Burping. All babies need to be burped halfway through and at the end of each feeding. Burping allows excess air to be expelled from the body. If air is left in the stomach, the baby will fill up quickly and inhale less air at each feeding. There are three positions to get your baby to burp: having her look over your shoulder, face down on your lap, or sitting up. Try them all and see which one works best for you. Hold your baby with one hand while you pat or rub your baby’s back firmly with the other. If you decide to let your baby burp in a sitting position, have him lean forward and hold his head with your hand.
Change diapers. Until your baby is a month old, don’t use wrapping paper towels because it can irritate sensitive skin. Instead, use cotton balls or towels soaked in warm water to wash and dry with a dry towel or washcloth. Skip lotions and powders (lotions can irritate a newborn’s skin; talcum powder is carcinogenic and may be dangerous if an infant inhales it). Use cornstarch powder, if necessary, to keep your infant dry in warm weather (still be careful to keep the powder away from her face so she doesn’t inhale it) and ointments only if your infant has diaper rash. If the baby’s diaper is merely wet, there is no need to clean it at all; if the diaper is dirty, clean it thoroughly, always wiping from front to back (away from the genital area) for hygienic reasons.
Umbilical cord care. For the first week or two, until your baby’s umbilical cord has dried and fallen off, you should not bathe her in the tub. A quick sponge bath every few days is necessary. Many doctors recommend using only water on your newborn’s skin. Keep the umbilical cord dry and exposed to air as much as possible during the day, and wipe with alcohol at each diaper change to speed drying and keep it clean. Consult your doctor if the area around the belly button becomes red or if the stump begins to ooze.
Skin. Many newborns develop small white papules called “milia” on their nose and chin, which are caused by clogged immature sebaceous glands. Within a few weeks, these whiteheads disappear on their own – there’s no need to squeeze them out and scrub them. Babies may also develop baby acne, caused by their mother’s hormones, which are still circulating in their bodies. The only treatment needed is to wash with water two to three times a day and then pat dry. The acne should clear up within a few months and will not leave lasting marks.
Sleep. From your first day home, put your baby in his crib or bassinet when he is drowsy but still awake. That way, he’ll learn to fall asleep without your help. If he doesn’t fall asleep right away, don’t worry. If he starts to cry, you can rock him, but once he calms down, put him back in his crib – before he falls asleep. When he wakes up in the middle of the night to feed, dim the lights and feed quickly and efficiently. If you make it too enjoyable, you may encourage more frequent night feeds. If it’s too stimulating, he’ll have a hard time falling asleep again.