Baby care 101
Information and tips for caring for your newborn.
1. How do I choose a doctor for my baby?
You can ask your healthcare provider to recommend a primary care physician or pediatrician. Friends with children can also offer advice. Consider the doctor's hours, location, availability, method of payment and support personnel when making your decision. Also meet potential doctors and visit their offices.
2. How long does it usually take for a baby's umbilical cord to fall off?
The end of your baby's umbilical cord should dry up and fall off within one to three weeks. The abdomen shouldn't be immersed in water until the cord has fallen off. Until then, give your baby sponge baths only, and call your doctor if the area around the cord looks red or develops an unpleasant odor or any discharge.
3. My newborn's skin looks blotchy. Should I be concerned?
If you notice your baby has blotchy skin or colder-than-usual hands or feet, there is usually no cause for alarm. Try moving your baby's hands and feet; they should turn pink again right away. Newborn babies can't immediately regulate their internal temperature like adults can, so it's important to keep them dressed for warmer or cooler weather. In general, dress your baby in one more layer of clothing than you would wear.
Your baby may also have tiny white spots called milia on his or her face. Pimples, called baby acne, may also break out on the forehead or cheeks. Don't use medications on your newborn's skin without consulting a doctor. Any rash or pimple that develops blisters or drainage or looks like bleeding or bruising in the skin should be seen by a doctor immediately.
4. Is it better to breastfeed or bottle-feed my baby?
Breast milk is the best food for babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It contains the exact mix of protein, sugars and vitamins that babies need and helps protect them from a handful of infections. Breastfeeding also helps you return to your prepregnancy weight and helps your uterus shrink back to normal size more quickly.
Still, breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone. If you can't or choose not to breastfeed, there are several formulas to choose from that are specifically designed to meet babies' nutritional needs. Also, with bottle-feeding, everyone in the family can get involved, and you know exactly how much milk your child is getting. Your doctor can help you decide what's best for you.
5. I'm breastfeeding my baby. How can I tell if my infant is getting enough milk?
According to the AAP, there are several ways you can tell if your baby is getting enough milk. For example, your baby should have frequent wet and dirty diapers, should appear satisfied after feeding and should be gaining weight.
6. Are used cribs safe?
You should get a new crib if possible, according to the AAP. New cribs must meet stricter safety standards than older ones did, so they are safest.
7. My baby seems to cry for hours. How much crying is too much, and what should I do?
Crying is your baby's way of communicating. Without those cries, it would be hard to know when your newborn is hungry, tired, overstimulated or uncomfortable. Newborns typically cry a total of one to four hours a day. Respond quickly when your baby cries. Experts agree that you can't spoil a new baby with too much attention. Try to determine your baby's most pressing need, and take care of that first. Your infant may need feeding and a diaper change—or simply to be held and comforted.
8. How can I get my baby to sleep more at night?
One of the first things new parents learn is that babies don't come into this world knowing the difference between day and night. To help your child sleep through the night, avoid stimulation during nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Try to keep the lights low, and resist the urge to play or talk with your baby.
9. What are the baby blues?
Having a baby is a joyous time. But for some women, postpartum blues—often called the baby blues—can follow this profound emotional high. Up to 80% of women experience a brief period of blues after childbirth. Symptoms can vary—a woman may feel sad, afraid, angry or anxious. These feelings usually appear three to five days after delivery and subside after a couple of weeks. However, an estimated 10% to 20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. These symptoms are more severe, linger for weeks or months, and can be so intense that they interfere with daily living. If this describes what you are going through, consult your physician.
10. How do I know whether certain toys are safe for my baby?
Check toy labels for safety information. Some will include age recommendations. For toys your child is likely to put in his or her mouth, look for "nontoxic" on the label. Always choose well-made toys with tightly secured parts, and don't buy toys with sharp edges, small parts or sharp points. Young children can choke on toy parts smaller than 1 3/4 inches in diameter or less than 2 inches long. Also beware of toys with cords, strings or ribbons that can reach around the neck, which can be a strangling hazard.
To find out more about a specific toy's safety, check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To learn more about baby care, visit the Babies health topic center.
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