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 If Baby Has a Bad Reaction to a Vaccine?

If baby’s reacting to a vaccine, will I know it? What should I do?

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If baby’s reacting to a vaccine, will I know it? What should I do?

The Bump Expert

About one in four babies has a reaction to a vaccine. Luckily, most aren’t serious -- the most common reactions are redness, pain or tenderness at the injection site, mild fever and fussiness, says Cornelia Dekker, MD. These usually go away on their own within one to three days.

A minor reaction means the vaccine is doing its job -- creating an immune response that will ultimately protect baby from infection, Dekker says. To ease pain, apply a cool wet cloth at the injection spot. If baby has a low fever, ask the pediatrician if it’s okay to give her medication, such as infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Anything more serious or concerning, you should call the doctor immediately. This includes high fever (over 104 degrees) and signs of an allergic reaction such as facial swelling, hives or difficulty breathing. Chances of an allergic reaction are rare, Dekker says -- about one in a million patients -- and usually happen within hours of the vaccination.

Expert: Cornelia Dekker, MD, is director of the Stanford Health Care-Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford Vaccine Program.

Anisa Arsenault