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...

Why does baby cough all the time?

My baby has a cough that never goes away. Is it normal for baby to have a chronic cough?

Re:

My baby has a cough that never goes away. Is it normal for baby to have a chronic cough?

The Bump Expert

Coughs are a pretty common symptom of loads of harmless childhood illnesses, from colds to the flu. In some ways, coughing is actually a good thing -- it’s a reflex that helps protect baby’s throat and chest airways. But it’s also a signal of an irritation in baby’s air passages: the lungs or throat.

If the cough lasts for more than three to four weeks, it’s considered chronic and isn’t typically normal for infants. Common infectious causes of chronic cough include RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), pertussis (whooping cough) and tuberculosis. Noninfectious causes include gastroesophageal reflux, asthma, exposure to cigarette smoke, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies. So it’s definitely important to have baby’s doctor check him out.

To treat a cough, it’s not recommended for infants to have cough medicine, but you can try non-medicinal treatments like bulb suctioning and using a cool-mist humidifier in baby’s room, and putting baby in a more elevated position can be helpful. You should see your pediatrician if your baby has any trouble breathing, is breathing more quickly than usual, has a blue color to his lips or face, has a fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit (if baby is less than two months old) or is feeding poorly. Your pediatrician will discuss the symptoms and do a thorough physical exam, including listening closely to baby's lungs.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Dealing with Tummy Troubles

Baby's Allergies

Is Acetaminophen Safe for Baby?

jeffrey berkowitz Jeffrey Berkowitz, MD, Pediatric Specialists of Plano in Texas