A newborn baby is exciting, but no matter how ready you think you are, new parents often find themselves a bit confused and panicked when that new baby comes home. There are many things involved to effectively take care of a baby, but once you have the basics sorted out, the rest just falls into place. Here is how to care for a newborn baby.
The adage about new babies claims they only do three things – eat, sleep, and poop. Many new parents find this to be startlingly true, at least for the first few weeks. Thus, care for a newborn baby involves taking care of these three activities.
A newborn baby eats only one of two things, or possibly both. Breast milk is the preferred choice for its many health benefits, but formula is certainly healthy and the natural alternative if breastfeeding does not work out for any reason. A newborn baby starts a feeding every 2-3 hours if breast fed, and every 2-4 hours if formula feeding.
Most experts agree that feeding on demand, or when the baby wants to eat, is the best way to feed a baby for the first 4-12 months of life. So, when your baby begins fussing, crying, or chewing on his hands, offer him the breast or the bottle. A newborn will eat less than 2-3 ounces per feeding, and may take up to forty-five minutes to complete each feeding. Be sure to burp the baby periodically during the feeding to decrease chances of spit up.
After your baby eats, he will most likely fall asleep. Lay him on his back in a safe sleeping environment such as a bassinet or crib. Avoid letting him sleep on your bed as the blankets may be too thick and your baby is simply safer inside a crib or bassinet. He can sleep in a playpen, car seat, swing, or bouncer as well for the first few weeks or months if he sleeps better in those positions. Dress him comfortably, and consider swaddling as this makes a newborn more comfortable and promotes longer and better sleep.
Caring for a newborn involves quite a few diaper changes. You should change his diaper following every feeding. Most newborns make dirty diapers while eating as the feeding stimulates the bowels. Expect your newborn to have a dirty diaper with almost every meal for the first few days, but after the first week or two, dirty diapers will only appear 1-3 times a day.
Wipes are abrasive on the sensitive skin of a newborn, so consider using warm water and a washcloth or simply letting running water clean away the poop. This will help prevent diaper rash, but you should have ointment on hand to help with any that appears.
Most of all, a newborn needs constant love and attention. His needs and comforts now come before your own, but you most likely won’t mind as he will have easily become the center of your world the moment he was born.
Considering babies are said to only “eat, sleep, and poop,” they certainly manage to make the eating portion of their existence complicated. Here is how to feed your baby by age:
Babies need only breast milk or formula through month four. Contrary to popular belief, solids or cereal will not help your baby sleep better, but they can mess up her sensitive stomach.
Some babies are ready to begin solid foods at four months. Signs of readiness include being able to sit assisted, excellent head control, showing marked interest in the food you eat, and not being satisfied after 24-32 ounces of milk or formula each day. Speak with your pediatrician about the right time to start solids as every child is different and many now feel that waiting until six months is the best option.
When you do offer your baby solids for the first time, use a soft tipped baby spoon to protect her gums. You can offer essentially any baby food, but rice cereal is usually the first choice as it presents little chance of allergies and is mixed with familiar milk or formula. Feed a tiny bit and wait for it to come back out thanks to the tongue thrust reflex. This reflex will go away shortly.
After you have introduced cereal, continue to introduce other grains such as barley and oatmeal, then fruits and vegetables. Wait 3-5 days after each new food to be sure no allergic reaction is present. Most parents wait to introduce citrus and strawberries as these have high rates of allergic reactions in many children. You should also begin offering your baby a cup at this age, and she is also most likely ready to chew on a biscuit or piece of toast that she can grip with her fist.
You can now introduce dairy and protein foods. Proteins include beans, meats and yogurt. Dairy products should be full fat yogurts, cottage cheese and other soft cheese your baby can gum up. Your baby is now developing the pincher grip which allows her to pick up individual bites and put them in her mouth. You should greatly encourage this self feeding, but watch her very carefully as she learns to chew and swallow properly.
Gradually encourage greater use of the cup, spoon and self feeding of finger foods. By her first birthday, your baby should be eating the same table foods that you are eating at every meal.
Babies come with many wonderful surprises, and some of those surprises show up during or after a good meal. Diapers are a necessary part of a baby, and changing those diapers frequently and correctly can prevent diaper rash and help your baby be more comfortable.
How to Change a Diaper
The best time to change a diaper is in when a baby is ready for a feeding. There are different advantages to timing. Some parents change a diaper before feedings so that the baby can drift off to sleep while eating. Others wait to change the diaper after the feeding as most bowel movements occur during meals, and changing a diaper twice in an hour is a waste.
After each feeding, every 2-4 hours, change your baby’s diaper. It may be wet or it might be a dirty diaper. If she makes a dirty diaper, you should change it immediately regardless of meals as it will keep her from eating well and sitting in a dirty diaper for longer than a few minutes can give her a serious case of diaper rash. Wet diapers should be changed no later than every three or four hours.
To Change a Diaper
To change a diaper, first be sure you have a safe location. Babies should never be left unattended for even a second on an elevated surface such as a bed or changing table. You can change a diaper on the floor, on the sofa, on a bed, or on a changing table. Just be sure to bring the fresh diaper and wipes with you so that you are prepared once you get started.
If you are concerned about your surface, put a towel or blanket down, then place baby on top of it. The very first thing to do is open the new diaper so that you can grab it with one hand. Remove baby’s pants or unsnap her outfit to reach her diaper. Unfasten the tabs on either side of the diaper and pull down the front leaving the back of the diaper in place to catch any surprises. If you are changing a little boy, be sure to keep the diaper lying on top of his penis or use a washcloth to cover it to avoid him spraying you or the room should he decide to pee.
A wet diaper is simple to change. Open the wet diaper, make a quick pass with a wipe if you’d like to be sure baby feels clean and fresh, and then pull the wet diaper out. Place the clean diaper under baby’s bottom with the tabs in the back. Fold the top of the diaper through the legs. Fasten the tabs on the front of the diaper repositioning as needed. Congratulations! You’ve changed a diaper!
If you have a dirty diaper, open the wipes and remove a couple so that you can grab them quickly. Then, once the front of the diaper is pulled down, grab the baby’s feet and lift her bottom into the air. Again, leave the diaper in place to catch any surprises should she not be quite finished and to protect your changing surface as poop tends to stick to her lower back as well as her bottom.
Use the front of the diaper to make a big wipe and collect as much of the poop as possible. Then, holding her legs, use your wipes to wipe up the remainder of the poop. After each wipe is used, drop it into the open diaper that is still under her bottom. Be sure to check all of the nooks and crannies to get all of the poop that might be hiding. Open her legs a bit to check the inside of her thighs and be sure that no poop has entered the vagina. If so, of course, remove it with a wipe. If you are changing a boy, be sure to lift the testicles to check for any poop that might be stuck underneath.
Then, when you are sure all poop is removed from baby’s nether regions, carefully pull out the dirty diaper and wipes being careful not to drop baby’s back or rear back into the poop. Put the dirty diaper aside, and place the fresh (already opened) diaper under baby’s bottom. Lower her legs and fasten the tabs from the back to the front. Reposition as needed. Dispose of the dirty diaper. Congratulations! You’ve changed a diaper!