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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Q&A: What is middle ear inflammation?

How does middle ear inflammation differ from an ear infection?


How does middle ear inflammation differ from an ear infection?

The Bump Expert

Ever notice how adults rarely get ear infections, but kids seem to get one every other day? Well, that’s because kids have a horizontal middle ear canal (the area right behind the ear drum, connected to the inside of the mouth), so when fluid gets in there, it’s hard to drain out and it gets inflamed (your middle ear canal is more slanted). Don’t panic if baby is screaming, crying and red in the face -- middle ear inflammation is painful, but not threatening.

Think of middle ear inflammation as similar to a stubbed toe -- it’s swollen and painful, but it’s not an infection. The inflammation becomes an infection when fluid doesn’t drain out of the ear canal and bacteria starts to form (yuck!). To a pediatrician, this is the difference between seeing clear fluid behind the eardrum and fluid that’s thick and yellowish (double yuck!).

But as far as you’re concerned, check for changes in baby’s behavior to determine whether she has ear inflammation or an infection. If she has a cough or runny nose, but is still playing, eating, peeing and sleeping as normal, she probably just has inflammation, and it should go away on its own. But if she’s screaming, has a high fever and is having trouble sleeping, it’s most likely an infection, so you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. She’ll be able to give baby the proper antibiotics, and you’ll both feel better in no time.

Dr. Cheryl Wu

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