Newborn Care Faqs

The ten most frequently asked questions about newborn care in the first weeks after getting baby home. How to handle sleep, colic, weight gain, rashes, temperatures, bowel movements, crying, bathing and going out.

In the first few weeks of parenthood, millions of questions, problems and doubts will race through your mind. They never stop. It is generally a time of settling in, getting used to a new routine (and little sleep), and also of questioning what on earth made you think you could be responsible for another human being. However you can relax, these are universal worries, and there are some universal questions we all ask and that I will attempt to answer below.

Is my child gaining enough weight?

Newborns need to be fed little and often. They probably will not settle into four hourly feeds for the first few weeks, and if the baby is breastfed remember that breastfed babies tend to gain weight erratically. One week will be a gain of about a hundred and fifty grams and the next will be about a two hundred and twenty gram weight gain. Bottle fed babies tend to start gaining weight from birth, while breastfed babies will drop in weight after birth and gain it back again from about the second week. If your child is healthy and your caregiver or clinic is happy then do not panic.

Why does my baby cry all the time?

Remember your baby can't talk. He may just want attention or be lonely. He may also be uncomfortable, hungry or hot. A baby will also cry to release tension as well as to block out intense sounds and light. Check all the above if the baby is crying and change, feed, loosen clothing or change the baby's position. If you are still concerned then take the baby's temperature and if it is over the normal range then call your GP for advice. If the cry is a panicky one then check for stray nappy pins, or hair caught in a little fist.

Is my baby too hot?

Overheating is a recognized sign of Cot Death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To avoid overheating, place the back of your hand on the tummy or the neck, if it is damp or sweaty then your child is too hot, and you need to loosen the bedding and remove one layer of clothing.

Why does my child have this rash?

Babies often get rashes for no apparent reason. If the temperature is above normal, the child is listless or won't feed then call your GP. Otherwise it could be a heat rash (remove a layer of clothing), or a nappy rash (use a nappy cream).

How can I help colic?

Approximately 20% of babies between two and four weeks of age get colic. The knees are brought up to the tummy, the child goes red in the face, and cries continuously often becoming worse in the early evening. The cause of colic is pure supposition at this time but it is thought to be exacerbated by stress hormones in mother's milk or certain foods mommy may have eaten before feeding. It is however not limited to breastfed babies. Try winding halfway through a feed, and avoid caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, cabbage and sprouts. Drinking chamomile tea may help, as it's soothing properties can be passed onto the baby through feeding.

What is the best way to bath my baby?

If the thought of placing your offspring into a tub of water is too daunting then try top and tailing her. Using clean cotton wool and cooled boiled water, wipe from the inner to the outer eye. Use fresh cotton wool for each eye. Wipe the hands and face with a soft cloth. To clean the umbilical cord, wipe around the base of the stump with cotton wool and cooled sterile water. Pat dry with cotton wool. If there was a dirty nappy, then wash the bottom using soap and water. Wipe clean again with water and pat dry.

Are his bowel movements normal?

When your baby is born his first bowel movements will be dark green or black and this is called meconium. They will then change to green/ yellow and will be soft. If the stools are hard then the baby is losing too much fluid or isn't ingesting enough. If the stools are too watery or frequent and the baby also has a temperature consult your GP. If the baby has infrequent stools, but they are soft and he is gaining weight then his bowel movements are fine.

Is it safe to leave my baby alone?

As long as you can hear your child if he cries (get a monitor if necessary), the room is a comfortable temperature and he isn't too hot then you can leave your baby alone. If you have a cat then do place netting or other covering over the pram or cot to prevent the cat climbing in, never think the cat won't. The baby is new and you have no idea what the cat might do in reality.

How do I get my baby into a sleep routine?

For the first few weeks your child cannot tell the difference between night and day. Try to only change the baby at night if he is dirty, and keep the fuss, noise and lights to minimum. Get your baby back to sleep as soon as possible, no playing! Try and lay your child on his back or side, as babies on their tummies have been linked to cot death (SIDS). A baby will often "start" or make sudden limb movements that wake him, so try and wrap him snugly into a blanket, but keep the temperature moderate.

Can I take my baby out?

Go for walks, but before you go visiting friends phone ahead to make sure no one in the house is sick. Put on one more layer than you are wearing, his chest should be warm, while his hands and feet should be slightly cooler than the rest of him.

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