need a diaper change 15 to 16 times per day. Since their diet is liquid, they will pee often, filling up their diapers. They will also have dirty diapers around 3 to 5 times per day.
Before starting the diaper change, make sure you have wipes, a clean diaper, and diaper ointment available within reach. You should never leave a baby unattended on a changing table or bed where they may roll or wiggle off.
To complete the diaper change, follow these steps:
- Lay your baby on their back.
- Prepare the clean diaper by folding it out flat.
- Remove the dirty diaper, lifting their legs, and immediately placing the clean one below your baby’s bottom.
- Wipe their bottom.
- Apply diaper ointment to prevent diaper rash.
- Finish putting on the new diaper by taping or fastening it shut.
- Roll up the old diaper and throw it away.
Your baby’s poop will change over time. Their first poops, called meconium, are thick and black. After 3 or 4 days, their poop will begin to change. It might look mucousy, liquidy, or seedy for a few days.
After the transition, their poops will begin to look the same all the time. Breastfeeding infants will have mustard yellow poop that looks loose, watery, or seedy and curdy. Formula-fed infants also have soft poops, but they may be pale yellow to light brown in color.
Newborns cry. A lot. They have gone from the warm, gentle rocking of your womb to the cooler and brighter world. It’s a big adjustment. They also frequently have problems with gas, which may cause their bellies to hurt.
You can use a few different techniques to gently soothe your newborn:
- Swaddle them in a blanket or sleep sack.
- Use white noise or shush them gently.
- Walk around while holding them.
- Bounce them gently as you walk.
- Rock them in a rocking chair.
- Make their legs move in a bicycle movement to help gas move along.
- Try skin-to-skin contact.
- Give them a warm bath, which can help soothe them and relieve gas.
- Give them a gentle infant massage.
Though hearing your child cry for a long time can be distressing, never shake your baby. If you are getting frustrated, hand the baby off to someone else or lay them somewhere safe, such as in their crib, and walk away until you feel calmer.
If your son was circumcised, you’ll need to clean the tip of the penis gently after each diaper change. Wipe it with warm water then apply petroleum jelly so that it does not stick to the diaper. While the penis will look red for a few days, it should begin to heal soon. If you notice redness for longer or pus, contact your pediatrician.
A newborn can’t tell you if they feel ill. But your child may be ill if they show these symptoms:
- A fever above 100.3
- Going limp
- Crying inconsolably
- Trouble breathing
- Refusing to drink
- No wet diapers for a few hours
- Frequent vomiting
- Trouble swallowing
- Bluish lips
- A bulging soft spot at the top of the head
In general, follow your instincts. If something seems wrong with your newborn, don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician. It is better safe than sorry when it comes to your baby’s health.