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: Baby's eyes wander?

My doctor said it's normal for a newborn's eyes to appear crossed at first, but it's been seven months and my baby's eyes still don't line up. Should I be worried?

Re: My doctor said it's normal for a newborn's eyes to appear crossed at first, but it's been seven months and my baby's eyes still don't line up. Should I be worried?

The Bump Expert

You're right -- it is normal for one or both of a newborn's eyes to sometimes appear to wander, especially when they are fatigued. But, as a baby ages, this phenomenon should stop. By six months old, your baby's eyes should line up and move together all the time. If they do not, this is called strabimus. If an eye deviates outward this is called exotropia, and if it deviates inward this is called esotropia. Eyes can also deviate upward or downward.

The misalignment is often caused by differing strengths in the muscles that control eye movement. Some children are born with this condition, while others develop strabismus when they are older.

Aside from the obvious cosmetic issues, the real concern about strabismus is the confusion it causes the brain, since each eye is taking in different visual input. If this confusion persists for long enough, your child's brain will start to ignore the information being received through one of the eyes, resulting in vision loss.

If you are concerned that your child might have strabismus you should discuss your suspicions with your pediatrician. There are a few tests that they can do in the office but most likely, they will refer your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist for a more thorough evaluation. Strabismus must be treated -- it will not resolve without intervention.

Dr. Leigh Serra