Being a parent to a newborn is a wonderful experience, but at times taking care of your newborn can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially if you are a first-time parent. What’s even more challenging, is the fact that the first few weeks of your new born baby are most critical in terms of the precautions you need to take when looking after your newborn. Also, chances are that you may find yourself stuck between contradicting advices about how to take care of your newborn.
That said, if you too are experiencing a similar issue and are clueless of which way to go, here are a few aspects of new born baby care that you must keep in mind for the overall growth and development of your baby.
1. Breastfeeding your baby
Breast milk has all the necessary ingredients that a baby needs to grow. It is an ideal nutrition with a perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fats. Breast milk also lowers the risk of babies falling sick or developing any allergy as it contains antibodies that help fight viruses and bacteria. Infant formulas on the other hand are not just less easily digestible, but it has also been observed that babies who are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months are less prone to infections, illnesses and other health issues.
Besides the above mentioned nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, it also helps strengthen the emotional bond between the mother and the baby. The physical closeness of nursing promotes emotional closeness that plays an important role in a baby’s development. Also, breastfeeding leads to the release of hormones in the mother’s body thereby promoting mothering behavior.
The colostrum(milk secreted during first few days of lactation) must never be discarded and all babies should invariably receive it because it is rich in energy, protein and protective antibiotics. There is no need to administer any prelacteal feeds in form of honey, glucose, water, tea etc. The child should be on demand feeding and most babies are satisfied with feeds taken every 2 to 3 hours. The baby should be allowed to suck at the breast till he/she is satisfied which usually take 15-20 minutes. During each feed one breast must be emptied completely before the baby is put to other breast. The mother should actively interact with baby while feeding and fondly with him so that he/she does not fall asleep half way through feed.
2. Making the baby burp
After breastfeeding a newborn baby, you must make them burp. It’s important because babies often tend to swallow air while getting fed, and this can lead to gas or colic in tummies. Making the baby burp helps expel that extra air thereby preventing stomach colic or gas and improving their digestion. If the baby is being fussy it’s an indication that you need to make them burp. Make them burp every 5 minutes if you are breastfeeding them and switching breasts. In case you are bottle-feeding them, make them burp after every 2-3 ounces.
To make the baby burp, you need to hold them against your chest and gently pat their back. Another way is to lay the baby face-down on your lap. Make sure that as you support your baby’s head it should be at a level higher than their chest, before you gently pat or stroke their back.
3. Taking care of the umbilical stump
Caring for the umbilical cord of a newborn baby is one of the most important aspects of newborn baby care. It is recommended that babies should be given a sponge bath with lukewarm water and then dry their body using a clean absorbent cloth.
Also, it is recommended that one should disinfect their hands before touching the body, in order to avoid any infections, especially to the umbilical cord stump. In case there are any signs of infections such as redness, smelly discharge or swelling in the navel area then the baby should be taken to a pediatrician. As a new parent, you need to take all these precautions for the first few weeks until the umbilical cord falls off (5-10 days). During this period, you will notice a change in the color of the umbilical cord stump – from yellow to brown (or black). All this is normal and you need not worry about the color change, unless a redness develops in that area.
4. Bathing the newborn
Make sure you bathe them only in lukewarm water. Also, ensure that you have other bathing essentials ready, too.Usually newborns are bathed or sponged next morning using unmedicated soap and clean lukewarm water(till 4-6 weeks). After that you must have a mild baby wash(pH 5.5) or soap, diaper, baby cream or lotion, soft towel, infant bathtub and other essentials ready before you give the newborn a bath.
When bathing the baby, take help of your partner or a family member. While one of you bathes the baby the other person would be required to hold the baby’s neck and head above the water. Besides washing the baby’s head, scalp, hair, neck and face, make sure you wash their genitals and any mucous that might have got collected near the nose area. Once done, rub the baby’s body with a soft towel, apply baby cream and put on baby clothes along with a fresh diaper.
5. Dressing the baby
The Cloth should be loose, soft and preferably made of cotton.They should be open on the front or back for ease of wearing. Avoid the use of large buttons which may hurt the tender skin of baby. The nappies should be made of thick, soft and absorbent material in order to readily soak the urine and stool. The woolen clothes should not be stored and preserved with moth balls because of risk of development of severe jaundice in a baby who are deficient in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase enzymes in his blood. When woolens had been protected with moth balls they should be exposed to bright sunlight for 1 to 2 days before being worn.
6. Changing Diapers
Babies usually wet a minimum of 6 to 8 diapers in day, if they are getting adequate diet. Keep checking their diaper from time to time and change it the moment you feel its full. It’s important because if you don’t change their diapers on time it could lead to rashes which in turn would make the baby fussy.
Here are a few things you would need to change your baby’s diaper.
- Wet wipes (or a cloth and lukewarm water)
- A fresh diaper
- Changing table or bed
- Baby Lotion
- Ointment for rashes
- Diaper fastener (depending upon the type of diaper you are using)
7. Massaging the baby
Massaging your new born baby will not only help you improve their blood circulations, tone of the muscles, but it’s also a great way to bond with your baby. However, massage of the baby should be postponed till baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and his body weighs more than 3 kg. When massaging the baby, spread a small quantity of baby oil or lotion on their back and gently massage it. Once you are done massaging their back turn the baby with their chest facing towards you and then gently massage their chest, their hands and their legs. Average massage session should last for about 15-20 minutes. And yes, don’t forget to maintain eye contact with them.
Babies are not as strong as adults, and therefore, you need to be gentle when massaging your baby. Also, it’s a good idea to talk to them and make different sounds while massaging them as it will help you bond better with your little one. You can use olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil or coconut oil for massaging the baby. But avoid using mustard oil as it has a pungent smell and irritating to delicate skin of baby.
8. Maintaining the newborn’s body temperature
Newborn babies usually have unstable body temperature and it during winter they are prone to develop hypothermia. Temperatures that make an adult feel uncomfortable may seriously affect a newborn baby, and therefore, it is important to ensure that the babies are adequately clothed. Keep them covered from head to toe and make sure you cover their head with a warm woolen cap and keep their feet covered in warm woolen socks, too.
Avoid bathing the baby and keep them dry. The closer the baby is to their mother, the more warmth they would drew from her. Make sure the room is warm enough. Usually, the new born baby and the mother are kept dyad isolated for 40 days. It not helps prevent the baby from contracting any infections, but it also helps safeguard the baby from cold stress. Massaging the baby on a regular basis also helps a lot in maintaining the body temperature of newborns.
9. Taking care of their eyes
Use sterile cotton swabs that are soaked in normal saline to clean the eyes daily. Use one swab for each eye. In case the eyes are sticky, 10 percent solution of sulphacetamide should be instilled after every 2-4 hours. Lastly, do not apply kajal as it may transmit infection that might even lead to ‘lead poisoning.’
As a parent to a new born baby you might feel a little anxious about handling your newborn, but that’s okay. Simply follow the above-mentioned aspects of new born baby care and you will soon develop a routine and become a pro at taking care of your newborn baby.