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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Are There Cold Medicine Alternatives for Babies?

My baby has a cough and congestion, but I've been following the news and know I shouldn't use cold meds. Are there any safe ways to help my baby feel better?

Re: My baby has a cough and congestion, but I've been following the news and know I shouldn't use cold meds. Are there any safe ways to help my baby feel better?

The Bump Expert

You're talking about the FDA's recommendation that antihistamines and decongestants not be given to children under age two. Pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, says to even avoid giving children cold medicine until age three or four. Luckily, we've got some easy and effective non-medicinal alternatives.

[  ] Make your own steam room. Dress baby in light layers (no blanket), bring her in the bathroom and close the door, and run a hot shower. Sit for 10-15 minutes up to four times a day, and wipe baby's nose or use a bulb syringe afterwards. Remember -- never leave baby alone in the bathroom or bring her in the shower.

[  ] Keep baby in an upright or semi-upright position to encourage nasal drainage. You can also put a pillow under the on end of her crib mattress to elevate her head, but never put pillows in the actual crib.

[  ] Use a humidifier to keep the air moist and prevent nasal secretions from drying out. Use filtered or distilled water (tap water can cause particle buildup and create filmy dust), and clean and dry it every day. Stay away from hot water vaporizers, which can scald or burn.

[  ] Give baby lots of fluid to thin nasal secretions and prevent dehydration, especially if baby has diarrhea.

[  ] Clear baby's nose with a bulb syringe. Squeeze the bulb, gently stick the tip in her nostril, then release.

[  ] Ask your doctor about saline nose drops, which can also loosen mucus.

Plus, more from The Bump:

What to Do When Baby Is Sick

Runny or Stuffy Nose in Baby

Baby Coughing

Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician with Children’s Medical Group P.C. in Atlanta and author of Heading Home With Your Newborn (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010)

Q&A: Cold medicine alternatives for babies?

If baby is older than 3 months use Vick's Vapor Rub. We rub it on our daughter's back, chest and feet before putting her to bed. It seems to help with the congestion.

MeganJack1 |

Q&A: Cold medicine alternatives for babies?

I agree with the Vick's but it must be baby rub because it doesn't have camphor or menthol so it is not harmful for baby.

mjconklin |

Q&A: Cold medicine alternatives for babies?

For babies 3 months to 2 years you can us the Vicks Baby Rub. VIcks Vapor Rub is only for children 2 years and older.

bonnie_dvorak |