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...

Is it okay to give baby water?

Should I give my baby water? Is milk enough for baby?

Re:

Should I give my baby water? Is milk enough for baby?

The Bump Expert

You don’t need to give your baby or newborn water until she’s about four months old or when she starts solid foods. That’s because newborns get plenty of hydration from drinking breast milk and formula. And giving a young baby water can actually be harmful: A newborn’s kidneys might not be able to concentrate or process the water properly because of too much salt in the water. Water intoxication could occur if baby consumes too much water and loses too much sodium. If her sodium levels decrease in her bloodstream, that can cause brain swelling or seizures. That’s why, if you’re feeding baby formula, it’s important to make sure you follow the mixing directions carefully and don’t add extra water.

There are certain occasions where babies might need a small amount of water in very hot weather, but you’ll want to talk to baby’s pediatrician first. Once it’s time for baby to have water, if she consumes the appropriate amount of formula (up to 32 ounces a day) or breast milk (8 to 12 feedings a day), you can offer four to six ounces of water a day. Cold water can be a fun way to introduce a sippy cup when baby’s around six months old, and it can be soothing on teething gums.

If you’re worried that baby’s dehydrated, you can look for warning signs like she isn’t urinating the normal four to six times a day and she doesn’t have clear or pale-yellow urine. Those things would indicate that baby might be dehydrated, and you’ll need to talk to her pediatrician about the problem.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Best First Foods for Baby

When Is Juice Okay for Baby?

Is My Newborn Eating Enough?

Anita Chandra-Puri, MD, pediatrician with Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group and instructor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Is it okay to give baby water?

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