Methodist Health System Services

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New Parent Guidelines

Taking care of your baby.

We have assembled highlights of the most requested baby care topics. Be sure to discuss your specific questions and concerns with your health care team.

Feeding

Your baby is an individual. Look and listen for feeding cues that will help you feed according to his or her unique needs.
  • Most newborns are hungry every 2-4 hours.
  • Do not let your baby sleep through a feeding until at least 2 weeks of age.
  • Burp your baby after every feeding. Burp breastfed babies after each breast. Burp bottle-fed babies after every 2-3 ounces of formula.
  • Learn more about feeding your baby.
  • Learn about our lactation consultants and assistance for breastfeeding mothers.

Sleep

  • Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • Put "nothing but baby" in the crib. Do not place soft objects, loose bedding, stuffed toys, pillows, quilts, comforters, bumper pads or other items in the crib.
  • Use a firm crib mattress covered by a sheet.
  • Dress your baby in sleepwear appropriate for the climate and air temperature.
  • Use lightweight clothing or a sleepsack to avoid overheating.
  • Most babies sleep about 16 hours a day.
  • Learn more about baby's sleep.

Elimination: Urine

  • The normal urine color for your baby is light to dark yellow.
  • Expect a bottle-fed baby to have about 6 to 10 wet diapers a day.
  • Breastfed babies have fewer wet diapers to start, and the number closely matches the days the baby is old. If your breastfed baby is 3 days old, expect 3 wet diapers.
  • With more breast milk, you can expect an increased number of wet diapers.

Elimination: Bowel Movements

  • After each bowel movement, thoroughly clean and dry your baby's diaper area.
  • After the first few days, you baby's bowel movements will become lighter in color and softer. Bowel movements will change from dark green or black to yellow/green if your baby is breastfed, and change to yellow/tan if bottle-fed.
  • If stools become firm, or your baby strains with bowel movements, call your pediatrician.

Bathing

  • Until your baby's umbilical cord stump falls off, give only sponge baths. Do not soak the umbilical cord area.
  • Bathing too often will dry your baby's sensitive skin. For the first year, bathe your baby about 2-3 times a week.
  • Avoid lotions, powders or oils.
  • Do not bathe your baby in a full-size bathtub. Use a sink or small plastic basin.
  • Test the temperature to be sure the water feels warm, not hot.
  • Never leave your baby unattended during bath time - not even for a moment.
  • Read more about bathing your baby, including how to give a sponge bath.

Cord Care

  • Keep your baby's umbilical cord stump clean and dry until it falls off in about 1-3 weeks.
  • Avoid covering the cord with the diaper.
  • If the cord becomes red, has pus at the base, or your baby cries when the skin surrounding the cord is touched, call your pediatrician.

Penis Care: Circumcised

  • Avoid disturbing the circumcision site until it heals. The site will be red for a few days and may have a small amount of drainage. Complete healing usually takes 7-10 days.
  • A small, circular Surgicel bandage may be wrapped around the upper edge of the penis. Allow this to fall off on its own as the area heals.
  • If no bandage is used, you can apply Vaseline to the front of the diaper for the first several days to keep the penis from sticking to the diaper.
  • Until the circumcision is healed, cleanse the area by squeezing a washcloth soaked with warm water (plain or soapy) over the area.
  • If redness persists, or you notice cloudy drainage or swelling, more than a few drops of blood or fever over 100 degrees, call your pediatrician.

Penis Care: Uncircumcised

  • Gently wash your baby's penis with soap and water while bathing.
  • Do not try to pull the foreskin back because you could injure your baby. Boys are born with the foreskin connected to the head of the penis. The foreskin will not be able to retract, or be pulled back from the head of the penis, for several months to years.
  • Your pediatrician will tell you when you baby's foreskin has separated and can be safely pulled back for an occasional, gentle cleaning of the end of the penis.
  • If your baby has a weak or dribbling urine stream, pain or difficulty urinating, or any swelling, redness, secretion or displacement of the foreskin, call your pediatrician.

Nail Care

  • Keep fingernails short and smooth so your baby does not scratch himself/herself.
  • Plan to trim nails when your baby is sleeping, less active or after a bath if your baby  stays still enough.
  • Use a soft emery board, baby nail clippers or blunt-nosed toenail scissors.
  • Trim fingernails about twice a week. Trim toenails, which need not be kept as short as fingernails, once or twice a month.
  • Trim only the nail, not the skin surrounding the nail.

Taking Baby's Temperature

  • Unless your health care provider directs otherwise, take the axillary (armpit) temperature of your baby.
  • The normal range for axillary temperatures is 97.8 to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If your baby's temperature goes above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, call your pediatrician.

Safety Inside and Out

Car Seat: Always use a car seat that is installed correctly, facing backward in the back seat.
For more information:
Outdoors: Feel free to take your baby outside. Make sure the baby is dressed properly and avoid sunburn. Do not apply sunscreen until the baby is 6 months old.

Crowds: Because your baby's immune system is not as mature as yours, avoid enclosed crowded places for the first few months, especially during flu season.

Handwashing: Make sure that you and others wash hands well and often when handling the baby.

Smoke: For your baby's overall health, and to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

When to Call Your Pediatrician

  • Temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (axillary /armpit temperature)
  • Blood in baby's diaper (for a baby girl, a few tiny blood spots or rust-colored urine may be normal in the first few days)
  • Sweating or flushed skin
  • Unusual sleepiness, difficulty awakening baby
  • Poor appetite
  • Watery loose stools, more than 6-8 per day
  • No bowel movement in 24 hours
  • Very irritable baby
  • Firm, hard, swollen stomach
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish tint to baby's skin
  • Yellowish tint to baby's skin or eyes

Protecting Your Baby's Hearing

While in the hospital, we will screen your baby's hearing.

About Jaundice and Your Baby

Jaundice is a condition which sometimes develops in newborn babies.

 

About your baby from our online health library:

Read more about your amazing newborn through these, and other topics in our online health library.