Articles - You and Your Baby

Getting to know Your Baby

Some common concerns about new babies are as follows:

Crying is your baby's way of saying "I'm hungry, I'm wet, I'm thirsty, I want to turn over, I'm too hot, I'm too cold, I have a stomach ache, or I'm bored." Well babies will cry for an hour or more occasionally. The average newborn cries 3 out of 24 hours. They will not harm themselves by crying. It takes some time to understand your baby's needs. Don't be too hard on yourself during the first few weeks. Relax and use common sense and you will do great. Most babies will have a few crying and fussy periods during the day, mostly in the late afternoon and evening. These periods may not have an obvious cause. Crying will not hurt the baby as much as it hurts you. Some babies require a great deal of holding and body contact to settle down, and some babies will do better if left alone. Some methods you can try to include:


Carrying the baby in "snugli" for secure, close contact,

Rocking the baby with soft music on and gently singing to the baby (this will relax you also),

Taking a bath or shower together,

Laying the baby on his/her tummy across your knees and rubbing his/her back,

Wrapping him/her snugly in a blanket and then rocking him or her,

Taking the baby for a ride in the car or stroller,

Putting him/her in the car seat securely on the clothes dryer (the sound and movement tend to soothe babies),

Using a wind up baby swing and allowing the baby to fall asleep there.

Remember, you know your baby best, so do what works for you. Holding and loving your baby "too much" is not a problem. Babies, like new parents, need lots of love and security.


Most babies wake up several times a night during the first few weeks. Some babies begin sleeping through the night at 1-2 months; most will take longer. Some babies wake up and cry, others merely wake up, look around, and fall back to sleep. The amount of time your baby stays awake and cries will change as the baby gets older. Sometimes parents think that starting solid food will make their baby sleep through the night, but there is no evidence that it will. Food is not a sedative and should not be added to the diet until 4-6 months of age. At 5-7 months of age, your baby may return to waking during the night. This is a normal stage of development. If this occurs, let the baby stay in bed, comfort him/her, pat him/her on the back, and change your baby if necessary. The pattern of nighttime sleeping will be reestablished quickly.

All babies yawn, have hiccups, pass gas, cough, and sneeze. Sneezing is the only way in which a baby can clear his/her nose. Hiccups are normal. They are caused by immaturity of the swallowing center in the brain. Burping, feeding, or sucking usually helps.

Spitting up small amounts is very common. It will often contain the mucus, which lines the stomach. If the amounts are small and it does not bother the baby, do not worry. Forceful vomiting of large amounts of milk, or vomiting bile (green or gold liquid) is abnormal and should be checked.

The newborn's head is made of several bones, which have spaces between them. This allows flexibility of the skull through the birth canal and accounts for why the newborn's head is often cone shaped, flattened, or asymmetric. Natural reshaping to normal occurs over the first few days to weeks of life. The areas on the head where the bones have not yet come together are called fontanelles. The one at the back of the head is quite small and disappears soon after birth, but the diamond shaped fontanelle on the top of the head takes up to 18 months to close. Don't be afraid to touch or wash these soft spots, you won't hurt anything.

The nose, ears, mouth, and eyes do not need to be cleaned. It is O.K. to remove wax that comes out of the ear but don't poke anything into the ear canals. Loose mucus may be removed from the nose with a tissue. If there is a slight discharge from the eyes, wipe the lids off with a clean tissue, but don't put anything inside the eye itself. Newborns often look cross-eyed. This is because they're unable to consistently focus their eyes. They should be able to focus well by 3 months of age.

Peeling skin is normal during the first 2-3 weeks and does not require any special treatment. Some newborns have small white spots (milia) on their nose. They are harmless and require no treatment. At 1-3 weeks of age infants may develop an acne-like rash on their faces that may extend to the scalp and chest. This rash is due to over activity of the sweat glands and will remain until 6-8 weeks of age. Lotions only make the rash worse. Don't worry, simply wash gently with soap and water.

Diaper rash is most often due to heat and skin irritation from urine or stool. The best cure for diaper rash is prevention. Change your baby's diaper as soon as possible after each bowel movement or wetting. Wash the area with plain water and apply diaper rash cream or ointment. Some babies are prone to diaper rash. It may help to leave the diaper off for 15-30 minutes 4 times daily to air dry the area. Substituting cloth diapers may also help if you're using disposables. If so, use a mild soap to wash the diapers and add ½ cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle. Do not use bleach or fabric softener. A professional diaper cleaning service can be a benefit.

Babies frequently become jaundiced in their first week of life. This can be identified by a yellow tint to the eyes and skin most often due to a temporary immaturity of the liver. This causes an accumulation of the yellow pigment, bilirubin, in the blood. If your baby becomes jaundiced, your pediatrician can discuss this with you.

Cleanse the base of the navel with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol several times a day until it has healed. No binders or pads are necessary. Some bleeding normally occurs as the cord detaches from the naval. Contact the doctor if there is any large amount of bleeding or much redness around the naval.

If your baby was circumcised, you should keep a Vaseline gauze dressing on the circumcision site for the first twenty-four hours. After that you can apply Vaseline or A&D Ointment to the area as needed until it is well healed. Gently retract the skin on the circumcision once daily after four of five days. If your baby was not circumcised, the penis can be gently cleansed daily. You should not force back the foreskin to clean under it. Foreskin should only be cleaned as far as it falls back naturally.

Breast enlargement is quite common and perfectly normal in both baby boys and girls. The best treatment is to leave it alone. A small amount of white or pink tinged discharge from the vagina is normal in baby girls during the first 2 weeks of life.

Stools of newborns vary considerably in size, color, consistency, and frequency. A baby may have several bowel movements daily, or none for a few days. Stools may be yellow, brown, or green, and may be firm, loose, or pasty. Liquid, yellow, mustard seed stool is typical for breast fed infants. Formula-fed infants usually have yellowish tan stools. Babies often strain, grunt, grimace, and turn red in the face when having a bowel movement. This is not a sign of a problem. Constipation is present when stools are small and pebble-like. Constipation has nothing to do with the number or frequency of stools. Do not use enemas, suppositories, or laxatives unless you have discussed this with the doctor. Do not give your baby honey.

Nails may be cut or filed at any time. It may be easiest when your baby is asleep. A small amount of redness or swelling around the nail of the big toe is common. This usually resolves spontaneously.

All newborns are extremely sensitive to touch. You can convey feeling of warmth and protection by holding your infant close to you at every opportunity. A child takes delight in hearing the rhythm of mother's heartbeat. A parent's embrace can recreate for the baby the same secure environment of the womb. By being attentive to your child's emotional and physical needs, you will provide the framework for healthy personality development. Talk to your baby and play with him or her every day. Do not be afraid to give your newborn plenty of love and affection. You will not spoil your newborn by showing him/her affection or comforting him/her when he or she is fretful.

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