to Better Babies
- What your Baby Looks Like: Your newborn baby probably won't look as perfect as those you see on television or in the movies. Your baby's head may be misshapen, his or her body may have parts that are swollen - this is normal. The birth process can be very traumatic to your baby's body and he or she made the adjustments necessary to come into this world. Over time, your baby will grow more and more beautiful.
- Cord Care: It is important to take care of the area where the umbilical cord was (the soon-to-become "belly button"). Swab the area with a rubbing alcohol swab after each diaper change until the cord stump dries up and falls off (this usually takes 10-21 days). Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if the baby's navel area becomes red, has a foul odor or discharge develops.
- Circumcision Care: Gently wipe the tip of the penis with warm water after changing his diaper. The redness/irritation should heal within a few days. If you notice that the redness gets worse, swelling increases or blisters form, contact your baby's doctor or healthcare provider immediately.
- Diaper Time: Before you change your baby's diaper, make sure you have everything you need. Necessary supplies may include the diaper, diaper wipes or a warm washcloth, ointment (if the baby has diaper rash), and/or cotton balls. Do not leave your baby alone on a changing table, sofa, etc. Babies have been known to fall off of furniture when left unattended.
- Time to Eat: Babies should be fed on demand - this means whenever they are hungry. Your baby may tell you he or she is hungry by crying, putting fingers in his or her mouth, or making sucking noises. Hold your baby when you feed him or her. This is a special time, just the two of you---don't prop a bottle in his or her mouth. Be sure to burp your baby after feeding him or her. Also, don't put your baby to bed with a bottle. Not only does this increase the risk that the baby may choke, but it is not good for the baby's future teeth.
- Bond with Your Baby: Make sure you hold and talk to your baby. You can't spoil your baby by holding him or her too much. Look into your baby's eyes while feeding him or her. Touch his or her hands and let the baby grip your finger. You are establishing a connection with your child that will last a lifetime.
- Baths: Babies need regular baths, too. Some experts recommend no more than two or three baths per week in the first year. Sponge baths are good until the umbilical cord falls off. Remember, never leave your baby alone in a bath tub!
- Sleepy Time: Your baby will sleep a lot. Most newborns sleep for 3-4 hours at a time. However, it will be a while before your baby sleeps through the night.
- Make sure that you, or anyone who cares for your baby, place the baby on his or her back every time he or she sleeps. This will help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Other ways to reduce the risk of SIDS include removing all fluffy bedding, stuffed animals and pillows from the crib. In addition to this, do not let anyone smoke around the baby. For more information, contact a Healthy Start Health Educator or speak to your Healthy Start Case Manager.
- Shaken Infant Syndrome: Be sure to support your baby's head and neck when you hold him or her. Never, never shake your baby - this includes throwing the baby in the air or bouncing the baby on your knee. Doing this can cause permanent injury and even death.
- Doctor Visits: It is important that your baby see his or her doctor for "well child visits." These visits allow your doctor to evaluate your child's general health, growth, and development. Well child visits are different from those when your baby has to go to the doctor because, for instance, he or she has an earache. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well child visits, during the baby's first year of life, at the following time:
- Before your baby is born (for first-time parents)
- Before your newborn is discharged from the hospital. If your baby is discharged before two full days of life, your baby should be seen again within 48 and 72 hours
- During the first year of life - a visit at about 2-4 weeks of age and at 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months of age.
- Immunizations: Immunizations (also known as vaccinations) are very important to your baby's good health. Your baby should be given the first dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the hospital. It will be your responsibility to take your baby for the rest of the shots. This will begin when the baby is 1-2 months old. The hospital or your healthcare provider should provide you with a schedule. If you cannot afford the cost of the immunizations, or if your insurance does not cover them, the Lake County Indiana Health Department provides these shots for free. You can call them at (219) 755-3661 for days and times immunizations are given.
- Ask questions: It's okay to ask your baby's doctor or healthcare provider questions. Babies don't come into the world with instructions!
- Ask for help: Not only do you have to care for your newborn, but you are also recovering from delivery. Ask a trusted relative or friend to give you a hand during this transition time.
Note: This information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, please consult your doctor or health care provider.
Supported in part by project H49MC00083 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act).