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Your newborn care guide: 8 tips from a pediatrician to keep baby happy + healthy

How many dirty diapers? How often to feed? And when can I sleep? Motherly’s pediatrician shares her 101 tip sheet.

Your newborn care guide: 8  tips from a pediatrician to keep baby happy + healthy

Congratulations on the arrival of your little one!

Here are some basic but important things to know about how to care for your baby:


Bathing guidelines

Do not bathe your baby until their belly button is completely healed and dry.

If you have a boy who was circumcised, the circumcision should be completely healed, too. For some infants, bathing is soothing and can be part of a nighttime routine. For other newborns, the bath is aggravating or stimulating, and for those babies a daytime bath might work better.

Remember: Your baby is not playing in the mud, so they don't need a daily bath.

A feeding schedule

Newborns should be fed every two to three hours around the clock until instructed to do otherwise by your pediatrician.

Start the clock at the START of the feed. For example: If you start feeding your baby at 7 am and you finish at 7:40 am, the next feed should start between 9 and 10 am.

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Yes, newborns feed a LOT!

When to use a pacifier

Pacifiers are safe and okay to use. Infants under 4 months of age have an instinctive reflex to suck, and this need can be met by offering a pacifier. However, if your aim is to breastfeed, it may make establishing breastfeeding smoother and easier if you WAIT to introduce the pacifier until your baby is 2 to 4 weeks old—or until breastfeeding is well established.

How to protect against infection

Infection in a newborn (baby under the age of 8 weeks) can be very serious—even life-threatening.

It is crucial that you wash your hands before holding/feeding your baby, and ask that any sick friends or relatives who want to visit your baby stay home until their symptoms have resolved.

I always tell my patients that if they are uncomfortable asking friends to stay out to just blame it on me! “My pediatrician told me not to have you over yet since you still have a cough."

Feel free to use this one even if your pediatrician doesn't mention it. ?

What dirty diapers should look like

Newborns should poop within the first 24 hours of life (if yours does not, discuss this with your doctor). Then, after the first few days of life, they may poop as often as every time they feed, which means seven to eight times a day! Yes, babies poop a LOT!

The poops will look some version of yellow/brownish and seedy (especially if your baby is getting breast milk). This is not diarrhea—this is normal baby poop.

If you ever notice red blood streaks or stark white in the stool, call your pediatrician.

How to sleep safely

Infants (all of them under 1 year old) should always be placed on their BACKS to sleep, in a crib or bassinet with nothing else in their sleep space. This is the #1 thing you can do to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

How to protect yourself

All parents and caregivers should be immunized against influenza (flu) and pertussis (whooping cough).

Your baby is too young to receive the immunizations directly, so one of the most effective ways to protect your infant from these potentially life-threatening infections is to protect yourself!

Belly button care

Unless instructed to do otherwise, leave your baby's belly button stump as is.

Do not use water or alcohol on the stump, which may only inhibit healing. Try to fold diapers down so stool and urine does not get on the site.

Do not bathe your baby until the umbilical stump is off and healed.

The stump typically falls off around 2 weeks of age. There may be a spot of blood on your baby's shirt when it falls off.

The reasons to call your doctor would be for bleeding that is more than a few dots or does not stop; pus or other discharge; a foul smell from the site; surrounding redness; or a stump that is still attached at 1 month of life.

If you are not sure if the belly button is healing properly, call your doctor.

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