• Basic Care of Infants


    Umbilical Cord

    The umbilical cord is a pathway for babies to receive nourishment and oxygen from their mother. At birth the umbilical cord is clamped and cut leaving a stump that becomes your baby's belly button (navel). This procedure is painless because there are no nerve endings in the cord. Your baby's stump should dry up and drop off within 10 to 21 days. A small wound may be left that will take a few days to heal. The stump should always be kept clean and dry. Your baby's diaper should be folded down below the stump to allow exposure to air and avoid contact with urine. (Some manufacturers do make diapers with a space cut for the umbilical stump.) Avoid tub baths until 7 to 10 days after the stump falls off. Signs of possible infection are: fever or sickness, the navel and surrounding area become swollen or red, and pus forming at the base of the stump. If you have any concerns contact your pediatrician!


    Bath time can be very special for both parents and baby. Have fun and enjoy the intimate time with your child. Newborns usually do not get too dirty so they only need a bath once or twice a week. Be sure to wash her face frequently and clean her genital area after each diaper change. A small plastic baby tub/seat or the kitchen sink should be used until baby gets her neck muscles built up. The best way to give her a bath is to start by gathering all necessary bath accessories. Fill the sink or baby tub with 2 to 3 inches of warm water (about 90 degrees F/32 degrees C). Bring your baby to the bath area and undress her. While supporting her neck and head gradually slip your baby into the tub. (Pour water over her frequently to keep her warm during the bath.) Use soap sparingly - it dries your baby's skin. Wash from the top to bottom and front to back. Rinse her thoroughly with a clean washcloth. Finally, wrap your baby in a hooded towel and pat her dry. You may wish to apply a mild lotion if her skin is dry or she has a bit of diaper rash.


    Feeding time should be a happy time for you and your baby! Some signs that your baby is hungry may include crying, fussing, sucking hands or moving lips. You may also notice your baby move her mouth toward a touch on her cheek, which is called the rooting reflex. When this happens, your baby is looking for a nipple so she can nurse. During feeding time, cuddle your baby and find a quiet, calm place that is free from distractions. If bottle feeding, be sure to tilt the bottle so the milk is in the nipple to help prevent ear infections. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle because it can cause tooth decay. Be sure to burp your baby after every feeding, or after every ounce if you are bottle feeding. Never heat formula in the microwave, feed a bottle that has been at room temperature for over an hour or that was used at an earlier feeding, or use open formula that has been in the refrigerator for more than 48 hours. If you heat the milk, be sure to check its temperature before feeding it to your baby.


    Changing time is a wonderful time to play and talk with your baby.  Always keep your changing supplies within easy reach because you never want to leave your baby alone on the bed or changing area. Once the soiled diaper is removed, wash the area with warm water or wipes and pat dry. Always clean girls from the front to the back. If there is any redness in the diaper area, apply a diaper rash cream. If the rash doesn't get better, contact your healthcare provider. Once you have finished cleaning the diaper area, close the dry diaper securely. If you are using cloth diapers, be sure to keep your hand between the diaper and your baby's skin so you don't accidentally stick your baby with the safety pin.

    Bottle vs. Breast

    Both breastfeeding and bottle feeding have advantages and disadvantages. Breast milk contains enzymes and antibodies that are not found in formula. It also fights infections and is easy for your baby to digest. Breastfed babies have less diarrhea, are less likely to be overfed, and are also less likely to have allergies. The direct skin-to-skin contact is soothing for your baby and pleasant for you. Breastfeeding helps the mother get back into shape because it uses up to an extra 500 calories a day and helps get the uterus back to its pre-pregnant size more quickly. Breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis for the mother. Breastfeeding saves time and money because the milk is always warm and ready. Some disadvantages to breastfeeding include the added demands placed on you, the difficulty in judging if your baby is getting enough food, and the possibility of other family members feeling left out. Bottle feeding offers you more flexibility and allows you to easily monitor how much food your baby is getting. Other family members are also able to participate in the feeding process.


    Babies have a natural need to suck. As your infant grows older, he may become quite dependent on a pacifier to make him feel calm or secure. The pacifier may also help your child relieve stress and adjust to new environments or events in his life. As your child grows, his need to suck decreases, and he may give up his pacifier on his own. Once your child begins communicating verbally, he will improve his coping skills. This will allow him to rely less on his pacifier and more on verbal expression. Although it is not important to insist that your child give up his pacifier it is important to make sure the pacifier stays clean and safe, so as not to pose a health threat. You can do this by washing his pacifier if he drops it, prior to placing it back in his mouth. You should also inspect the nipple of the pacifier to make sure it is securely attached. Loose or torn nipples could detach from the shield, posing a choking hazard.


    Swaddling is the art of snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket for warmth and security. Not only does swaddling keep your infant toasty but can also keep him from startling himself. This can help keep a baby calm. Swaddling should only be done for about one month after birth while baby is awake because it can interfere with mobility and development.
    How do I swaddle my infant?
    • Lay a blanket on a flat surface and fold down the top-right corner about 6 inches.
    • Place your baby on his back with his head on the fold.
    • Pull the corner near baby's left hand over him and tuck the edge under his back on the right side under his arm.
    • Pull the bottom corner up under baby's chin.
    • Bring the loose corner over and tuck it under his back.
    • Some babies like to have their arms and hands free. If this is the case, wrap him up under his arms.


    Newborn and infant toys should be brightly colored and above all else safe for your child to chew on. Any small toy parts should be larger than 1 1/2 inches to avoid choking hazards.