We know that even if you have done all the planning and reading in the world, you still may be feeling overwhelmed when having to take care of your new baby. We hope the following information on the basics of caring for a newborn is helpful for you.
Bathing a newborn can be a scary job for new parents. While it ca be a bit nerve-wracking at first, it may soon become a favourite ritual in your home as you become more confident in handling your baby. Do not feel like it is necessary to bathe your baby every day. Remember, however, that it is important that you wash your hands and baby’s hands often. This will help prevent the spread of germs especially after diaper changes and before preparing and eating food.
It is a good idea to have all your supplies prepared and readily available, before you begin the bath. You'll need:
- Wash cloth
- Soap and or shampoo (mild, unscented)
- Clean diaper
- Clean clothes to dress the baby in
- Tub filled with warm water
Always be sure to cleanse the diaper area of stool before you place your baby in the tub. Begin by washing them from head to toe. Do not use soap on the baby's face. When cleaning their eyes, start at the nose and wipe toward the ear. Use a different part of the cloth with each wipe. Don’t forget to clean the folds at their knees, neck, thighs, armpits and behind the ears as these areas tend to get dirty. Dry each area thoroughly to prevent rashes from forming. Always try to keep the baby as warm as possible during bath time.
Never leave your baby unattended while bathing. Hold your baby securely and support their head and neck with one hand and their bottom with the other. Be careful, they are slippery. Keep their face and neck above water at all times and do not use cotton swabs on the ears or nose.
It is also important to clean your baby's genital area. For girls wipe from front to back and do not separate the labia. You may see some pink discharge or clear mucous, don't be alarmed, this is normal. For boys, do not pull the foreskin back. Wash this area gently.
The remaining piece of your baby's umbilical cord should should fall off sometime between 10 days and three weeks. Do not be afraid to touch the cord, it is not painful. If necessary, fold their diaper down below the cord so the air can help dry it out. As it heals it may appear 'mucky,’ this is normal. However if you begin to see a yellow or green discharge, or if it begins to smell foul, it may be signs that the cord is becoming infected. If this is the case, please notify your healthcare provider.
Use baby nail clippers to trim their nails. Be careful to not accidentally cut their delicate skin.
Jaundice is the yellow colour that can be seen in the skin of many newborns. It happens when a chemical, called bilirubin, builds up in the baby’s bloodstream. Normally the bilirubin will be managed by the baby's liver and will be excreted in the baby’s stool. Before birth, the mother’s liver does this for the baby and most babies will develop jaundice in the first few days after birth as their own liver takes over. Your baby may be at a higher risk to develop jaundice if they were born premature, have trouble breastfeeding or had a parent or sibling who had jaundice that required treatment.
Most infants have mild jaundice which is completely harmless and doesn't require any treatment. However, in some unusual situations the bilirubin level can become very high and may cause brain damage. For this reason it is important for newborns to be monitored closely if they have jaundice. We will do this while your baby is in the hospital. Sometimes, babies who develop jaundice will be placed under special lights which will help lower their bilirubin levels.
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of jaundice after you have been discharged from the hospital. They are:
- Baby is not feeding well.
- Baby doesn’t have 4 stools or 6 wet diapers per-day.
- Baby is sleepy or fussy all the time.
- Baby’s abdomen, arms, or legs are yellow.
- the whites of your baby’s eyes are yellow.
If you notice these symptoms, please see your baby’s doctor/midwife immediately.
Whether you use cloth or disposable diapers, you should expect to change your baby’s diaper with every feeding. For a healthy baby, this should be 6-10 times per-day after they reach their fifth day of life. Make sure to cleanse the baby's diaper area with each change. To do this you can either use disposable wipes or face cloths and warm water. Afterwards you may also wish to use petroleum jelly or diaper cream with each change, this may help prevent diaper rash.
Your baby's first few stools will usually black and sticky, this is completely normal and is called meconium. Their stools will eventually turn dark green, and then yellow once they are four or five days old. Babies how are breastfed will have soft, almost runny stools and babies who are fed formula will have firmer stools that are tan or yellow in colour. Remember, every baby is different in terms of how often they may have a bowel movement. Some will have one with every feeding, and some will have them less frequently. As long as your baby doesn’t appear uncomfortable when they are having a bowel movement, or their stool isn’t hard and dry, there is no need to be concerned.
Feeding your baby
How you choose to feed your baby is a personal choice. While much research shows that breastfeeding is best, we also understand that sometimes, it is just not possible. Breast milk will provide your baby with optimal nutrition as well as protection from illness and allergies. Staff will help you in making an informed infant feeding decision and support you with your choice. For more information visit our breastfeeding page.
A safe sleep environment will reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep related causes of infant death. Here are a few steps that you can do to help provide a safe sleep environment for your new child.
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep and dress your baby in light clothing, a one piece sleeper is adequate.
- Do not use a blanket.
- Place your baby's crib next to your bed for the first six months.
- Your baby should not sleep in an adult bed, on a couch, or in a chair alone, with you, or with anyone else.
- Provide a safe crib environment which means no extra items in the crib. Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of your baby’s sleep area.
- Make sure nothing is covering the baby’s head.
- Use a firm sleep surface covered by a fitted sheet.
- For more information visit the Safe to Sleep website.
Exposure to tobacco smoke for children may lead to an increased risk in them developing respiratory infections, ear problems, asthma and more severely Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is important that you maintain a smoke free environment and reduce their exposure to second hand smoke. While you are in the hospital, please remember that KGH is a completely smoke-free property. If you would like assistance to quit smoking, please ask your care team about our smoking cessation program, which includes access to nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or gum.