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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Is Sunscreen Safe for Baby?

When can I start putting sunscreen on my baby? How should I protect her from the sun?

Re: When can I start putting sunscreen on my baby? How should I protect her from the sun?

The Bump Expert

Though many sunscreen bottles tell you not to use it on babies under six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently said that it's okay to put a little sunscreen on your infant if you have to. Before you slather it on, though, put it on a small bit of baby's skin and watch for any reaction. In an ideal world, baby's virgin skin wouldn't get any direct sun exposure. Realistically, at some point you'll probably find yourself in a setting (the beach, a picnic, a hike) where catching a few rays is inevitable. In these situations, slather the parts of her skin that might be exposed with sunscreen. Find one specifically for babies, and apply thirty minutes before you head outdoors and again every two hours.

Your first defense, though, should be true sun blockers like long-sleeved tops, pants, and a hat (look for one with a three-inch brim). Keep her under the shade of an umbrella, tent or stroller as much as possible. Don't ever bring a tiny baby outside for too long on a hot day -- their bodies can't tolerate extreme temperatures well.

The Bump Editors