Your Newborn at Home: Care Instructions

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Your 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 call line 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?

Feeding

  • Feed your baby on demand. This means that you should breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby whenever he or she seems hungry. Do not set a schedule.
  • During the first 2 weeks, breastfed babies need to be fed every 1 to 3 hours (10 to 12 times in 24 hours) or whenever the baby is hungry. Formula-fed babies may need fewer feedings, about 6 to 10 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.

Sleeping

  • Always put your baby to sleep on his or her back, not the stomach. This lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Most babies sleep for a total of 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, he or she 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. It can be hard to tell when a diaper is wet if you use disposable diapers. If you cannot tell, put a piece of tissue in the diaper. It will be wet when your baby urinates.
  • Keep track of what bowel habits are normal or usual for your child.

Umbilical cord care

  • Gently clean your baby's umbilical cord stump and the skin around it at least one time a day. You also can clean it during diaper changes.
  • Gently pat dry the area with a soft cloth. You can help your baby's umbilical cord stump fall off and heal faster by keeping it dry between cleanings.
  • The stump should fall off within a week or two. After the stump falls off, keep cleaning around the belly button at least one time a day until it has healed.

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 call 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 https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 26, 2016