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How to care for your newborn

Welcoming the newest member of your family is an exciting, beautiful time. Learn how to take care of your baby and help them thrive.

Sleep Safety

Developing healthy sleep patterns is important for a newborn baby, and also for new parents. Putting your baby to sleep safely will help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant.

Reduce the Risk of SIDS

While it’s impossible to completely eliminate all risk of SIDS, there are steps you can take to keep your baby safer during sleep and put your mind at rest.

  • Put your baby to sleep on their back, at night and for naps, until your child is at least 1 year old.
  • Newborns should sleep on a firm mattress in their own bed or bassinet.
  • Do not use soft bedding, blankets, pillows or stuffed toys in your baby’s bed, which may cause suffocation. Dress your baby warmly, but don’t let your baby get overheated during sleep. Don’t use a swaddle after baby is 2 months old, which is when some newborns start to roll over on their own.

Bath Safety

Bath time can be fun for babies, but it’s important to stay close to your child at all times. A baby can drown quickly without adult supervision.

Here are some newborn bath basics to keep your baby safe in the bath:

  • Make sure the room is warm to prevent your baby from getting too cold.
  • Give sponge baths until your baby’s umbilical cord falls off and a circumcision heals. Until then, pay special attention to keep the umbilical cord dry.
  • Use mild soap and shampoo made especially for newborns.
  • Wash your baby’s head last so it doesn’t get too cold.
  • Wrap up your baby in a towel immediately after a bath to keep baby warm.
  • Give baths about twice a week to prevent baby’s delicate skin from becoming dry. Other days, “spot clean” your baby, washing mouth, neck and groin areas.

Help Your Baby Thrive

As you welcome your newborn into the world, you’ll want to help your baby thrive in as many ways as possible.

  • Hold your baby close. Snuggling “skin to skin” with your baby is a great way to bond.
  • Talk and sing to your baby! Even though your baby can’t talk back, newborns love to hear the voices around them. You can stimulate baby’s hearing with a rattle or music.
  • Feed your baby frequently, usually every two to three hours. Feeding on demand—whenever your baby acts hungry—is a good way to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. You may have to wake your baby up if it has been four hours since the last feeding.
  • Give your baby some supervised tummy time two or three times a day for 10 to 15 minutes. This will help your baby strengthen neck muscles and coordinate head movement. 
  • To help soothe your baby, you may want to use a swaddle, which is a blanket wrapped snugly around your baby. Remember, the blanket should be snug, but not too tight. It will keep baby’s arms close to the body while allowing leg movement. Don’t use a swaddle after your baby is 2 months old.

Don’t hesitate to call your baby’s doctor if you see warning signs, such as:

Potentially Serious Symptoms

Call the pediatrician right away if your newborn:

  • Has a fever of 100.4°F or higher
  • Shows signs of dehydration, such as fewer than 6-8 wet diapers a day or sunken soft spot on top of the head
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has blood in vomit or stool
  • Has yellowish skin or eyes, which is a sign of jaundice
  • Won’t wake up, or sleeps more than usual
  • Is limp or has a seizure

Stress Management

Having a new baby can be an exciting time, but it’s often stressful. It’s important to take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby.

Here are some steps you can take to protect your own health and well-being:

  • Establish rules for visitors, including times and lengths of visits. Don’t be afraid to say no to visits if it’s not a good time for you.   
  • Eat a healthy diet and try to get enough sleep. You’ve heard “sleep when the baby sleeps,” which is a good idea to help you get much needed rest. It may be tempting to do chores during your baby’s nap time, but that’s what help from friends and family is for!
  • Get out of the house, whether that’s visiting a friend, doing some stress-free shopping, or taking a walk with your baby in a stroller. A change of scenery and some fresh air are good for both you and your baby.
  • Life with a new baby can be a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s normal to feel both elated and depressed. If sad feelings persist or get worse, you may have postpartum depression, which can be treated.

University Health Is Here for You

University Hospital is a certified Baby-Friendly facility. Our staff have met rigorous standards in caring for newborns and their mothers. We're here for you when you have questions or concerns about caring for your newborn.

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