Must-Know Newborn Baby Care Tips for New Parents

newborn baby care tips

Congratulations! You’ve had a baby, a beautiful new human being! You’re feeling an incredible mixture of joy, love, excitement and apprehension. When baby comes home, you will question everything about routine baby care – feeding, bathing and diapering – even if you’ve cared for your own younger siblings or were an all-star neighborhood babysitter. We have put together some must-know newborn baby care tips for you!

Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn Illinois has helped hundreds of parents welcome home new babies. “Some basic caregiving guidelines can help parents get prepared for the joyful and utterly exhausting experience of bringing Baby home from the hospital.”

Newborn Feeding

In the first few days of life, from the stress and change of leaving an environment of perfect temperature and constant nutrition, newborns normally lose about 7 percent of their body fat. For a 7 lb baby, that’s almost a half of a pound! Because Baby’s stomach is so tiny, they’ll need to eat small amounts frequently. Some babies will want to nurse or have a bottle every two to three hours and others may want to eat more often. Let your baby guide feeding times and amounts, and understand that sometimes they may eat a great deal and sometimes a lot less.

How do you know when they are hungry? While some babies announce their hunger with strong cries, others will give more subtle hints such as smacking their lips, or rooting; pursing their lips and turning their head toward the breast, chest or bottle, or putting their hands in their mouth.  Dr. Alzein says, “Watch for those signs of readiness and hunger and start feeding before Baby begins full-blown crying. The sooner you begin each feeding, the more pleasant the feeding experience will be.”

Feedings are a wonderful opportunity to bond with the newest member of your family, even when Mom is breastfeeding. Dad can bring Baby to Mom and help get any supports settled, can change a diaper after the feeding and of course, can burp Baby in the middle and at the end of feedings.

“While getting into a schedule may be your goal, be aware that Baby’s eating patterns will change quickly and constantly,” says Dr. Alzein. “Your newborn will not necessarily eat the same amount of food every day or at the same time of day. Within weeks, you’ll notice growth spurts when Baby will need feeding more frequently.”

“Remember to trust your instincts and let your baby guide you,” he says. “Parents often worry that Baby is eating too little or too much, but babies usually know just how much they need.”

Watch for:

  • steady weight gain
  • contentment after feeding
  • by the fifth day after birth, at least six wet diapers and three or more bowel movements each day.

Dr. Alzein notes, “When parents are concerned that Baby doesn’t seem to be putting on weight, or if Baby just doesn’t seem interested in eating, call your pediatrician. They will be happy to answer all your questions and make a thorough examination to identify any problems quickly.”

Bathing Your Newborn                   

Bathing your baby for the first time is a special, exciting event, says Dr. Alzein. “Bathing a baby can be tricky. They’re slippery and wiggly and they tend to cry through the whole process, at least the first few times. However, there are things parents can do to make the process go smoothly and enjoy the bonding experience together.”

Dr. Alzein recommends that Baby’s first bath be a sponge bath.  “Gentle sponge baths are perfect for the first few weeks, until Baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, the circumcision heals and the navel is completely healed. Pick a small, draft-free room with a flat surface, like the bathroom or kitchen counter, or changing table. Babies get chilled easily so warm the room to around 75 degrees before you begin.”

Make sure to have all of the baby bath products assembled before you prepare the bath or undress Baby. You will need:

  • Baby bath sponge or clean wash cloth (double-rinsed)
  • Clean blanket or hooded bath towel
  • Clean diaper
  • Clean clothes
  • Vaseline and gauze (if you have a circumcised boy)
  • Warm water, just about 100˚ F. 

Now, let’s take a bath!

  • Undress your baby, making sure to cradle the head with one hand. Leave the diaper as you’ll wash that area last. Wrap your baby in a towel as you’ll expose only those areas that you are going to be washing and then cover them back up to wash another area.
  • Dampen and wring out a clean cloth or sponge in clear water; there is no need for soap, no matter how gentle. Clean one area at a time. Start behind the ears, then move to the neck, arms, elbows, knees, legs, between fingers and toes. Pay attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck.
  • Washing hair comes toward the end of bath time so baby doesn’t get a chill. Some newborns don’t have much hair and others have a bunch! Either way, you can gently sponge Baby’s head with clear water.  To avoid getting water in the eyes, tip Baby’s head back just a little.
  • Now it’s time to remove the diaper and sponge baby’s belly, bottom, and genitals.
  • Gently wipe baby girls from front to back. A pink or reddish spot of vaginal discharge in the first few days is perfectly normal and can be gently wiped away. If circumcised, don’t wash the head of the penis until it’s healed; just rinse with drops of water and then reapply petroleum jelly. If your baby boy is uncircumcised, carefully wipe his penis with water and let the foreskin retract on its own over time.
  • Carefully pat Baby dry as rubbing will irritate delicate skin. 

Dr. Alzein cautions, “Never leave your baby alone on a counter or changing table, even if Baby is strapped down – not even for a second.  If you must step away, take Baby with you.”

How Often Should Baby’s Diaper Be Changed?

Newborns pee and poop very often. Stool is very irritating to bare, delicate skin and can cause open sores much faster than parents can imagine. As soon as Baby finishes a bowel movement, their diaper should be changed. Even with super-absorbent diapers, pee can cause diaper rash, leading to open sores. Urine in a diaper can also cause urinary tract infections in baby girls. Even if Baby hasn’t pooped, diapers should be changed every 2-3 hours, more frequently if you’re using cloth diapers. The exception is while Baby is sleeping. Unless there is a bowel movement, don’t wake a sleeping baby to change a diaper. 

Be Patient With Yourself And With Baby.

Allow plenty of time for feeding, bathing and diapering, about twice what you think it will take – and relax. “While routine care may sometimes feel overwhelming, these are also important bonding moments,” says Dr. Alzein. “These are times for your and Baby to make eye contact, have skin-to-skin contact and communicate both verbally and non-verbally.”

Call Your Pediatrician – Whenever You Need.

Newborns bring a whirlwind of joy and excitement to your life – as well as anxiety and plenty of fatigue. Dr. Alzein says, “Even on a good day, parenting can be a challenge.  It’s an ever-evolving learning process and your pediatrician should be your first line of information and support. Whenever your instincts are telling you something isn’t right, or when you have questions about any of your decisions, call your pediatrician. If you feel you aren’t being heard, change health care providers. Your pediatric practice should be happy to help make these newborn days confident and joyous.”