The Newborn

The newborn's skin is red, blotchy, dry, scaly, and too big for the body during the first weeks. There may be little white patches or blisters over the nose. These are normal. By the 3rd or 4th day, the skin may-have a slight yellow shade. This is normal and fades in a few days.

The head may be nice and oval or odd-shaped with ridges owing to shifting during the birth process. The head will regain its oval, smooth look within the first weeks and months of life. The soft spot on the top of the head will close by the time the baby is 12 to 18 months old.

The baby's eyes will remain shut a good deal of the time in the beginning. They may be puffy, swollen and red for a few days.

On the baby's abdomen will be the cord - a white, elastic-looking tube with a metal or plastic clamp attached. The cord will dry to a black, hard stick and fall off by 1 to 3 weeks. Use rubbing alcohol to clean around the cord. The baby should be given only sponge baths in warm soapy water until the cord falls off.

Some babies have swollen nipples that ooze small amounts of white liquid. This is normal and goes away by itself. It is best not to squeeze the nipple. Some people call this "witch's milk", but it is normal, and has nothing to do with witches!

The genitals of boys and girls is often swollen. Little girls often have a white, cloudy discharge for several weeks. This is normal.

Babies frequently hold their leas and arms curled close to their bodies because they have been in that position in your uterus for 9 months.

While a newborn comes equipped to do some things, like breathe, sleep, and eliminate, many things must be learned and perfected.

Feeding:

Babies will let you know when they are hungry by crying, moving their leas and arms, making sucking noises, and maybe even sucking their fingers. Your baby will probably want to eat every 2 to 4 hours. If your baby wants to eat more or less frequently than this, please discuss this with us.

Both you and the baby should enjoy feeding time. Babies like to be held during their feedings. You should sit in a comfortable chair and relax during this time. Burp your baby (by patting the back while the baby is over your shoulder or by propping the baby in a sitting position on your lap and running your fingers up the back) halfway through and at the end of each feeding. Your baby may not have a bubble each time. If the infant is turned on the stomach or side after the feeding, any leftover bubbles will rise by themselves. Some babies need to be stimulated during feedings, otherwise they will just go back to sleep (this is especially true of breast fed babies).

Bowels:

Babies have varying patterns for bowel movements. At first movements may be very frequent - with every feeding, 6 to 8 times a day. But with time they will taper off to one a day or one every 2 to 3 days. The first bowel movements are black and sticky. Within a few days they turn to a light yellow-green and have a soft, pasty consistency.

Sleeping:

Infants usually sleep between 20 to 22 hours a day. This tapers off as they grow older. Some babies seem to need less sleep than others. The baby may sleep in a bassinet, basket or crib beside your bed or in a separate room, if you like. The crib should have a firm mattress and be covered with a waterproof covering. No pillow is needed. In chilly weather it is wise to put the baby in sleepers with feet or in nighties with tied-in bottoms in case the covers are kicked off. Have your baby sleep on his back or side - not his belly, as this may increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Bathing:

Until the navel and circumcision are healed the baby needs only a sponge bath. Then the baby may be propped up in a small tub of water and washed with a mild soap. Be careful since a wet baby is slippery.

Cord care- The cord will dry and fall off in the first 3 weeks. The cord can be kept dry by dropping 70% rubbing alcohol from a cotton ball or a Q-tip on the navel 2 to 3 times each day.

Skin care- The skin at the creases may be dry and flaky. This condition usually disappears by itself or with a small application of petroleum jelly or mineral oil. A small amount of cornstarch may be applied to the diaper area. Do NOT use talcum powder, as this can cause lung problems in babies (as well as adults!).

Scalp care- The baby's head should be washed daily. Later with soap, use firm finger pressure over the entire scalp (including the soft spot) and rinse. If you wish to use oil, apply it right before the baby's bath; comb the hair with a fine baby comb and wash.

Circumcision care- Circumcision is the removal of extra skin from the end of the penis. Some doctors leave a small plastic ring around the penis. This will fall off by itself after several days. The penis is frequently red and swollen for a day or two. Frequently, the diaper will show a trace of blood. The area should be kept clean and as dry as possible. Sometimes a small amount of petroleum jelly also helps. Keep the diaper off (if possible), as this helps keep the area dry.

Clothing:

Keep it comfortable and simple. In the summer, remember babies get warm, too.

Washing- Diapers and clothes should be washed in Ivory soap, rinsed well, and if possible, hung in the sun to dry. Avoid detergents, water softeners, and presoaks. They cause rashes. Diapers may be soaked in a solution of borax (1/2 cup to 1 gallon of water) while awaiting washing. Additional rinses (or a final vinegar rinse) also help.

Safety:

Support the head when picking the baby up or holding the baby. Do not leave the baby unattended on the bed, sofa or sink. Do not use a pillow in the crib. Always test the bath water before placing the baby in the tub. This can be done by dipping your wrist or elbow in the water to make certain it is not too hot.