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.


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.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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