Articles - You and Your Baby

Caring For Your Baby

You want to do everything possible to assure a safe environment for your baby. Beginning with the first car trip home from the hospital, you should always use an infant car seat whenever you take your baby for a ride. Your baby can be seriously injured in a sudden stop if held in a passenger's arms rather than secured safely in an infant car seat. All children 4 years and under should always be in an approved car seat.

There are many simple ways to assure your baby's safety at home. For example, never leave the baby alone on a table or other high place, where he or she could roll off. Be sure the slats on the crib or playpen are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart, so your baby's head cannot possibly get caught between them. The mattress should be firm, flat and fit the crib snugly on all four sides. Keep the crib free of clutter. This means no pillow and no toys in which your baby could become entangled. Babies are attracted to colorful shiny objects. Keep small objects like buttons and pins away from the baby's reach so he or she is not tempted to pick them up and swallow them.

A baby's delicate skin can be burned easily. When you take the baby outside, protect him or her from hot rays of the sun. Always test the water before your baby's bath to be sure it is not too hot. Smoking cigarettes is dangerous because hot ashes could fall on your baby. Passive smoke and smoke in the fibers of clothing and furniture irritates the lungs of babies. Also, do not hold your baby while cooking. Hot grease could splatter on the baby, and he or she could touch hot pans or their contents.

Room temperature: Try to keep an even, comfortable temperature in your baby's room. Windows may be opened in warm weather, provided there is no draft on the baby. Keep the temperature between 68-74 degrees (F).

Clothing: Dress the baby with just enough clothes to keep him or her comfortable. Some babies are allergic to certain materials, so watch for rashes in areas in contact with clothing. When it is warm, the infant does not require any more clothing than an adult. A T-shirt and diaper are usually enough. Do not use excessive clothes or coverings. Your baby should be loosely wrapped in order to allow moderate freedom of movement. The body should be warm and dry, not clammy with perspiration. Baby's hands and feet are normally cool. A wrapping blanket usually makes your baby feel more secure even though it is not needed for warmth. In dressing an infant for cold weather, remember to dress the child with only one more layer than an adult would wear. Always wash new clothes in mild detergent before putting them on your baby.

It is a good idea to have a fairly regular time for bathing your baby. The room should be warm with no drafts. Keep bathing supplies together to save yourself steps. Wash your baby by sponging or by laying him or her in a tub of water below the level of the umbilical cord until the naval has healed. Wait a couple of days after circumcision before placing an infant in a tub of water. When bathing your baby in a small tub, check the temperature of the water with your elbow before placing your baby into the tub. The water temperature should be around 85 degrees (F). Three inches of water should be enough.

Wash your baby's face with plain warm water and a soft cloth. To clean around the eyes, use cotton dipped in cool water. Wipe from the bridge of the nose toward the ears. Do not try to clean the inside of either the nose or the ears. Clean the outer areas with a moist washcloth or cotton ball.

Wash your baby's head with a mild shampoo. Work from front to back, to keep suds out of your baby's eyes. White dandruff-like flakes are often found on the scalps of infants. These flakes are the result of shedding of dead skin, and they do not indicate a dry scalp condition. Do not use oils, lotions, or Vaseline. They only adhere these flakes to the scalp and make the condition worse.

Formation of thick yellowish scales on the baby's scalp is a condition called "cradle cap". It is very common in infants, and results from the accumulation of old, dead skin. This condition can occur in spite of washing. Oils, lotions, or Vaseline make the condition worse. You can treat cradle cap by removing the scales with a soft brush. Using a small comb or brush to stimulate the scalp while shampooing helps to prevent cradle cap from forming.

Use a mild soap and warm water to wash your baby's body. Be sure to wash in the folds of the skin. Rinse well. Pat your baby dry. Do not use powder as this can get into the baby’s lungs and cause trouble breathing. If the skin is very dry, you may use a little cream after the bath.

Babies should sleep in their backs until they are able to roll over, usually by 6 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that this reduces the risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

The diaper area should be cleaned as often as the baby is wet or soiled. Clean the baby with either plain water or a diaper wipe. Dry the skin of the diaper area thoroughly before applying a new diaper. Whether you use disposable diapers or cloth diapers is a matter of personal preference.

You can take your baby outside whenever the weather is pleasant. Babies born during warm weather may be taken outside after they are 1-2 weeks old. If you use a carriage or stroller, be sure the wind blows over the top and not into it, directly on your baby. You should avoid taking your baby to crowded places, where the chance of exposure to illness is greater during the first six weeks of life.

Visitors should be limited to very close friends and relatives who are not ill. Be sure that you limit visitors if they make you tired. They should wash their hands before handling the baby. Your other children should be encouraged to handle the baby and help you with baby care. Your children should wash their hands as well.

Smoking is strongly discouraged. It is very irritating to your baby's nose and lungs. It gets into clothing, furniture and hair. It is very harmful even when not done in the presence of your baby. Now is a good time to quit!

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