Baby Care Basics:
5 Must-Know Tips for That First Week Home

1. Baby wipes
Most docs recommend avoiding premoistened diaper wipes for the first month of baby's life since some of their chemicals can irritate a newborn's tender skin. Instead, use cotton balls dipped in warm water. When baby’s ready for regular wipes, choose ones that are alcohol-free and unscented to prevent irritation.

2. Bath time
Until baby’s umbilical cord is off and healed, baby can only take sponge baths. Start by soaking your baby a little. Make sure to always keep one hand on baby, and remember that infants are especially slippery when wet. Start with his face–one area at a time since covering the whole face with a washcloth can be scary -- and work your way down. Make sure to thoroughly wash inside all the folds (under the arms, in the neck, the genital area, etc.) and save baby’s dirtiest parts -- aka the diaper area -- for last. Then, move back up and wash baby’s hair. And note: There’s no need to bathe more than every few days.

3. Newborn skin
At birth, baby's skin will probably appear to be dry. How come? It’s in the process of peeling off an entire waterproof layer of sorts. But in general, a baby's skin doesn’t need much specialized care -- just lots of TLC. A mild cleanser is safe, though many people recommend just plain water. Your baby's face takes a lot of abuse (just think of all that spitting!), so do your best to keep it clean. But if baby's skin seems excessively dry, irritated or itchy, or if you notice a rash or breakout, consult your pediatrician ASAP.

4. The umbilical cord get sucked into registering for cute toys or outfits Umbilical cord care has changed dramatically over the last 20 years; now, many hospitals recommend doing nothing but keeping the cord dry (read: sponge baths only). But some pediatricians still recommend using alcohol on the cord with each diaper change to speed up the healing process. That way you’ll be able to give your baby real baths, as opposed to sponge baths, sooner. So find out what your doctor recommends.

5. Fingernails and toenails
The safest way to keep a newborn’s nails short is to just file them and not cut them at all. Since the skin of the fingers is usually attached to the back of the nail, cutting the nails often results in nipping the fingertip too (ouch!). Even though the bleeding is minor and can be stopped quickly with a little pressure, it's very upsetting to the parent -- and always seems like a lot more blood than it really is! Once baby is a little older (18 months), you can cut their nails while they’re asleep.

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Is it safe for baby to be in high-altitude areas?

I’m worried about baby’s health in high altitudes. Should I be concerned, and what can I do to make sure baby’s okay.

Re:

I’m worried about baby’s health in high altitudes. Should I be concerned, and what can I do to make sure baby’s okay.

The Bump Expert

Your baby might have some discomfort at high altitudes (the same as you would), but as long as she’s three months or older (her lungs won’t be mature enough prior to that), it’s not dangerous to take her on that family trip to the mountains. If you live in a high-altitude city, your baby will adapt to the pressure and lower oxygen level more quickly. Note: A high altitude is considered to be anything over 1,500 meters, or 4,921 feet.

Symptoms of altitude sickness:

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three types of altitude-related illness:

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS): Even though it has the word acute in the name, AMS is actually the mildest, most common type of altitude sickness. People may get this due to reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels. Symptoms of AMS include difficulty sleeping, dizziness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, rapid heart rate, and shortness of breath.

High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is a serious condition in which people experience shortness of breath (even while resting), persistent coughing and exercise intolerance. Some may even cough up pink, frothy spit (which indicates that there’s fluid in the lungs).

High-Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE, another serious condition, causes difficulty when walking, severe lethargy and a loss of focus.

How to treat altitude sickness

If baby is having trouble acclimating to the high altitudes, she might have a hard time catching her breath, difficulty sleeping, reduced appetite or upset stomach, and she might be irritable (sounds like a vacation from hell, doesn’t it?). She could start feeling the effects anytime within the first 36 hours after you hit a high altitude. Trust us, if baby’s not adapting to the altitude change well, she’ll let you know with those signs. You can help baby cope with high altitudes by keeping her hydrated (nurse her or give her formula more often), bringing layers of clothing to help baby acclimate to the temperature change, or taking her to a lower altitude. The faster you and baby travel to a high altitude, the more likely either of you could get altitude sickness. Plan your trip so that you have enough time to travel slowly and help baby (and you!) get used to the change.

In some severe cases, baby might need to use an oxygen tank to transition better. If you find that baby is struggling or working harder to breathe, has flared nostrils or has decreased activity, you should contact baby’s doctor right away.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Car Seat Safety

How to Prepare for Baby's First Trip

Your Guide to Keeping Baby Safe

Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, pediatrician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group and instructor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine