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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you asked...

My baby bangs his head. Is that normal?

Should I be freaked out that my baby bangs his head on the wall?

Re:

Should I be freaked out that my baby bangs his head on the wall?

The Bump Expert

Banging his head is totally normal. Infants are in an exploration phase. They’re developing an understanding of cause and effect. They’re also developing control over their motor system, and baby banging his head is one way of doing all that. As long as baby’s development is in an appropriate range for his age and he’s not hurting himself, it’s probably not a sign that something’s wrong, and he’ll grow out of it. You definitely should mention it to baby’s pediatrician, though, to be sure it’s not a sign of a developmental issue. To keep baby from hurting himself, you might want to surround him with soft things while he’s awake (but not in his crib, since they could pose a suffocation hazard).

Toddlers express their anger and frustration in different ways and sometimes bang their heads against walls too. If you’ve got a toddler who’s doing this, you’ll want to teach him to deal with his emotions in a way that won’t hurt! Offer him a different outlet for his anger. Say: “I know you’re frustrated. Here’s your pillow. Let’s punch the pillow.” Or teach him to take deep breaths or some other strategy to blow off steam other than hitting his head.

Plus, more from The Bump:

10 Ways to Tame a Tantrum

Baby Milestones: Is Your Kid On Track?

Chat with other moms

Alanna Levine, MD, pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in Tappan, New York

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