New mom. New adventures. Part 1: Caring for Baby

The information in this post is provided by Dr. Shilpa Ullikashi of Prevea Health.

Becoming a mother is a wonderful, life-changing event. It’s exciting and it can be a lot of fun. But there are a lot of questions that come with caring for baby – this is true whether you’re a first-time mom or it’s been a few years since you last cared for an infant.

There are also many other emotions that come with this life change. For as much joy motherhood brings, it can also be difficult and overwhelming at times. Prevea understands one of the biggest and most impactful changes women face is having a child. We also want you to know, you’re not alone in this journey. Join Prevea and other moms like you for Mom-ME Time! A free virtual presentation series where various post-birth health topics will be discussed throughout the year. Click here to learn more and to sign up.

Newborn and Infant Care Tips 

I hope the following tips on caring for baby provide you with a little guidance and peace of mind for you and your precious little one. Remember to always contact your baby’s doctor if you have specific questions or for medical advice.

  • Sleep routine. Most infants sleep for 14-17 hours a day and start to sleep through the night at approximately 6 months old. It is normal for a 6-month-old to wake up during the night but go back to sleep after a few minutes. Try setting a sleep time routine to help!
    • Follow the ABCs of safe sleep.
      • Alone, on their Back, and in a Crib.
      • Always put baby to sleep on his or her back, on a firm and flat surface.
      • Avoid soft objects and bedding that may increase the risk of suffocation.
      • Remember, baby can sleep in the same room with you, but not in the same bed
  • Tummy time! Putting baby on his or her stomach while awake and supervised can start the first day you’re home from the hospital. This helps to develop strong muscles and also helps to prevent a flat spot on the back of baby’s head.
    • Tummy time tips:
      • Begin 2-3 times a day for 3-5 minutes and increase the time as baby grows.
      • Good times may be after baby wakes up from a nap or after a diaper change.
  • Skin-to-skin
      • Also known as Kangaroo care.
      • Infants resting directly on mom’s bare chest.
      • Promotes bonding and early breastfeeding.
      • Decreased length of stay, pain, and stress from the environment (pre-term infants in the NICU) – healing.
      • Helps to increase milk production in mom and weight gain in baby – growing.
  • Swaddling. A blanket wrapped snuggly around your baby’s body can resemble the mother’s womb and help soothe your newborn baby. It can also help calm infants and promote sleep. There are a lot of different types of swaddle blankets and garments, but a receiving blanket also works well. It is important to stop swaddling as soon as your baby shows any signs of trying to roll over. 
  • Caring for baby’s umbilical cord. 
      • Baby’s umbilical cord normally falls off on its own 10-14 days after birth. 
      • It’s recommended to allow the area to air dry after bathing and try to keep baby’s diaper below the cord until the cord falls off.
      • It’s normal to see some slight bleeding for a day or two after the cord falls off. Avoid belly bands and alcohol on baby’s cord area. If you notice a bad smell, redness, or fluid coming from the cord area – contact your baby’s doctor. 
  • Bath time! How often should I bathe my baby?
      • It’s not recommended to fully bathe baby every day with soap. You can give baby a bath 2 to 3 times per week during the first year with plain water or with a mild baby cleansing product. Always check the water to make sure it’s not too hot!
      • Moisturizing is not required. If needed, use unscented moisturizer immediately after bath.
      • Consider cleaning with a warm wet cloth daily – getting in and around baby’s neck, armpits, and other folds and creases.
  • Breastfeeding your infant. You may have heard the benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months. Why? 
      • Contains antibodies that support your baby’s immune system.
      • Protects against respiratory and diarrheal diseases.
      • Protects against allergies.
      • Sometimes newborns cluster feed (eat a lot during a short period of time) which is totally normal.
  • Signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk. 
      • Sleeps for a couple of hours after feeding.
      • Breastfeeds every 2 to 3 hours, at least eight times in a 24-hour period.
      • Usually breastfeeds for 15 minutes or longer per breast.
      • You may hear a rhythmic suck/swallow/breathe pattern during feedings.
      • Your baby usually breastfeeds at both breasts.
      • Your breasts feel full before a feeding and softer afterward.
      • Baby appears settled and no longer hungry after feedings.
  • Formula feeding your infant.
      • Infant formula must be FDA approved and iron-fortified.
      • Infant formula comes in both liquid and powder form.
      • Carefully read and follow the instructions on the infant formula container.
      • Follow a clean, hygienic way of preparation and storage.
      • Use within 2 hours of preparation.
  • Bottle-feeding tips
      • Watch for signs that baby is full – even if the bottle is not empty.
      • Position the bottle at an angle so the liquid comes out when your baby sucks, versus straight up and down. 
      • Allow baby to take breaks. He or she may not want to drink it all at once. 
  • Burping baby. Why burp? Babies often swallow air while feeding, with both breast and bottle feeding, so they may feel uncomfortable as a result. This can lead to irritability, spit-ups, and gas.
  • When to start solids. Most babies can begin solid foods at 4 to 6 months old. Signs baby is ready for solid foods include:
      • Baby can hold up head on his or her own.
      • Baby opens mouth when food comes his or her way.
      • He or she is able to move food from a spoon into the throat.
      • Baby is double his or her birth weight.
  • First foods. Which foods are good foods to try first? 
      • Food should be soft or puréed.
      • Introduce one food at a time and keep on that one ingredient for 3-4 days, watching for any type of allergic reaction.
      • There is no evidence that the baby will dislike fruits or vegetables if given first.
      • Be sure that the food is rich in nutrients like iron-fortified cereals.
  • Developmental milestones. A lot happens during the first year of caring for your baby, and every baby develops differently. Talk to your baby’s doctor about his or her individual development and milestones. You can also read our Wobbling 1-Year-Old’s resource.   
  • Play! Play is the center of a child’s learning and development. It builds confidence as they feel loved, happy and safe when you are playing with them. Play also helps in developing social skills, physical skills, language, and communication.
  • When to call baby’s doctor?
      • Fever of 100.4 F or greater.
      • Extreme sleepiness, floppy arms, and legs.
      • Refusal to eat or decreased number of feedings.
      • Less than four wet diapers before one week old; less than six wet diapers in one week after one week old.
      • Seizures, cough, breathing problems.
      • Repeated vomiting, blood in the stool.
      • Rash, jaundice.

Any concerns about caring for baby… you’re the parent and you know your baby best!

About the Author

Shilpa Ullikashi, MD, is a pediatrician at the Prevea St. Mary’s Health Center in Green Bay. She attended medical school at Karnataka Institute of Medical Sciences and completed her residency at Marshfield Clinic. Dr. Ullikashi enjoys working in partnership with parents to help them make decisions that are best for their family and their child. Click here to learn more about Dr. Ullikashi or to schedule an appointment online, or call (920) 496-4780.

Dr. Ullikashi Shilpa; Prevea Health Pediatrician
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