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100+ Health and Safety Tips for Your Newborn
August 5th, 2008
Having a baby is an exciting time for the whole family. In the middle of that excitement, though, are so many new experiences with your baby that you may be left wondering what to do and how to do it safely. The following list offers tips on ways to keep your baby safe and healthy so you can take the worry out of your new job as a parent and just focus on the joy of your newborn.
One of the fundamentals to providing a healthy start for your baby is feeding. Whether you choose to breast feed or bottle feed, you will find information here to know that you are doing the very best for your baby.
- Breastfeeding. Medically accepted as the best nutrition for your baby, if you are able to breast feed, this is a wonderful gift for your baby and you as it also provides health benefits for mom and supports bonding.
- Formula. If you are unable to breastfed your baby or have opted not to do so, there are many good quality formulas to provide excellent nutrition for your baby. If you discover your baby has problems with cow milk formula, try soy or another alternate milk source.
- Burping. Burping your baby will alleviate some of the trapped air in her stomach and may make her feel more comfortable. If gentle patting on the back doesn’t do the trick, try a different position, such as laying your baby across your knees and patting her back.
- Solids. The generally accepted age to begin solids for both bottle and breastfed babies is six months, so feeding anything else to your newborn is completely unnecessary and might even be unwise due to several risk factors.
- Weight. Weight loss is common right after birth, but you want to make sure your baby isn’t continuing to lose weight. Make sure you keep your baby’s postnatal visits with his doctor to ensure he is gaining weight.
- Wet diapers. Having wet diapers is a good sign and indicates that your baby is getting enough to eat. Look for at least four to six wet diapers a day.
- Spitting up. It is not uncommon for babies to spit up a bit after eating. Keep a burp cloth or extra cloth diaper handy to clean up messes. If spitting up becomes projectile vomiting or is consistently a large volume after each feeding, consult your doctor about a potential digestive problem.
- Nutritional supplements. Supplements are not necessary for a newborn as the breast milk or formula you are feeding your baby contains all the necessary nutrients she will need. Water and juice are also unnecessary at this time.
Regardless of where your baby will sleep, you just hope sleep comes and that it comes safely. The following tips will help you find peace of mind while your little one rests peacefully.
- On the back. Putting your baby to sleep on her back will greatly reduce the chance of SIDS while she sleeps.
- No pillows. Your baby doesn’t need pillows in his crib right now. Ensure there is less chance of accidental suffocation by leaving pillows, plush toys, and blankets out of the crib.
- Don’t overdress. Your baby doesn’t need to sleep in five layers of pajamas every night. Dress your baby in the same number of layers you wear to bed plus one extra, thin layer.
- Safe crib. If your baby sleeps in a crib, make sure it meets current safety standards and does not have wide spaces between the railings or any sharp edges.
- Family bed. Many parents opt for cosleeping with their baby. Many experts feel this form of sleeping, which has been practiced for thousands of years, can be a safe option and also provide a great bonding opportunity. Be sure you are not sedated with medication or alcohol, though, to ensure the best safety for your baby.
- Cosleeper. This device attaches to the side of your bed allowing your baby to be in a space of his own while also being close to you. There are also cosleepers that go in the bed like this one. Many parents who are not comfortable with the family bed like this option to have their baby within arm’s reach.
- Baby massage. Baby massage is an excellent way to relax your baby before putting him to bed at night. Place your baby on his back and gently rub his arms, legs, and belly with an unscented oil not made from nuts (to protect against any potential allergy problems).
- Routine. It is never too early to start a bedtime routine with your baby. Even if she is not sleeping more than two hours at a stretch, find your target "bedtime" and start your routine which may include rocking, baby massage, feeding, soft music, or whatever makes you and your baby the most relaxed.
Belly Button Care
That strange little stump on your newborn’s belly sure does require attention. These suggestions will help you care for your baby’s umbilical cord until it falls off.
- No feeling. The stump left behind after your baby’s cord is clipped doesn’t contain any nerve endings, so it is not a painful area for your baby.
- Clean. Keep your baby’s umbilical cord clean by swabbing it gently with rubbing alcohol if it becomes dirty or sticky.
- Dry. Fold your baby’s diaper down away from the base of the cord and allow air circulation to dry out the cord more quickly.
- Sponge bath. Bathe your baby with a sponge bath until the cord falls off. Once it has, then you can move to a baby tub.
- Don’t pull. Let the cord come off by itself. Resist the urge to pull it off yourself.
- Funny colors. As your baby’s cord dries up it will change from a yellowish color to brown to black. This is normal, so don’t worry.
- No swelling. A little dried blood is normal, but if the area around the cord becomes red and swollen, call your doctor for advice.
- No pus. Be sure there is no yellowish pus around the cord as this could be a sign of infection.
- No smell. If a foul smell starts to come from the cord area, call your doctor as this can also be a sign of infection.
- Two weeks. The average time it takes for an umbilical cord to fall off is two weeks, but can sometimes take a few weeks longer. See your doctor if it keeps hanging on.
From heat rash to food sensitivities, your newborn’s sensitive skin can have plenty going on with it. This list lets you know what you can expect and what is out of the ordinary when it comes to your baby’s skin.
- Cradle cap. If your baby gets a scaly, red area on her head, it’s probably just cradle cap. This common condition is not itchy or painful and will disappear with regular shampooing.
- Baby acne. With all the hormonal shifts happening in your baby’s body after birth, it’s no wonder baby acne may occur. If your baby gets a patch of small red bumps on his face around three weeks after birth, then it’s probably baby acne. Scrub gently with soap and water or just wait it out a few weeks until your baby’s hormone levels even out.
- Heat rash. Everyone tells you to wrap your baby up tightly and make sure she is warm, but over wrapping might bring on heat rash. This small red rash usually found in the folds of skin will go away without treatment, but you might need to find a happy medium with dressing your baby.
- Milia. Small white bumps on your baby’s face or the roof of the mouth are common and not harmful. These bumps, called milia, are a result of the developing oil glands and will go away in a few weeks or a few months at the most.
- Diaper rash. No matter the diapering method you use, your baby will likely experience diaper rash at some time. Usually mild, the red irritation found in the diaper area can be soothed with a balm and a little air circulation. Some experts agree a little diaper-free time on a waterproof blanket helps healing.
- Laundry detergent. Using a detergent specially marketed for babies is not necessary. These detergents usually aren’t any more gentle on the skin, they just contain special ingredients to help break down the unique proteins found in baby clothing.
- Food sensitivities. If your baby has any unexplained skin condition such as a rash, hives, eczema, persistent diaper rash, or red, itchy eyes and is experiencing other signs such as excessive crying, gas, intestinal upset then you may want to explore the possibility of a food sensitivity. Whether you are bottle or breastfeeding, your baby could have food sensitivities.
If your baby is crying one to three hours at a stretch several days a week and is inconsolable during these crying jags, he may have colic. It is guessed that at least 20% of babies suffer from colic, and physicians are not sure why it happens. Parents of colicky babies can easily become overwhelmed. Use these tips to help reduce the impact of colic on your family.
- Low stimulation. Keep your home quiet and lights low. Especially around the afternoon and end of the day, overstimulation may cause your baby more distress.
- Diet. A low-allergen formula or low-allergen diet for mom, if breastfeeding, may help eliminate some of the colicky crying.
- Swaddling. Some babies like a tight swaddling to help them calm themselves. Learn to swaddle well and give it a try with your baby.
- Warm bath. Parents sometimes find that a warm bath soothes their crying baby. If you are comfortable with it and have another adult to help you, try getting in your bathtub with your baby. You may find the warm water soothes both of you.
- Gripe water. If gas or digestive problems are contributing to your baby’s colic, a natural and alcohol-free gripe water can help your baby feel better.
- Sheepskin. Try using a sheepskin to help comfort your baby. It is super soft, helps regulate temperature, and many are machine washable.
- White noise. Many babies are soothed by white noise, which is probably similar to the womb sound they heard for their first nine months. Some ways to provide white noise are by running a vacuum cleaner nearby, placing your baby by a running washing machine or dryer, or even buying a white noise CD or machine.
- Motion. Many colicky babies are soothed by motion. Whether you try a combined rocking and swaying motion while you hold your baby, you put her in the stroller for a walk, or take her for a ride in the car, you may find that motion helps stop the crying.
- Sucking. Some babies have a strong urge to suck, so a pacifier or letting him suck on your finger may help soothe your crying baby.
- Learn coping strategies. Colic can be very hard on those taking care of the baby. Learn ways to take care of yourself while your baby is colicky. This article offers suggestions for dealing with colic as well as some helpful coping techniques.
Some parents have likened dressing their baby to putting a shirt on an octopus. The following tips will help you dress your baby more easily, comfortably, and safely.
- Flat surface. Whether you dress your baby on a changing table, a bed, or the floor, make sure you choose a flat surface that is sturdy and stable.
- Stay close. Never leave your baby unattended while changing her. Even if you have your baby strapped onto a changing table, don’t move away from the side of the table leaving the baby in a potentially dangerous position.
- Choose your clothes wisely. Selecting clothing that is made to more naturally go on your baby such as those items with large neck openings or materials with some stretch to them will make dressing your baby easier and quicker.
- Don’t force it. If the clothes are too small or not easy to put on, don’t bend your baby’s arms, legs, fingers or toes in uncomfortable positions to get the clothes on.
- Dress appropriately. Don’t overdress your baby with too many layers. Dress your baby similarly to how you dress yourself. Also, don’t forget when it’s cold outside to cover your baby’s feet and head. Newborns can lose heat quickly.
- Watch out for zippers. Be aware when zipping anything on your baby that his skin doesn’t get caught in the back of the zipper.
- No loose cords. Clothes sold in America should not have cords that move throughout the clothes or are long enough to wrap around the baby’s neck, but be aware with homemade clothes and clothing bought in foreign countries that there are no strings or cords long enough to pose a problem.
- Make it fun. Many babies put up a fuss when it comes time for changing clothes. Make the experience a fun time by singing songs, talking in a silly voice, making funny faces, or playing games while you dress your baby.
Diapers and Diapering
The debate could go on forever between whether cloth or disposable diapers are better for both your baby and the environment. Most experts agree that there isn’t a clear answer, so going with what works best for your family is probably the best way to go. Below you will find information on diapers, diaper alternatives, and more.
- Cloth. With fun and useful diaper covers and even diaper services to do most of the hard work for you, using cloth diapers is a totally different way of diapering than it used to be.
- Disposable. Whether you are trying to reduce the amount of water used by cloth diapers and the gas used by the diaper service or just love the convenience of quickly disposing of those dirty diapers, there are tons of disposable diapers out there from high-profile name brands to lesser-known ecologically-friendly diapers.
- gDiapers. An ecologically smart combination of both cloth and disposable, this diaper alternative allows parents to flush the non-plastic insert, wash and reuse the outer cover, and provide a dry, comfortable place for the baby’s bum to rest.
- Elimination Communication. This diaper-free method may not be for everyone, but proponents of it swear it is the way to go.
- Crianza Natural. This Spanish company offers biodegradable diapers made of corn that may be what you want to use for your baby.
- Cloth wipes. Many parents opt for a simple stash of small wash clothes for cleaning up baby’s bottom. This option is great while at home and can be easily converted to taking on the go by sticking a few moist clothes in a waterproof bag.
- Disposable wipes. Whether you use a huge box for cleaning up that messy diaper or need a small handy pack to stick in your diaper bag, this option provides a convenient method of cleaning up after your baby.
- Changing table. With a waterproof pad, you can turn any flat surface into a changing table. Be sure to stay right beside your baby at all times that he is not on the floor or in a crib. Even if your baby isn’t rolling over yet, he can fall off a high surface.
From types of baths to ways to get the job done, these tips will help you get your baby clean in safe and fun ways.
- Sponge bath. The first few baths your baby will have most likely will be sponge baths. Most experts recommend that you sponge bathe your baby until the umbilical cord falls off and, if you circumcised your son, until the circumcision is healed.
- Temperature. Once you move to a baby tub or the sink to bathe your baby, make sure the temperature of the water is about the same as body temperature. Baby skin is sensitive, so it is easy to make the water too warm. Also, make sure the room temperature is not too cold.
- Hold on. A wet baby is a slippery baby. Keep a firm grip on your baby with both hands and watch for any sudden movements that a surprised baby may make.
- Soap. Use a mild soap formulated for babies that can also double as a shampoo. Most baby soaps are tear-free, too, so it doesn’t hurt if any soap splashes in your baby’s eyes.
- Frequency. Your baby isn’t running a marathon yet, so she probably doesn’t need a bath every day. Give her a bath every few days and shampoo her hair once a week.
- Be ready. Have everything you need before you start your baby’s bath. Have a towel, wash cloth, soap, fresh diaper, and clothes nearby.
- Drying. After your baby’s bath, wrap him in a towel and gently pat him dry. Remember he cannot regulate his body temperature well yet, so get him dressed soon so he doesn’t get too cold.
- Adult tub. If you have the assistance of another person, giving your baby a bath in the adult tub with you can be a wonderful bonding experience. Don’t fill the tub too high or too warm, ease yourself in first, then have your helper hand you the baby. You can rest your baby on your legs and knees while holding on with one hand and bathing with the other.
- Safety. Never leave a baby in a tub, sink, or near water unattended. It can take only a second, any small amount of water, and an unattended baby to result in a tragedy.
One of the most important safety tools you can have for your baby is a car seat. Read this list below to make sure you can do everything possible to keep your newborn protected while in the car.
- Use one. Not only is it the law, it is the absolute safest way to transport your baby in a moving vehicle. Even if you don’t own a car, have a car seat for the times you will be in someone else’s car, a taxi, or other vehicle. Visit this site for a clickable map to learn the laws in your state.
- Back seat. The back seat is the safest place for your baby to ride. Never put a baby in a front seat with a passenger airbag that cannot be disabled.
- Facing rear. Your baby should face the rear of the car until he is 20 pounds and at least one year old.
- Correct seat. Make sure that the car seat you purchase is the correct one for a newborn. Each car seat lists the specifications for what size baby fits in the seat and whether it is intended for forward or rear facing.
- Good match for your car. Not all car seats work equally well in all cars and, unfortunately, the only way to know if yours is a good fit is by trying it. Buy your car seat in plenty of time before the baby comes to ensure you have a safe ride for your baby.
- Seat belt tight enough. Make sure you have the seat belt tight enough so that the car seat does not more more than an inch either way. This can be difficult, but get in there and pull very hard.
- Position harness. Check your instruction manual and position the harness where it describes the safest place should be. Not all car seats have the same harness positioning requirements. Also, make sure the harness is tight enough as described in the manual.
- Safety check installation. After you have installed your baby’s car seat and feel comfortable with how to do it, take your car to a safety check event to make sure you have done everything properly. Visit Safe Kids to find out when the next safety check event will be in your area.
A crying baby is supposed to get the attention of her parents, but too much crying can leave a new parent feeling lost. The tips below will help you discover why your baby is crying and offers suggestions to help soothe your little one.
- All babies cry. It’s important to remember that all babies cry. This is their most effective way to communicate their needs to you. Some experts believe that newborns cry at least two hours throughout each day.
- Diaper. Check her diaper to make sure it is not only clean and dry, but make sure it is on properly and not pinching or too tight.
- Hungry. Newborns eat frequently. Maybe the crying just an hour or so after you fed him means he is hungry again.
- Change of scenery. Many babies will quit crying as soon as you step outside. Pick up your baby and go for a walk on the front porch to see if that helps.
- Snuggle. After spending nine months warmly and comfortably tucking inside mom, it can be quite a shock to be left alone in a crib. Maybe your baby just needs some snuggling to feel safe and comforted.
- Right temperature. Make sure you have your baby dressed appropriately. If your baby is under or over dressed, she may be crying because she is hot or cold.
- New arms. If you’ve been trying to comfort your baby unsuccessfully for a while, your stress level may be climbing. Babies pick up on the stress and it can make them even more inconsolable. Try switching off to another person to give yourself a break and see if it helps to calm your baby.
- Go for a drive. Some babies hate being in the car and others absolutely love it. If your baby is calmed by a drive in the car, then pack up and go. You wouldn’t be the first parent to take a leisurely drive around the neighborhood at two in the morning to console a baby.
- Stroller. Try taking a walk with your baby in the stroller. Sometimes the combination of fresh air, a break for mom, and the motion of the walk can help stop the crying.
- Baby carrier. Try a baby carrier like a sling or baby wrap. Most babies enjoy being close to mom, so frequent use of a baby carrier may reduce crying.
- Overstimulation. Babies can get overwhelmed easily. If you’ve had lots of company, if there is plenty of activity and noise around, or if you’ve just had a busy day on the go, your baby may be overstimulated. Try moving to a quiet, dark place and hold him closely.
- Put baby down. If you’ve been working for a while and nothing seems to help, it’s okay to put your baby down somewhere safe for a couple of minutes and walk out of the room. Take some deep breaths and imagine you are someplace calm to help shift your perspective before returning to your baby.
Almost every new parent has concerns about their baby. This list offers tips on some of the more common concerns ranging from a misshapen head to sunburn protection.
- Reflux. Many babies get reflux, also sometimes referred to as GERD, that causes pain and discomfort after eating. If you think your baby may be suffering from reflux, contact your doctor.
- Uncircumcised. Care for the uncircumcised baby’s penis is simple. Clean the outside of the penis as you would any other part of the baby’s body. Do not force the foreskin back as it will retract on its own over the next few months or years of your son’s life. As he gets older, you can teach your son how to retract his foreskin and clean properly.
- Circumcised. If you had your son circumcised, you will need to follow your physician’s instructions on care as well as keep the area clean while it is healing. Your son’s penis may be red or raw looking and he may have some discomfort during diaper changes for the first few weeks until the circumcision heals.
- Head shape. It is not unusual for a newborn’s head to look misshapen. The journey through the birth canal frequently causes a cone shape that will go away after a few days. Also, if you are placing your baby to sleep on her back, you may notice that eventually she will get a flattened area at the back of her head. Again, this is due to the soft bones in the baby’s head and will eventually go back to normal when she is not sleeping exclusively on her back.
- Jaundice. Especially in breastfed babies, it is common for a little jaundice to occur in newborns. However, if your baby’s jaundice is spreading or getting more significant, if he is running a fever, or if he is acting sick, then you should call your doctor to have him checked out.
- Blocked tear ducts. It is very common for babies to have blocked tear ducts. If you notice your baby is having excessive tearing in one or both eyes and a crust frequently forms, then she probably has blocked tear ducts. A gentle massage with a warm cloth will usually unblock the ducts.
- Sunburn. Since sunscreen is not recommended for infants under six months of age, you need to take extra precautions to guard your newborn’s sensitive skin. Always stay out of direct sun and keep a sunhat on your baby’s head and light clothing covering your baby’s skin.
- Nail trimming. Nothing can put fear in the heart of a new parent like having to trim those finger and toe nails for the first time. Go slowly and use the assistance of another adult if possible. After a bath your baby’s nails are softest and easier to cut. Always use baby nail clippers or blunt scissors.
Taking Care of Mom
One of the most important things a new mom can do for her baby is to take care of herself. If mama isn’t doing alright, then she can’t provide the best care for her baby. Take the advice below to ensure both you and your baby are off to a great start.
- Sleep. Sleep can be hard to come by in the first few weeks of your baby’s life. Don’t worry about getting those dishes done or cleaning the house. Taking the time to rest when your baby does is one of the best ways to make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Eat. In the busy newborn phase, it may be difficult to get enough to eat. Make sure you keep plenty of easy and healthy snacks around to be able to grab quickly between baby tasks.
- Stay hydrated. Especially if you are breastfeeding, it is essential for new moms to stay hydrated. Keep a large bottle of water nearby at all times and sip on throughout the day.
- Limit visitors. All your friends and family will be anxious to visit you and your new baby, but try to keep visits to a minimum for the first few weeks. Your new family will need this time to get into the new routine and rest up.
- Take help. Time with a newborn is not a time to be prideful. If friends offer to do light housework or watch the baby while you shower or coworkers offer to bring your family meals, appreciate the gifts they are giving you and take them up on their offers.
- Postpartum depression. Be aware of the signs of postpartum depression. This disorder affects many women and is different from the baby blues that occur a few days after giving birth and then quickly disappear. Women who suffer from postpartum depression can receive help and support from other mothers and professionals alike to help them get through this tough time and protect themselves and their babies.
- Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, friend, or family members for help. Having a newborn baby can be busy and overwhelming, so take advantage of your support network by reaching out when you feel like things are starting to become too much to handle.