At UPMC Magee-Womens in Central Pa., we understand that caring for your new baby is a big responsibility – one that can sometimes feel overwhelming. As the days and weeks go by, you will have many questions about how to keep your baby safe and healthy.
Our pediatric specialists are a phone call away and are ready and able to provide sound advice to help you navigate the first few weeks with your newborn.
You will probably have a lot of questions during your first weeks at home with your baby. Before your baby’s delivery, it might be helpful to list important contact phone numbers, such as those for your physician and your baby’s physician, and have them readily available.
Your baby will be scheduled for regular well-baby exams to monitor his growth and development. Your baby’s physician will check his heart and breathing, look in his eyes and ears, check his umbilical cord stump and address any other health concerns.
During the exams, you will have an opportunity to ask your baby’s physician any questions that you may have about routine care, including:
- Treating fevers
- Treating vomiting and diarrhea
- Handling crying spells
- Dealing with feeding issues
- Diapering and bowel/bladder functions
- Caring for the umbilical cord
Your physician can provide information about what symptoms are normal, and what symptoms require medical attention. Your baby will also receive routine immunizations during his well-baby appointments to prevent serious childhood illnesses.
Weight Loss and Gain
The average newborn weighs approximately 7.5 pounds at birth. You can expect your baby to lose between five and eight percent of her birth weight during the first few days after birth. Most infants regain their birth weight by 10 days of age, double it by six months of age, and triple it by one year of age.
Diaper Rash and Skin Care
Your baby will go through six to ten diapers per day, which translates to 2,000-3,000 diapers per year. Whether you choose cloth or disposable diapers, the best treatment for diaper rash is prevention.
To avoid diaper rash, you should change your baby's diaper as soon as possible after he wets or has a bowel movement. Wash your baby's bottom with warm water and apply diaper rash cream or petroleum jelly. If your baby develops a diaper rash that is extremely painful or has tiny red dots around the outside of the rash, contact your baby's physician.
Your newborn may also experience a number of harmless skin conditions, including newborn acne or dry skin, commonly on the hands, feet and scalp. In most cases, these skin conditions will resolve themselves in a few days or weeks. If you have any concerns, or if symptoms do not improve, contact your baby's physician.
Because your baby's skin is soft and delicate, you should only bathe your baby two or three times a week or every other day at most.
Bowel and Bladder Function
During her first weeks of life, your baby may experience changes in the frequency, color and consistency of her stools. As long as your baby is eating normally and is showing no signs of illness or discomfort, these changes are nothing to worry about. Generally, formula-fed babies have stools that are yellowish-tan, and breastfed babies have runny, mustard-colored stools that can be seedy in consistency.
It is considered normal for your baby to have as many as six to eight bowel movements per day or as few as one every other day. Constipation is usually indicated by small, firm, pebble-like stools. It is normal for babies to grunt, strain and turn red during a normal bowel movement.
If your baby is experiencing diarrhea, she will have frequent stools that are very watery. If diarrhea persists for more than one day or is associated with bleeding, call your baby's physician.
Umbilical Cord Care
Your baby's umbilical cord will fall off by itself in one to four weeks. As it heals, it will look like a scab. Do not pick at it, cut it or pull it off. You can help to speed the healing process by keeping the cord dry and exposed to air.
Your baby's physician will provide instructions on how to care for the healing cord. Clear or slightly blood-tinged discharge can sometimes occur after the cord falls off. If oozing persists for more than a few days or is associated with a foul odor, redness in the surrounding skin, or fever, call your baby's physician immediately.
Your baby will not have a set sleep schedule during his first few weeks of life. It is also very common for newborns to have their days and nights confused.
Most newborns sleep eight to nine hours during the day and about eight hours at night. Most babies do not begin sleeping through the night (a six to eight hour stretch) until they are at least three months old or until they weigh 12-13 pounds.
You and your baby will need a lot of rest after you are discharged from the hospital. Although many well-meaning friends, family members and neighbors will want to visit, don't feel obligated to entertain if you are not up to it.
Also, you should take special care to keep your baby away from people who have contagious illnesses, such as colds or the flu. You should also ask anyone who is going to hold or touch your baby to wash his or her hands first.
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