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Your Newborn at Home: Care Instructions


During your baby's first few weeks, you will spend most of your time feeding, diapering, and comforting your baby. You may feel overwhelmed at times. It is normal to wonder if you know what you are doing, especially if you are first-time parents. Newborn care gets easier with every day. Soon you will know what each cry means and be able to figure out what your baby needs and wants.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Feed your baby on demand. This means that you should breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby whenever they seem hungry. Do not set a schedule.
  • During the first 2 weeks, your baby will breastfeed at least 8 times in a 24-hour period. Formula-fed babies may need fewer feedings, at least 6 every 24 hours.
  • These early feedings often are short. Sometimes, a newborn nurses or drinks from a bottle only for a few minutes. Feedings gradually will last longer.
  • You may have to wake your sleepy baby to feed in the first few days after birth.


  • Always put your baby to sleep on their back, not the stomach. This lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Most babies sleep for about 18 hours each day. They wake for a short time at least every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Newborns have some moments of active sleep. The baby may make sounds or seem restless. This happens about every 50 to 60 minutes and usually lasts a few minutes.
  • At first, your baby may sleep through loud noises. Later, noises may wake your baby.
  • When your newborn wakes up, they usually will be hungry and will need to be fed.

Diaper changing and bowel habits

  • Try to check your baby's diaper at least every 2 hours. If it needs to be changed, do it as soon as you can. That will help prevent diaper rash.
  • Your newborn's wet and soiled diapers can give you clues about your baby's health. Babies can become dehydrated if they're not getting enough breast milk or formula or if they lose fluid because of diarrhea, vomiting, or a fever.
  • For the first few days, your baby may have about 3 wet diapers a day. After that, expect 6 or more wet diapers a day throughout the first month of life.
  • Keep track of what bowel habits are normal or usual for your child.

Umbilical cord care

  • Keep your baby's diaper folded below the stump. If that doesn't work well, before you put the diaper on your baby, cut out a small area near the top of the diaper to keep the cord open to air.
  • To keep the cord dry, give your baby a sponge bath instead of bathing your baby in a tub or sink.

The stump should fall off within a week or two.

When should you call for help?

Call your baby's doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has a rectal temperature that is less than 36.6°C or is 38°C or higher. Call if you cannot take your baby's temperature but he or she seems hot.
  • Your baby has no wet diapers for 6 hours.
  • Your baby's skin or whites of the eyes gets a brighter or deeper yellow.
  • You see pus or red skin on or around the umbilical cord stump. These are signs of infection.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your baby is not having regular bowel movements based on his or her age.
  • Your baby cries in an unusual way or for an unusual length of time.
  • Your baby is rarely awake and does not wake up for feedings, is very fussy, seems too tired to eat, or is not interested in eating.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.