A Beginner’s Guide To Newborn Care

After getting my pregnancy results, I was excited. I had been waiting for these news for a while and the double lines gave me a thrill.  However, in the next few weeks, anxiety crept in. I knew nothing about newborn care since I had never cared for a newborn, so what was I supposed to do after the baby came?

Thankfully, I had a great community by my side. I consult with a few friends, relatives, and practitioners who helped me prepare for my baby, making my parenting journey more fun. But not everyone has this luxury. 

Caring for a newborn can take a toll on you, especially if you are a first-time parent with no idea where to start. From diapering to soothing, introducing new activities like these can be giant strides.

In this guide, I’m going to cover helpful tips and solutions for a new parent, to make your journey as smooth as possible. Whether you want to learn the nitty gritty details of umbilical cord care or diapering, I got you covered with straightforward steps. 

Let’s dive in!

Finding Help After Bringing Your Newborn Home

Even with a newborn relying on you, taking care of yourself should be a priority. This keeps you sane and helps you attend to your newborn more effectively. So find as much help as you can. 

Every so often, get a nanny, a family member, or a friend to watch the baby while you freshen up, take naps, and even go for a walk to refresh your mind.

As a new mom, it’s important to have your baby’s paed on speed dial. Reason? Some issues, like rushes, fevers, or extreme fuzziness, may not go away with home remedies. If you’re unsure of the cause of such problems, the doctor will be in a better position to help you understand and deal with the situation.

Handling a Newborn

Newborns seem fragile, and you may be confused how to hold or play with them. Here are a few ways to handle your baby safely:

  • Cleaning Your Hands – A newborn is at a high risk of infections since their immune system is weak. So, anytime you want to hold or feed them, you should clean your hands or use a sanitizer. Also, remember to wash your hands after every diaper change. 
  • Holding the Baby Holding a newborn baby safely can be challenging. Most first-time parents face the same challenge. To avoid hurting your newborn, you should support their head when laying them down or carrying them upright. 
  • Shaking and Playing – When waking your baby to feed or bathe, avoid shaking them as it may cause bleeding in the brain. You can wake them up by blowing their cheeks or tickling their feet. Your newborn is not ready for rough play like being thrown in the air. So, find other ways to play with them; for instance, you can make faces, poke out your tongue, smile, or give them clean and safe toys to hold. 
  • Fastening Your Newborn – Whether planning to take a walk in the park or drive to the store, you should fasten your baby securely into the stroller, car seat, or carrier. You can ensure this by following the step-by-step directions on the manual’s item or watching helpful manufacturer videos with detailed explanations. 

Bonding and Comforting Your Newborn

Bonding is essential for your baby’s growth and development. It starts right after you give birth to your bundle of joy and, days after, when you make a deep connection with them. You can effectively bond with your newborn in different ways, for example, by cradling, stroking, and initiating skin-to-skin contact.

Infant massages are also a great way to connect with your newborn. Nevertheless, you must be gentle, as your newborn is not so strong. You can consult your physician for recommendations and draw insights from credible books or videos on the same.

Is your baby fussy even after feeding and changing their diaper? Newborns are usually sensitive to the new environment and take time to adapt. Sometimes you need to soothe them, but how-you ask?

You can comfort your newborn by swaddling them. Here is how to achieve this:

  • Step 1. Spread out your baby’s blanket and fold one corner slightly.
  • Step 2. Lay your newborn on the blanket(face up) with the head resting slightly above the folded corner.
  • Step 3. Wrap the left side over the baby and tuck it underneath the back.
  • Step 4. Wrap the right corner and tuck it under the baby’s back. To confirm the baby is not tightly fastened, slip your hand into the blanket between the baby’s chest and the veil. 

When soothing your baby using the swaddle technique, ensure your baby cannot roll over as they may fall, get injured, or even succumb to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as a result. 

The ABCs of Diapering

A giph of baby diapering

Whether you plan on using recyclable or disposable diapers, your newborn will soil them at least 10 times a day. To make your diapering experience easy, start by placing all the supplies within reach. These include:

  • Diaper wipes or water and washcloth
  • Clean diaper
  • Diaper ointment
  • Fasteners for cloth diapers

Anytime there’s a bowel movement or the diaper is wet, take your wipes or washcloth with water and wipe your newborn’s genitals gently until it’s clean. When changing boys, you should be cautious, as air exposure makes them urinate. 

For a baby girl, ensure to wipe the genital area from front to back. This will help prevent Urinary Tract Infections. Once you change your baby’s diaper, wash your hands thoroughly.

Diaper rash is a prevalent issue in newborns, so don’t get scared when you encounter it. Typically, this happens due to the baby’s skin sensitivity. You can heal diaper rash by cleaning your baby with mild soap and applying a dense layer of diaper rash.

You may also try to change your baby’s diaper often or wash their clothes using fragrance-free detergents. Physicians also recommend that parents should leave their babies undiapered for some time. 

Newborn Bathing 

Bathing a newborn is one of the biggest challenges for new moms. However, you can make this fun by getting help from a close relative or experienced nanny. 

Here are two types of baths to freshen up your bundle of joy:

  • Sponge bath
  • Tub bath

So, how should you bathe your newborn?

Sponge Bath

A sponge bath is suitable for your baby until the umbilical cord falls off and the navel heals completely. In addition, if the physicians circumcise your newborn, you should use a sponge bath until they heal; this can take up to 2 weeks.

To perform a sponge bath 

  • Step 1. Start by filling a sink or bowl with warm water. 
  • Step 2. Place the water in a warm room on a steady surface like a changing table. 
  • Step 3. Undress and wrap your newborn in a towel.
  • Step 4. Dampen the washcloth, and wipe their face. When cleaning your newborn’s face, you should wipe the eyes, nose, and ears, respectively. 
  • Step 5. Take the washcloth, apply mild soap to wash the face gently, and finalize by patting it dry. 
  • Step 6. When done washing your baby’s face, take the shampoo and lather it gently to wash their head, then rinse it with water. 
  • Step 7. Take a wet cloth and apply mild soap to gently wipe your newborn’s other body parts while paying keen attention to creases.
  • Step 8. Finally, wipe them dry with a clean towel, apply the necessary ointment, and then diaper and cloth them. 

Tub Bath

A picture of a baby showering. Photo by RODNAE Productions: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-baby-getting-a-bath-6849421/

Now that your newborn’s navel is healed, you can explore a tub bath. Nevertheless, you need to pay attention to your baby’s reaction. If they get upset, resume with the sponge bath for one or two more weeks, then try reintroducing them to a tub bath.

How do you perform a tub bath?

  • Step 1. In a warm room, fill the baby’s bathtub with 2 to 3 inches of warm water(you can dip your elbow or wrist to confirm the water temperature). 
  • Step 2. Undress your newborn and place them in the water right away. You should do this by supporting their head and letting their legs in first with the other hand. 
  • Step 3. Use a washcloth to clean their face and head, and gently massage them with your fingers or a hair brush. When rinsing the baby’s hair, cup your palm across their forehead to let the water flow on the sides; this will prevent soap from getting into their eyes. 
  • Step 4. Once you wash your baby’s face, clean the rest of the body with water and mild soap. Remember, when bathing your baby, never leave them in the water. If you need to attend to something urgently, wrap them with a towel and carry them along.

Umbilical Cord Care

After a week of cleaning my newborn’s umbilical cord, I noticed the cord was turning black. I was dumbfounded and thought I had messed it all up. I immediately called my nurse friend, who explained it was normal and that I should stop panicking. 

The umbilical cord is usually a sensitive part and therefore needs excellent care. To ensure your baby’s umbilical cord falls off and heals timely, clean around the stump with water only. Then blot dry until the cord falls off naturally.

Again don’t be anxious if the cord does not fall off in a few days because, typically, this process can take between one to three weeks. You should also expect color changes that range from yellowish-green to brown to black.

Feeding Your Newborn

Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you may wonder what’s the ideal number of times to do so. Practitioners recommend that newborns be fed on demand. You can notice this when they suck their fingers, cry, or make sucking noises. 

Suppose you are using time as the standard; you should feed your newborn every 2 to 4 hours. If you breastfeed, allow your baby to nurse between 10 to 15 minutes at every breast. If you formula-feed, your baby should take 60 to 90 millimeters of milk every time.  

During feedings, babies usually swallow air, which may make them fussy. To avoid this, you should burp your newborn every time they feed. 

Sleeping Basics For a Newborn

Surprisingly, babies sleep about 16 hours or more. This may sound ironic since they need your attention most of the time. 

Newborns usually sleep for 2 to 4 hours due to their small digestive system, which makes them need nourishment every few hours. In the first three months, your bundle of joy may not sleep throughout the night. 

However, when they hit three months, their digestive system improves, allowing some of them to sleep throughout the night for around 6 to 8 hours. Putting your baby to sleep? Ensure their head is positioned correctly and keep adjusting them to avoid flat spots. If your baby is sleeping in the crib, don’t use pillows, blankets, quilts, or stuffed animals because they can suffocate them. 

You can also improve your child’s sleeping environment by keeping lights low and not talking or playing with them at night. This will help them sleep better and even develop a sleep pattern. 

Wrap Up

Welcoming a newborn to your family is exhilarating. However, it can be overwhelming as a first-time parent. You don’t have to burn out from caring for your baby; you can always ask for help and learn how to bathe, feed, soothe, and diaper your infant. This way, you will easily take care of your baby. 

And anytime you feel overwhelmed by the giant strides you’ve made to attend to your baby, don’t feel guilty going out for some ice cream to stress out. Such revitalizing moments help you recharge and resume your parenting duties.