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Categories > Newborn and Infant Care > Caring for your new baby

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Bringing home baby
Learn how to care for your newborn like a pro

» Sweet dreams

» Feeding time

» Diaper changing and dressing

» Cord care

» Soothing strategies

When to call the doctor

Doctors expect to hear from new parents often, so never hesitate to call anytime you’re in doubt or if your child doesn’t seem “right” to you. And definitely call if your baby has any of the following:

  • a temperature of more than 100.2°F
  • difficulty breathing
  • a dusky, purplish hue to the lips and tongue
  • more than one episode of vomiting (not spit-up) or any forceful vomiting
  • repeated, watery, foul-smelling stool
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • frequent, inconsolable crying or fussiness, or a high-pitched cry
  • persistent lethargy
  • deepening yellow- or orange-hued skin and eyes
  • white patches in the mouth

If you’re a first-time parent, the reality of being in charge of your newborn may hit home soon after you leave the hospital with your baby. And, as many new parents can tell you, there’s nothing like the crash course in baby care you’ll receive during your first days of parenthood.

But don’t despair. In the blur of those first days and weeks, stick to basics: feeding, sleeping, diapering and falling in love with your new family member. Read on to learn how to ease into new parenthood.

Sweet dreams

The typical newborn sleeps an average of 12 to 20 hours of every 24, but this time is fragmented into two- to three-hour intervals. Lie down for a rest whenever your baby does. Babies generally sleep and wake around the clock during the first month, with relatively equal sleep sessions between feedings.

Always place your baby to sleep on his or her back, unless your pediatrician instructs you otherwise. Studies have found that back sleeping has led to dramatically reduced rates of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Feeding time

How often your baby feeds depends on how often he or she is hungry. You’ll eventually be able to discern your baby’s hunger pangs, but until then, expect to feed at least every two to three hours, amounting to about eight to 12 feedings daily. Breast milk is digested quickly, so nursing babies can be hungry more often. At first, feedings may seem to run from one to the next with little time between, but a pattern will eventually emerge. Watch your baby, not the clock, for signals of when to start the next feeding (he or she will let out a certain cry, root around or suck on his or her fists) and follow your baby’s cues for when he or she has had enough.

Diaper changing and dressing

Set up a changing area right away. You don’t need to have an actual changing table, but you’ll want a safe and convenient place to stash diapers, wipes, ointments and clothing. If your home has more than one story, set up a station on each floor to avoid unnecessary stair climbing as you recover from childbirth.

Change the diaper every two to three hours. Don’t wake a sleeping baby if it’s time for a change, but change a wet or soiled diaper soon after he or she wakes to avoid skin irritation. At first, your newborn may seem to have a bowel movement in every diaper, but gradually these decrease.

Cord care

For baby’s navel to heal well, keep the area around the umbilical cord clean and dry. Apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball or swab and dab the base of the umbilical stump at least once a day until the cord falls off, usually within three weeks. A drop of blood or a small amount of discharge is normal; however, report a foul-smelling discharge, redness around the cord or a cord that remains after four weeks to your doctor.

Soothing strategies

All babies cry between one and five hours a day. It’s baby’s only form of communication, how he or she says, “Hey, I’m hungry, wet, tired, bored, too warm or overstimulated.”

Sometimes babies cry to relieve tension. Check on your baby soon after you hear crying. Could it be hunger? A need to be changed or burped? Is he or she uncomfortable? Babies may simply want some TLC. Offer a pacifier or a clean finger to suck on. Try rocking, cuddling, stroking the head, patting the back or bottom, humming or singing or going on a walking tour of your home. While these strategies are often effective, you’ll eventually need a few hands-free moments. Many babies enjoy riding in an infant swing, sitting in a gently vibrating seat or snuggling close to mom or dad in a front carrier.

© 2014 Dowden Health Media