Baby Basics: 9 Must-Know Tips
After you’ve finished reading about prenatal vitamins and how to manage pregnancy symptoms, it’s time to educate yourself about taking care of your baby with these baby basics!
Everyone will have their own advice and opinions about the various decisions you will make: Breastfeeding or bottle feeding? Schedule naps or not? Circumcise or not? However, there are many non-negotiable and must-know baby basics.
This guide will outline 9 pieces of information you need to know before you give birth to your baby.
Newborn Baby Basic: Caring for Umbilical Stump
After you give birth, your baby’s umbilical cord will be clamped, leaving a stump on his or her belly button. The stump typically falls off between 1 and 3 weeks. To properly care for the stump, keep it clean by giving your baby sponge baths rather than tub baths. Cleaning the stump with rubbing alcohol was once recommended, but is now thought to slow healing. Instead, if the stump gets dirty, simply clean it with warm water and a soft washcloth.
A diaper with loose clothing will allow the air to speed up the drying process and help the stump to fall off. Fold the diaper down so the stump isn’t covered. You should avoid dressing your baby in tight pants and shirts during this time.
The stump rarely gets infected; however, if it is, the surrounding skin will be red and leak a yellow discharge. Your baby may also cry when you touch the stump if it’s not healing properly. If this happens, contact your pediatrician. As it’s healing, it’s normal if there is some blood near the stump. There may also be bleeding when the stump falls off.
Your Baby Won’t Smile Right Away
You want your newborn to be happy, but don’t be worried if he or she doesn’t smile in the first month and a half — it’s completely normal! For the first 6 weeks, your baby is a complainer! He will strictly give you cues about what he needs. Any smiles before this period are likely a reflex smile (similar to a leg jerk) and not in response to anything you say or do.
When his real smile takes form, he will respond to noises and faces and you will see a happy glimmer in his eyes. If your baby doesn’t smile by four months, talk to your pediatrician. Not smiling in response to your smile could be an early sign of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Babies Cry a Lot — And That’s Normal
You want your baby to be the happiest baby ever, so you might be concerned when you hear him or her cry excessively. According to MedlinePlus, a baby 6 months or younger will normally cry for about 1 to 3 hours each day. Crying doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sad or upset, it is simply their way of communicating their needs.
A baby may cry for a number of reasons:
- Dirty diaper
- Feeling too cold
- Wants attention
To stop your baby from crying, you will need to figure out what he or she is trying to say and fulfill that need. For example, if a baby is crying out of loneliness, holding and talking to him should calm him down. If you notice that your baby is crying significantly more than usual and your normal tricks aren’t working, you should visit your pedestrian to ensure he is healthy.
How to Change a Diaper
This is one of the most obvious things you will have to learn before your baby is born. If you’ve been around many children, chances are you’re a seasoned professional at diaper changing. However, if you’ve never changed a diaper before, here are a few pointers:
- Wash your hands beforehand.
- Place the back half of the new diaper under your baby’s bottom while he’s still wearing his dirty diaper. This will help contain the mess.
- Undo the dirty diaper tabs and use the front of the diaper to wipe his bottom and remove any poop.
- Fold the diaper in half, putting the clean side up and under your baby’s bottom.
- Clean your baby from front to back and gently pat dry with a cloth. At this stage, you can choose to apply a cream to treat diaper rash.
- Remove the dirty diaper from under your baby and discard.
- The new diaper should still be underneath your baby. Pull the front half up to the waist. Fasten the tabs. The diaper should comfortably fit without being too tight.
If you’re a visual learner, watch the instructional video below:
Babies Sleep a Lot — But You Won’t
Every pregnant woman knows that once she has her baby, her own sleep will be minimal. Despite your lack of rest, your baby will likely sleep most of the day. Newborns can sleep up to 17 hours; however, they wake up every 2 or 3 hours to eat. If you’re worried that your baby is waking up too often, while tiring, it’s likely normal. Here’s a guide for how much sleep your baby should be getting at his or her age.
Starting around 6 to 8 weeks, your baby should begin sleeping for longer periods of time during the night. By 6 months, most babies can sleep for at least 8 hours through the night.
How to Install a Car Seat
Before you go into labor, you should already have an infant seat installed. In fact, many hospitals will not allow you to take your baby home until they see that you have properly installed an infant seat. A properly installed seat can save your baby’s life.
Unfortunately, almost half of car seats are not installed correctly, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A common mistake is a seat that is installed too loosely and can move more than an inch from side to side. Chest clips are also often positioned incorrectly. To learn how to properly install an infant seat, read the owner’s manual that came with your product. To see a visual tutorial, watch the video below.
Child Proofing is Essential
Before you have your baby, you should start looking at your home through a new lens. Normal areas become danger zones and everyday items become choking hazards.
Floor-level cabinets: Cabinets that a baby can reach and open when crawling can pose threats. Under the sink cabinets in the kitchen and washroom often contain toxic chemicals and cleaning supplies that could hurt your baby. Keep these products in high cupboards and purchase childproof safety latches.
Cords: Blind cords should be tied up to prevent strangulation. Electrical cords should be out of a baby’s reach to prevent him or her from chewing on them.
Small items: Knickknacks on coffee tables or anywhere in the baby’s reach can pose choking hazards. Store these small items high up on a shelf.
Since it’s impossible to baby proof everything, you should always be watching your baby unless she is safe in her crib or playpen.
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is the unexplained death of a baby less than 12 months old. Although there is no way to 100% prevent SIDS, there are some precautions that researchers have found minimize the risk:
- Sleep on back. When you put your baby down to sleep, place him or her on their back rather than on the side or stomach.
- Clear crib. A firm mattress and light bedding should be the only items in the crib. Avoid adding pillows or stuffed animals.
- Sleep in parent’s room. Until they reach 12 months, your baby’s crib should be in your room. Do not sleep with your baby in your bed.
- Give baby a pacifier. If your baby enjoys pacifiers, give her one whenever she sleeps.
- If you’re able to breastfeed for at least six months, you will lower your baby’s risk.
Baby Gas Prevention
Since babies frequently cry, eat and suck on pacifiers, they have many opportunities to swallow air and become gassy. A gassy baby can become fussy, cry and develop gas pains.
If you bottle feed your baby, use a slower nipple and tilt the bottle on an angle to prevent air bubbles. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, make sure your baby’s head is up higher than his stomach.
After he is finished eating, burp him by holding him against your chest or laying him across your lap and gently pat his back. If he doesn’t burp, try switching positons. A warm bath may also calm a gassy baby.
What is the best newborn baby advice you’ve received so far? Share your tips below! If you have friends or family members that are pregnant, share this essential information with them, too!
P.S. Can’t wait for your baby to be born? You and your partner can feel even closer to him or her by using our fetal dopplers. The at-home device allows you to hear your baby’s heartbeat!