Caring For Your Baby
Although in the early days, you may feel like you never have a spare moment, apart from feeding, newborns are actually fairly low maintenance. It can take time to work out what the different cries mean and what it is that your baby needs. As long as she is not hungry, has a clean nappy and is given plenty of cuddles, you will not go far wrong.
Keeping your baby clean
Do not worry too much about bathing your baby in the first few days because she will not get very dirty. It is enough to 'top-and-tail' her with cotton wool and water, and to bathe her about twice a week.
You may find the following guidelines useful:
- Make sure that the room is warm and that everything you need is at hand. There is nothing so frustrating than starting to wash your baby and then realizing that you have left the towel in another room!
- Your baby might not like being uncovered so let her wear her nappy and vest and wrap her in a towel, holding her on your lap or on the changing mat.
- Begin by gently wiping her face with cotton wool and water - there is no need to use soap. Clean behind her ears, where milk tends to collect, but never try to clean inside them because the wax that you see inside the ear helps to protect her ear drum.
- Wipe any skin creases on her neck and make sure to dry them properly, patting them with a soft towel so that they do not become sore.
- Give her hands a wipe and dry them afterwards.
- You are now ready to change her nappy (see opposite). Clean your baby's bottom, wiping from front to back, that is, towards the back passage. Use a new piece of cotton wool each time to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria. It is not necessary to clean inside the vagina of a baby girl or to pull back the foreskin of a boy.
- Make sure that you dry her bottom thoroughly before putting on a clean nappy in order to reduce the risk of nappy rash.
- Your baby's skin is very sensitive so use warm water in the first few weeks. You may prefer to use wipes but, if your baby shows any sign of nappy rash, go back to water and cotton wool until it has cleared.
If you do not have a baby bath, a new washing-up bowl is perfectly adequate for bathing a newborn baby. She will have outgrown it by the time she is 3 months old. Some babies love a bath while others do not like the feeling of being exposed. Newborns need only a quick dip in the water while, at a few weeks old, she may prefer a few minutes soaking and splashing as part of her bedtime routine! Do not put too much water in the bath: about 6 cm deep will do. Test the temperature with your elbow or wrist to make sure that it is only just warm. Never leave your baby alone in the bath.
After her bath, you may like to massage her skin gently with a small drop of baby oil, but make sure the room is comfortably warm. If your baby develops cradle cap (a yellowish crust on the scalp) gently massage in some olive oil in the evening, washing it out the following morning with a gentle baby shampoo.
The cord will separate more quickly if it is open to the air and left dry, with the nappy folded over slightly. There is no need to bathe the cord unless it becomes sticky, in which case use cotton wool and water. Your midwife will check the cord daily, and it usually drops off by the tenth day, so you do not usually have to worry about it. If the area around it becomes inflamed or the cord begins to bleed, tell your midwife or doctor.
Dressing your baby
In the first 2 or 3 weeks, you will be changing your baby's clothes frequently so you will need 6-8 stretch suits and the same number of vests or body suits. (Body suits are cosier in winter because there is no gap around the tummy.) For the first few months these can easily form the basis of your baby's wardrobe -just in progressively bigger sizes. preparation
Do not buy too many clothes at first because you will probably get some as gifts. Also it is difficult to know what size clothing your baby will need until she arrives. Hand-knitted matinee jackets may be beautiful but they are often too ornate, with holes that can catch your baby's fingers or ribbons that can get into her mouth.
Changing the nappy
Most people opt for disposable nappies, which are easy to use although not environmentally friendly. The main thing is to avoid getting nappy cream on the tabs, which makes them lose their stickiness. If this happens, just use some adhesive tape instead. Cloth nappies are cost effective, more comfortable to wear, and do not cause waste disposal problems. However they will need sterilizing, washing and folding after each use, although there are now many nappy-washing services who will do this for you.
Babies often like the security of being swaddled but it is important that they are not overheated. Therefore you should only wrap your baby in lightweight material, as well as making sure that her head is not covered unless you are going outside. If your baby seems to settle better when swaddled, make sure that the swaddling is not too tight and is only of one layer, and that you place heron her back.
When you go outside, make sure that your baby wears a hat. In summer this will protect her from the sun. In winter it will keep her warm - try to get one that will cover her ears. If the weather is cold and your baby is in a pram, pull up the hood and cover her with a couple of blankets. If you carry her in a sling, a snowsuit might be useful, but she will not need a cardigan as well because vour bodv heat will keen her warm.