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: Which solids are safe for baby?

I know about the obvious choking hazards (grapes, candy, hot dogs) but are there others that I should be aware of to keep my baby safe?

Re: I know about the obvious choking hazards (grapes, candy, hot dogs) but are there others that I should be aware of to keep my baby safe?

The Bump Expert

Kids under age five can choke on food and small objects.  Believe it or not, a lot of the choking prevention advice for babies still holds for children up to 4 to 7 years old!

[  ] Your baby should sit up while eating, and be supervised at all times

[  ] Don't hurry your child when eating -- allow plenty of time for meals

[  ] Only put a small amount of food on the tray at a time

[  ] Avoid peanut butter -- it’s a greater allergy risk at early ages and is a choking hazard

[  ] Avoid round, firm foods and chunks (hot dogs, nuts, meat/cheese chunks, whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, popcorn, raw carrots, other firm, raw fruit or vegetable chunks)

[  ] Avoid foods that are sharp or angular (tortilla chips, potato chips, bagel chips)

[  ] Avoid foods that are small enough to be accidentally inhaled instead of swallowed (seeds, shelled nuts, popcorn, raisins)

[  ] Avoid stringy foods like string beans and celery.

[  ] Do not offer your baby honey before one year of age due to risk of botulism

[  ] The size of the pieces of food that you offer your baby depends on their oral motor skills. Start small, and when you think they are ready to progress, make the pieces a little bit larger. If it appears that your baby is not able to manage it in their mouth, go back to the smaller size, and try again with the larger size in a couple of weeks.

Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, nutritionist