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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Lead Screening?

Why is there a lead screening at baby’s upcoming check-up? And what happens if my child tests positive?


Why is there a lead screening at baby’s upcoming check-up? And what happens if my child tests positive?

The Bump Expert

Believe it or not, lead is still a major cause of developmental disability in young kids. Lead, a heavy metal that was once commonly found in gasoline and house paint, can easily be ingested by children, who have an innate tendency to explore everything mouth first. That’s why kids who live in older homes -- defined as pre-1978 -- are considered at higher risk for lead poisoning. Before 1978, many homes contained lead-based paint, and it’s not at all uncommon for kids to chew on painted windowsills, door jambs, you name it. Playing in the dirt can expose kids to lead too. Dirt near homes may still contain remnants of old, lead-based paint; so can dirt near roads and highways. Lead might even be in your drinking water, as many old homes still have some lead pipes.
Lead screening is designed to assess your child’s lead exposure so that you can take steps to ensure your child’s health and well-being. There’s no “okay” level of lead in the body, but if your child shows some lead in his blood, your healthcare provider will a) give you a list of concrete steps you can take to reduce your child’s lead exposure and b) carefully track your child’s lead levels. If they go down, great. If not, additional intervention may be necessary.

Many physicians begin lead screening at six months of age; virtually all check babies’ lead levels at the one year appointment. A technician will take a small sample of your child’s blood and analyze it for the presence of lead. Results aren’t immediate, and your doctor will probably contact you in a few days to let you know the results. If your child’s lead level is high -- say, above 10 -- your doctor will probably refer you to the Department of Public Health, who can help you assess your environment for lead and make appropriate modifications.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Lead Paint Dangers

Babyproofing for a Crawler

Baby Vaccination Schedule

Michael Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center and pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center Dallas