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: Smart ways to play with baby?

What are some good ways to stimulate and entertain my baby? (Without TV!)

Re: What are some good ways to stimulate and entertain my baby? (Without TV!)

The Bump Expert

When baby gets bored with her toys, it's so easy to pop in a cartoon and let the TV work its magic. Baby gets hypnotized by the TV for one simple reason: The animation. The colors, sounds, and movement really engage and stimulate her. The take-away? Add a little animation into playtime! By playing to baby's senses, you can entertain and educate her. (no TV necessary!) Some crowd pleasers:

[  ] Sing songs
Babies love music. The more you change the tone and pitch of your voice, the better. Turn everyday activities into a sing-along. Make up fun songs while you're making lunch, folding laundry or cleaning. Let your playtime have a soundtrack.

[  ] Play music
Pick pleasing rhythms and melodies to stimulate baby. From classical music to The Beatles, listening to music has been linked to math aptitude... you'll have yourself a baby genius who can really groove!

[  ] Make errands fun
Take baby grocery shopping. The colors and new faces are great stimulation... plus, you can cross another item off your to-do list!

[  ] Become a storyteller
It's never too early to read to baby. The best storytellers use lots of voice inflections and tone changes -- better ham up your performance if you want to keep up with the local librarians! Hey, baby's the only one watching... what not have some fun?

[  ] Play with blocks
Find ones in fun shapes, sizes, colors, and even textures. Or, bring out the pots and pans and let baby jam. You don't need the most expensive toys when baby is content to play with things you can find around the house.

[  ] Go for a walk
But not just any walk! Stroll near a park or lake, letting baby see new things in nature. Fill the walks with the sound of your voice. Talk throughout your stroll, pointing things out to baby and engaging her in your surroundings.

Paula Kashtan