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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Q&A: How can I tell if baby’s having a seizure?

How can I recognize baby’s convulsions, and what should I do if she has one?

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How can I recognize baby’s convulsions, and what should I do if she has one?

The Bump Expert

There’s no doubt that convulsions are scary stuff, but the good news is that they’re very rare (epilepsy only affects 1 percent of the general population). So why does baby have convulsions if she isn’t epileptic? Well, think of the brain as a circuit board, where electrical impulses allow us to do things like move our arms and legs, eat, drink and so on. A convulsion (also called a grand mal seizure) occurs when there’s a short circuit and all the electrical circuits are flying at the same time. This results in baby’s whole body shaking, and the shakes won’t stop even when you hold baby down. But if baby stops shaking when you hold her down, she probably just has the chills, which can come with a fever.

Lots of parents worry about febrile seizures. These occur in about one out of every 25 children between the ages of six months and five years (the older she is, the less likely she is to have one). They’re typically harmless, and there’s no evidence that they cause brain damage, but parents do worry that if baby has a high fever, she’ll have a seizure. That’s a myth -- fever-induced seizures are more likely if the fever rises at a fast rate, rather than just having the high fever itself. (Baby is more likely to have a febrile seizure if your family has a history of them, though.)

If baby is having convulsions, make sure there’s nothing in her mouth, move her onto a flat surface, turn her onto her side and call 911. A seizure typically lasts under 15 minutes, and once baby’s taken to the hospital, she’ll be given medication to stop the seizure, and doctors will carefully monitor her to make sure her breathing is in check. And mama, remember to stay calm. We know this is way easier said than done, but trust us -- it will help out in the long run.

Dr. Cheryl Wu