Baby 101: The Basics
Having a new baby can be completely overwhelming! And most of us are doing this alone - with grandma and the rest of the family far away! Who teaches a parent how to change a diaper or give an 8 pound ball of love a bath, let alone cut their nails! Well, in no time at all you will be the absolute expert in all of these things, but I wanted to give a little friendly advice, having worked with kids for over 30 years. So I will share my thoughts on some super common hot topics on newborn babies and hope it helps!
Bathing your newborn:
Although newborns aren’t playing in the mud, they do need to be washed. Whether it is Dad’s beard or a visitor’s hand, there is always a chance of germs spreading to your baby. Until the umbilical cord falls off, do a sponge bath with a clean wash cloth, and avoid getting the cord wet. After that, you should bathe your baby around every 2-3 days. It is a two person job, as they are quite slippery! They may not love it, but they will get used to it, and if they and you both enjoy it, you can bathe a baby every night as part of the routine.
Use warm water (always test the temperature before putting them in) and yes - do use some mild hypoallergenic soap/shampoo even in a newborn on their entire body, and then rinse the soap right off and out comes baby! If they get dry skin easily, then moisturize right after the bath.
Cutting the nails:
The nails grow so quickly, so you’ll have to file or cut the nails every two or three days. You can indeed file, but this takes so long, so at some point you’ll have to learn how to clip the nails. Don’t bite the nails or pull them off. And don’t take the easy way out and use gloves or mittens when they get too long as babies like to learn by touching. Be very careful when you clip, as the skin is sensitive. But if you do clip the skin by accident, don’t feel horrible. It will heal, and you’ll become more skilled and comfortable at cutting. Try to clip them while the baby is sleeping or feeding.
Adjusting the temperature in the room:
For the first 3-5 days, use those cute newborn hats and err on the side of keeping the baby warm. But in no time, your baby is like a real person, and just doesn’t want to be too cold or too hot. It is common for parents to fight amongst themselves about perfect room temperature for the baby. We usually say keep one more thin layer than the average of what the two parents are wearing. Just don’t let them have the A/C blowing right on them, nor the window cracked inches from them in the winter. If there is too much dry heat then sure - get a humidifier, but contrary to the websites saying you must buy a humidifier, these are not a necessity, and must be cleaned often to avoid mold. Just keep your newborn comfortable, and don't over bundle them. If they seem hot, take off a layer. It is normal for them to sweat at times, and it is also normal for some to have slightly cold hands or feet, but a warm body.
Avoid flat or asymmetric heads at all costs?
This also is a new one to make the “make you nervous blogs”. There are more flat heads as a result of our very successful push to go “Back to Sleep”, and decrease the risk of SIDS. We say that babies should not be put to sleep on their stomachs until 6 months old, although when they start rolling fully on their own it is safe to let them roll (and for most, this does happen around 4-5 months old). You could try to rotate the sides you are changing them, or rotate the side they are facing in their crib or bassinet, but the truth is many babies get a very slight flat or asymmetric head in the first 4-6 months, and this isn’t dangerous or bad as long as it is mild. Almost all of them readjust or become once again round as the head control improves, and the baby spends more time sitting and upright, as opposed to lying flat. It is very rare to need a helmet, but some kids have a real neck muscle tightness, or torticollis, and we will look out for that on each exam and plan accordingly. Many newborns come out favoring one side, but as long as they can look both ways, the preference for one side usually resolves in time. Indeed, the majority of kids can just be left alone, and won’t get any significant or medically worrisome flat heads. But if you are worried, or it is getting worse, please come and see me and we will figure it out together.
Avoiding diaper rash:
You can wait for the first signs of diaper rash, and then use diaper rash cream, but many newborn parents will put a little cream on with each diaper change to avoid diaper rash.
If there is a diaper rash, use a good thick barrier, like desitin, balmex, or Burt Bee’s Butt Paste. The thick cream needs to have some Zinc Oxide in it to protect the diaper from the next round of pee or poop. Soothing or healing creams are nice, but just don’t work as well if there is skin irritation. If there is a diaper rash, put on a lot of cream - the thicker the better! And if it doesn’t get better see me, and we can see if there is also a yeast or bacterial infection that would require special creams.
Please see my other articles on germs, visitors and going outside, when is it safe to travel with baby, and how to you think about scheduling your newborn as they grow.