Baby Care Basics

I looked at my baby. She looked back at me with her large, trusting brown eyes. She was tiny and helpless and completely dependent on me and on my ability to care for her. As panic settled in, I reached for a few trusted parenting books and started reading. By the time I had my second baby, two years later, I was already a pro. Here are my tips for taking care of your baby’s basic needs:Enjoy your baby! Before I dive into technicalities, this is really the key to properly taking care of your baby.

If you allow yourself to enjoy her, caring for your baby will come naturally. After all, there’s so much to enjoy. Babies are small and soft and cute. They smell great and when their tiny fist closes around your finger, it feels so good! Yes, taking care of a baby is a lot of hard work, and you are also sleep deprived which makes things even more difficult, but do remember to enjoy the good aspects of parenting a baby.

TouchingTouch your baby a lot and hold her as often as she wants to be held. Babies thrive on touch and on human attention. Use skin-to-skin contact often, and hold your baby close to you. Remember: you can’t spoil a baby. Unlike older children, babies are incapable of manipulating you. The rare exception is that some babies get over-stimulated easily and don’t like to be touched. That’s OK too. Just follow your baby’s cues. Holding and Head SupportWhen you lift your newborn from his crib, and when you hold him, always support his head and neck.

Young babies can’t hold their head up by themselves and need your support.Caring for the Umbilical CordThe cord stump should fall off within one to three weeks after birth. When you change your baby’s diaper, gently clean the cord with a cotton ball soaked with alcohol.CryingAlways respond to your baby’s cries. Yes, babies cry a lot – it’s the only way they have to communicate their needs at this point.

As I said above, babies can’t use crying to manipulate you, so don’t worry about spoiling your baby by responding to his cries. Click here to read more about why babies cry so much and what you can do to calm them down. FeedingNewborns usually eat every three to four hours. You should listen to your baby’s cues, though – some babies are hungry every two hours, especially breastfed babies, since breast milk is easier to digest. Let your baby tell you when he’s done eating – he will usually signal being full by turning away from the nipple or from the bottle.

Healthy babies, who don’t east solid food yet, rarely need water in addition to milk. BurpingBabies tend to swallow air while feeding and need to be burped after each meal. Getting your baby to burp may prove to be a challenge though! There are several burping techniques. The one that worked best for us was to hold the baby upright, with her head against our shoulder, and gently pat her back.SleepingYou can expect your newborn to sleep a lot – 16 to 20 hours a day. However, you should also expect her to wake up a lot during the night. Waking up every 2-3 hours during the night is perfectly normal for very young babies.

To prevent suffocation, place your baby to sleep on a firm, flat mattress and avoid soft, fluffy items in the crib while baby sleeps. To minimize the risk of SIDS, healthy infants should be put to sleep on their backs.BathingUntil the umbilical cord falls off, avoid a full bath – simply sponge bathe your baby. Once the cord falls off, there’s still no need for a daily bath – every other day is plenty. I used to bathe my babies in the bathroom sink. I never bothered with buying a baby bath. If you’re alone in the house, do remember to gather everything you will need close to you. You must never leave baby unattended in the bathtub. Diaper ChangingIt’s important to change wet or soiled diapers immediately. While there’s a valid argument that with today’s highly absorbent disposable diapers you can go a little longer between changing wet diapers, I always felt better when changing my babies’ diapers often. When changing a baby girl’s soiled diaper, it’s important to wipe from front to back. It’s a good idea to use gentle, fragrance-and-alcohol-free baby wipes. Nail TrimmingTo prevent baby from scratching herself, trim nails frequently with blunt edged small scissors, cutting the nails straight across.Taking care of your baby’s basic needs is a lot of hard work. In fact, it’s endless work. But it’s not a thankless job. On the contrary: your baby will reward you by blossoming into a wonderful, happy, secure human being. Taking care of your baby may feel awkward at first, but before you know it, it will feel easy and natural. Very soon, you will be a pro too!

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