Your new baby is here and you are about to bring them home- how exciting! You are probably wondering what you need to do to care for your baby, and in this article, I outline my top tips for newborn care.
Most newborns don’t get very dirty, so bathing them 2-3 times a week is absolutely fine. If your baby likes bath time then you can bath them more frequently. On days where you don’t bath your baby, you may like to do a ‘top and tail’, which is where you use a clean facecloth to focus on your baby’s face, hands, and then bottom. Ensure to clean your baby’s bottom last.
You can bath your baby in a baby bath, full-size bath, or even a clean sink. Make sure that the water is nice and warm (ideally between 37-38 degrees). If you don’t have a bath thermometer you can test the water temperature by gently placing your wrist in the water. It should feel warm but not hot.
After the bath, ensure your baby is dried well – especially their underarms, head and around their neck.
Top tip: Make sure you have everything ready before you begin and never leave your baby unattended in a bath.
Your baby will likely wee and poo lots in the first few weeks, so that means lots of nappy changes! I recommend changing your baby at the start of a feed, as this can often wake them up (and we want them to be nice and sleepy by the end of the feed).
Make sure that you have everything ready - it is important to never leave your baby unattended when on the change table as they could fall. You may even like to change your baby on a change mat or towel on the ground.
With baby girls, ensure you wipe from front to back to avoid bacteria moving into the vagina. You may also like to use a nappy/barrier cream – if your baby has a rash make sure to check with your midwife or doctor. Ensure you dispose of the dirty nappy in the bin and wash your hands well after.
Top tip: In the first few weeks breastfeeding can take a lot of time for mum, so it can be great for Dads to be responsible for the nappy changes.
It is important to keep your baby’s cord clean and dry to help prevent infection. Your baby will have an umbilical cord clamp applied before the cord is cut at birth. The umbilical cord that remains attached to your baby is called the umbilical stump. The stump will dry up and fall off within 7-10 days after birth. You don’t need to use any special antiseptic ointments or soap on the umbilical cord, just water when bathing your baby is adequate.
The key is to make sure the cord is dried well after bathing – you can do this by gently patting with a towel. The stump will dry and heal much faster if it is exposed to air as much as possible. Speak to your midwife or doctor if the stump hasn’t fallen off by two weeks of age, or if there is redness or an offensive smell.
Top tip: You may also like to fold down the front of your baby’s nappy to allow the air to circulate which helps the stump to dry.
It is common for babies to experience a rash in the first few weeks. This may be baby acne - which looks like small pimples on the nose and face, or other rashes such as erythema toxicum which sounds scary, but is a common reaction with flat, red patches or bumps that often begins on the face and then moves to other areas of the body. Both baby acne and erythema toxicum are harmless and will usually clear in a few weeks. If your baby has a fever, seems unwell or the rash is non-blanching (does not fade when gently pressed) please see your doctor as soon as possible.
Some babies experience nappy rash, which is often caused by wee or poo irritating the sensitive skin in this area. To help prevent nappy rash change your baby’s nappy frequently, and keep the area dry. You may also like to use a zinc-based barrier cream to help protect the skin.
Top tip: Don’t use talcum powder on your baby as it can be dangerous if inhaled, and can lead to breathing difficulties and lung damage. If you are wanting to apply a cream to your baby’s bottom, you can use one of the many nappy/barrier creams available.
There is a lot to learn when you bring your new baby home, but know that it does become easier. It is like any new skill – the more you practice the easier it is. You will be an expert in caring for your baby in no time!
Article written by PBC Expo Midwife Hannah