Basic tips to help you care for a newborn

Newborns need special care because their immune system is underdeveloped.

Infants and newborns are susceptible to infections.

Photo credit: shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Always support your baby's head and neck.
  • Cradle the head when carrying your baby and support the head when carrying the baby upright or when you lay the baby down.
  • Swaddling refers to wrapping up a baby gently in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm and sleep.

Being a new mother comes with a myriad of emotions. Your emotions could constantly swing between anxiety and excitement. In this piece, we share a few basic tips you can use to care for a newborn baby from world-renowned medical bodies.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Hospital says you should follow these bathing procedures when caring for your newborn baby:

  • Start by washing your hands. This should be done before you touch your baby. Newborns do not have a strong and fully developed immune system. They are susceptible to infections. This is why you must be clean to avoid transmitting any infections to them.
  • Always support your baby's head and neck. Cradle the head when carrying your baby and support the head when carrying the baby upright or when you lay the baby down.
  • Never shake your newborn. Whether you are playing with them or in frustration that they are crying too much, resist the temptation to shake them. Shaking them can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake your infant, tickle your baby's feet or blow gently on a cheek. Your newborn is not ready for rough play such as being jiggled on the knee or thrown in the air.
  • Make sure your baby is securely fastened into the carrier, stroller, or car seat. Limit any activity that could be too rough or bouncy.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Hospital also recommends you should learn how to swaddle your baby. Swaddling refers to wrapping up a baby gently in a light, breathable blanket to help them feel calm and sleep. This practice could work as a soothing technique. “Proper swaddling keeps a baby's arms close to the body while allowing for some movement of the legs,” states Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Swaddling also seems to give most newborns a sense of security and comfort. It may limit the startle reflex, which can wake a baby.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the proper way for you to swaddle your baby will include these six steps:

  • Spread out the receiving blanket, with one corner folded over slightly
  • Lay the baby face-up on the blanket with his or her head above the folded corner
  • Wrap the left corner over the body and tuck it beneath the back of the baby, going under the right arm
  • Bring the bottom corner up over the baby's feet and pull it toward the head, folding the fabric down if it gets close to the face. Be sure not to wrap too tightly around the hips. Hips and knees should be slightly bent and turned out. Wrapping your baby too tightly may increase the chance of hip dysplasia
  • Wrap the right corner around the baby, and tuck it under the baby's back on the left side, leaving only the neck and head exposed. To make sure your baby is not wrapped too tight, make sure you can slip a hand between the blanket and your baby's chest. This will allow comfortable breathing. Make sure, however, that the blanket is not so loose that it could become undone.
  • Babies should not be swaddled after they're 2 months old. At this age, some babies can roll over while swaddled, which increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Have a bedtime routine. Newborns usually sleep for 16 to 17 hours per day. Consider doing a bedtime routine every evening. Keep your baby on exclusive breast milk for the first six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that you bond with your newborn through skin-to-skin contact and experiment with various techniques to calm fussiness. Give your baby supervised tummy time two to three times per day to develop head and neck strength.

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