Congratulations on your new baby! Although you have probably been planning to care for your newborn for at least nine months, you may be a little nervous now that the time is here. Don't worry!
Pediatrician Sima Stein, MD, of Stein Pediatrics in San Jose, California, understands what it's like to be a nervous mom, especially during your baby's first days at home. Here, she offers expert advice to help you care for your baby like a pro.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding your baby for the first six months and then longer, depending on the mother and baby's desires. After that, you should try to feed your baby on demand, meaning whenever they're hungry, about every 2-3 hours. If you opt to use formula, follow the instructions on the packaging for preparation and quantities, and also feed your baby on demand. Because babies often swallow air while they feed, burp them frequently to prevent fussiness and discomfort.
Bath time can be a sweet bonding time, but you don't need to bathe your baby daily. The AAP recommends a sponge bath about three times a week and spot cleaning in between, especially during diaper changes. Washing too often can dry out their skin. Stick to a sponge bath, similar to a regular bath, except the tub is only partially full until the umbilical cord falls off. Use warm water and mild baby soap.
The good news is your newborn will sleep a lot when they first get home – about 16 or 17 hours a day. The bad news is they'll probably sleep in 2-3 hour increments, which makes getting a full night's sleep pretty unlikely. You should sleep when they sleep so you’re not too groggy.
Always place your baby on their back to sleep in a safe, firm crib or bassinet. Remove pillows, blankets, and stuffed toys from the sleeping area. Try to stick to a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby establish good sleep patterns.
Always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before holding your newborn. (And make sure everyone who handles your baby does the same.) Always cradle or support your baby's head when holding or carrying them, and hold and snuggle with them frequently to promote bonding. Don't ever shake or roughly handle your baby.
Until they can talk and tell you what's wrong, you'll need to do your best to figure out what they’re trying to communicate. Common soothing techniques include swaddling your baby, making soothing sounds (AKA cooing and babbling), and massaging your baby.
Be prepared to go through A LOT of diapers — about ten a day. Always wipe your baby from front to back. Have all your supplies within arms reach of your diapering table or space. Use diaper cream if they have a rash, and always wash your hands afterward.
Remember, every baby is unique, so paying attention to your baby's cues and seeking guidance from your pediatrician or health care provider for personalized advice and care is essential. For more expert newborn and baby care advice, call or make an appointment online with Dr. Sima Stein at Sima Stein, MD, today.