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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What Happens at Baby’s 12-Month Checkup?

Baby’s 12-month checkup is coming up. What questions, procedures and immunizations should I expect?

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Baby’s 12-month checkup is coming up. What questions, procedures and immunizations should I expect?

The Bump Expert

You’ve made it to one year! This milestone calls for exciting, toddler things like real milk and sippy cups, and it also means a checkup with another round of immunizations, says Preeti Parikh, MD. Here’s what else:

Questions the doctor will ask

• Is baby crawling, walking and pulling himself up? (It’s completely okay if he’s not walking yet.)

• Has baby made the transition to solids?

• How many teeth does baby have? (It could be anywhere from zero to eight.)

• How are baby’s motor skills? Does he use both hands to pick things up?

• Does baby follow moving objects with his eyes?

• What is baby saying? It should be at least one word beyond “mama” and “dada.”

Procedures the doctor will do

Weight check. The doctor or nurse will measure and weigh baby and plot weight, height, and head circumference on a growth chart that indicates the average height and weight for boys and girls. Baby should stay within the same percentile range from checkup to checkup.

Physical. The doctor will check baby’s heart, lungs, genitals, reflexes, joints, eyes, ears and mouth. She’ll also check the shape of baby’s head and check his soft spots (fontanels) to make sure they’re developing properly.

Blood test. Baby’s blood will be screened for anemia and checked for lead.

Vaccines baby may get

• MMR
• Chickenpox
• Hepatitis A (But it can also wait until 15 months.)

Recommendations the doctor will make

• Introduce real milk, but no more than 24 ounces per day, since most calories should be coming from solids. Some babies don’t really like regular milk, so yogurt and cheese are good alternatives.

• Let baby play and feed himself with cereal to work on fine motor skills.

• Look baby in the eyes while you’re talking to work on communication development.

• Wean him off the bottle and on to sippy cups. Parikh says cups with straws are best for mouth development.

• Start weaning baby off of the pacifier. Start by taking it away during naps.

• Keep brushing baby’s new teeth.

Expert: Preeti Parikh, MD, is a pediatrician in New York City and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Anisa Arsenault