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How often do you bathe a newborn? Do babies need lotion? We have the information you need about when and how to bathe your new baby. You'll also find information on trimming your baby's nails, clearing your baby's nose, diapering technquies, and so much more. Read on to become a parenting whiz.
Just like big people, baby's need to clear their noses. But unlike older children or adults, they can't blow, or even pick their noses. But don't worry, we have an answer for how to clear your baby's nose.
Dr. Heeten Masters, a pediatrician at Cook Children's in Arlington, Texas, describes how to clear a baby's stuffy nose with bulb suction. In this video, he explains how to use nasal saline with a bulb suction and demonstrates techniques to clear your baby's stuffy nose. At Cook Children's, our pediatricians are with you every question of the way.
New parents spend a lot of time changing diapers. Indeed, babies may use 10 diapers a day or more.
Diaper changing might seem complicated at first. But with a little practice, you'll find that keeping your baby clean and dry is easy.
Before you begin, gather a few supplies:
Make sure your supplies are all within reach. Babies should never be left unattended, even for a second. Even newborns can surprise parents with their ability to roll.
Using the wet washcloth, cotton balls, or baby wipes, gently wipe you baby clean from the front to the back (never wipe from back to front, especially on girls, or you could spread the bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections). You might want to lift your baby's legs by the ankles to get underneath. Don't forget the creases in the thighs and buttocks.
For boys, keep a clean diaper over the penis during changing because exposure to air often causes boys to urinate — on you, the walls, or anything else within range.
Once you've finished wiping, pat your baby dry with a clean washcloth and apply diaper ointment.
If you're using disposable diapers:
Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind:
Most parents choose disposable diapers because of their convenience. But some parents opt for cloth diapers, which can be more affordable (if you wash them yourself). Some believe that cloth diapers are more environmentally friendly, but there's some debate over whether this is actually true.
Cloth diapers come in many shapes and sizes. Traditional cloth diapers usually come prefolded or in a square and require pinning. More modern types are fitted or contoured like disposable diapers, and come with Velcro closures or snaps. Other cloth-diapering accessories include absorbent liners (some are flushable), diaper doublers for extra protection at night, and diaper covers to help prevent leaks.
If you're using traditional cloth diapers, there are several ways to fasten them. One of the more commonly used ways is the triangular fold:
Another method is the rectangular fold, which is similar to the fold of disposable diapers:
Here are some tips to keep in mind when using cloth diapers:
It's common for babies to have some diaper rash. But if the rash happens often, lasts for more than 2 or 3 days, or gets worse, call your health care provider. Also let your provider know if your baby has a fever with the rash or if the rash seems painful, is bright red, or has blisters.
To prevent and help heal diaper rash, keep these tips in mind:
Once you have these basics down, you'll be a diapering pro in no time!
Trimming your little one's nails can be a bit scary, especially at first. But keeping nails short is important to your baby's safety. Because they lack muscle control, infants can easily scratch and cut their own delicate skin while happily waving their hands and feet.
It's also important to keep babies' nails trimmed once they start interacting and playing with other kids who could be scratched, especially in childcare settings.
Some parents find it easier to accomplish the nail-trimming task with a partner: one person holding the baby to keep the little one from squirming and the other trimming the nails.
First, find a good position that allows you easy access to your baby's hands. This may mean placing your baby in your lap, sitting with him or her in a rocker, or even waiting until your baby's asleep. Make sure you are in an area with good lighting so that you can see what you're doing.
Because babies' nails tend to grow quickly from infancy to toddlerhood, they may need to be trimmed as often as once or twice a week. Some newborns need their nails to be trimmed even more often than that during the first few weeks of life.
Sometimes newborns need help clearing their tear ducts. It might sound scary, but it's really simple. Dr. Garza, a Cook Children's pediatrician in Keller, Texas, shows you how to effectively clear your babies tear ducts.
Your baby cries every evening for hours at a time, and the crying has worn you down to the point where you feel like joining in. What could be upsetting your child?
Newborns cry and get fussy sometimes. During the first 3 months of life, they cry more than any other time. But when a baby who is otherwise healthy has several periods a week of fussiness, high-pitched crying, and difficulty being comforted, it's a sign of a condition called colic.
Colic is defined as crying for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks. But doctors may diagnose a baby as having colic before that point. Colic usually doesn't point to any health problems and eventually goes away on its own.
It's estimated that up to 40% of all infants have colic. It usually starts between the 3rd and 6th week after birth and ends by the time the baby is 3 to 4 months old. If the baby is still crying excessively after that, another health problem may be to blame.
Here are some key facts about colic:
Doctors aren't sure what causes colic. Cow's milk intolerance has been suggested as a possible culprit, but doctors now believe that this is rarely the case. Breastfed babies get colic too; in these cases, dietary changes by the mother may help the colic to ease. Some breastfeeding women find that getting rid of caffeine in their diet helps, while others see improvements when they eliminate dairy, soy, egg, or wheat products.
Some colicky babies also have gas, but it's not clear if the gas causes colic or if the babies develop gas as a result of swallowing too much air while crying.
Some theories suggest that colic happens when food moves too quickly through a baby's digestive system or is incompletely digested. Other theories are that colic is due to a baby's temperament, that some babies just take a little bit longer to get adjusted to the world, or that some have undiagnosed gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Other research suggests that colic may be an early form of migraine headache. It's also been found that infants of mothers who smoke are more likely to have colic.
No single treatment has been proven to make colic go away. But there are ways to make life easier for both you and your colicky baby.
First, if your baby is not hungry, don't try to continue the feeding. Instead, try to console your little one — you won't be "spoiling" the baby with your attention. You can also:
Caring for a colicky baby can be extremely frustrating, so be sure to take care of yourself, too. Don't blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying — colic is nobody's fault. Try to relax, and remember that your baby will eventually outgrow this phase.
In the meantime, if you need a break from your baby's crying, take one. Friends and relatives are often happy to watch your baby when you need some time to yourself. If no one is immediately available, it's OK to put the baby down in the crib and take a break before making another attempt at soothing your little one. If at any time you feel like you might hurt yourself or the baby, put the baby down in the crib and call for help immediately. Never shake a baby.
If your baby has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, is crying for more than 2 hours at a time, is inconsolable, isn't feeding well, has diarrhea or persistent vomiting, or is less awake or alert than usual, call your doctor right away. Also call your doctor if you're unsure whether your baby's crying is colic or a symptom of another illness.
Rough, scaly patches of skin on their newborn's scalp can be alarming to new parents, but usually are nothing to worry about. Most likely, they're due to a harmless condition many babies develop called cradle cap.
Cradle cap is the common term for seborrheic dermatitis, or seborrhea, which is called dandruff in older kids and adults.
It's a relatively common condition in newborns and children as old as 3 and causes thick white or yellow scales on the scalp. Some kids just get scales in a small patch; others have scales all over their heads. Sometimes, cradle cap can even occur on the eyebrows, eyelids, ears, crease of the nose, back of the neck, diaper area, or armpits. In a few cases, such as in babies who have eczema or dry skin, cradle cap can cause cracked skin that itches and oozes a small amount of clear yellow drainage.
Cradle cap is not contagious and it isn't an indication of poor hygiene. Most of the time, it just goes away on its own. In severe or persistent cases, though, a doctor may recommend a medicated shampoo or lotion. Washing your baby's scalp daily with mild shampoo also can help to loosen and remove the scales caused by cradle cap.
Though it might look to be uncomfortable or irritating to the skin, cradle cap generally doesn't bother kids.
The exact cause of cradle cap isn't known, although some researchers believe it's due to an overproduction of skin oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles. A type of yeast (fungus) called malassezia can grow in the sebum along with bacteria, and this may be another factor in the development of cradle cap.
Seborrhea happens most often in babies and teenagers. In both of these times in a person's life, hormone levels are high, which also might play a role in the condition.
Certain factors — like weather extremes, oily skin, problems with the immune system, stress, and other skin disorders — can make it more likely that a child will get cradle cap.
Cradle cap looks different on every baby. It can be grouped together in bunches, or crops, or it can be spread far apart on the body. Affected areas will usually have one or more of these symptoms:
In a very few cases, babies with cradle cap will have skin that is a little red or itchy, and some might even have hair loss, though the hair usually grows back after the cradle cap is gone.
In most cases, cradle cap will be easy to identify at home just by looking at it. However, call your child's doctor if:
While most cases of cradle cap don't require any treatment, you may want to loosen and remove the scales on your baby's scalp. This usually can be done by gently massaging your baby's scalp with your fingers or a washcloth and washing your baby's hair once a day with mild baby shampoo while scales are present.
After the scales have disappeared, you can control the seborrhea by shampooing just twice a week. Brush your child's hair with a clean, soft brush before rinsing off the shampoo to loosen the scales.
If the scales don't loosen easily, consider rubbing a small amount of mineral oil (avoid using olive oil) onto your baby's scalp. Allow the oil to soak into the scales for a few minutes, and then brush and shampoo your baby's hair as usual. Be sure to wash the oil away each time — too much oil may cause scales to build up and could make cradle cap worse.
If regular shampooing doesn't help, ask your doctor about nonprescription medicated or dandruff shampoos. These shampoos contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, coal tar, zinc, selenium, and ketoconazole that can help treat dryness and flaking. Some stronger forms of these medicines do require a prescription.
If you use one of these medicated shampoos, rub a little shampoo into your child's scalp and let it soak in for at least 2 minutes. Then wash the shampoo out and repeat the process one more time. You might need to do this daily or twice weekly at first, but after the cradle cap is under control, you may only have to use medicated shampoos once a month.
For seborrhea on other parts of the body, or if your child has irritated skin, steroid creams like hydrocortisone can help. Make sure to ask your baby's doctor before using hydrocortisone.
Cradle cap may disappear for months at a time and then suddenly reappear, but by following the steps above, you should be able to control it.
Learn how to prevent tooth decay in your baby by Dr. Nichols, a Cook Children's pediatrician in Southlake, Texas.
Oral thrush is a very common yeast infection in babies. It causes irritation in and around a baby's mouth.
Oral thrush (also called oral candidiasis) can affect anyone, but is most common in babies younger than 6 months old and in older adults.
A baby with oral thrush might have cracked skin in the corners of the mouth or white patches on the lips, tongue, or inside the cheeks that look a little like cottage cheese but can't be wiped away.
Some babies may not feed well or are uncomfortable when sucking because their mouth feels sore, but many babies don't feel any pain or discomfort.
Oral thrush is caused by the overgrowth of a yeast (a type of fungus) called Candida albicans.
Most people (including infants) naturally have Candida in their mouths and digestive tracts, which is considered normal growth. Usually, a healthy immune system and some "good" bacteria control the amount of this fungus in the body.
But if the immune system is weakened (from an illness or medicines like chemotherapy) or not fully developed (as in babies), Candida in the digestive tract can overgrow and lead to an infection. Candida overgrowth also causes diaper rash and vaginal yeast infections. Babies can have oral thrush and a diaper rash at the same time.
Candida overgrowth also can happen after a baby has been given antibiotics for a bacterial infection because antibiotics can kill off the "good" bacteria that keep the Candida from growing. Oral thrush also can happen after the use of steroid medicines.
See your doctor if you think your baby may have thrush. Some cases go away without medical treatment within a week or two, but the doctor may prescribe an antifungal solution for your baby's mouth. This medicine is usually applied several times a day by "painting" it on the inside of the mouth and tongue with a sponge applicator.
Depending on your baby's age, the doctor also might suggest adding yogurt with lactobacilli to your baby's diet. The lactobacilli are "good" bacteria that can help get rid of the yeast in your child's mouth.
If your baby keeps getting oral thrush, especially if he or she is older than 9 months old, talk with your doctor because this might be a sign of another health issue.
Oral thrush is a common infection in babies, but you can help prevent it:
Do newborns need sunscreen? Is sunscreen safe for infants? Dr. Desiree Harris, a pediatrician at Cook Children's in Arlington, Texas, talks about at what age your baby can be in the sun and how you can protect them from the sun. When is a newborn old enough to wear sunscreen? Dr. Harris recommends what kind of sunscreen parents should use on babies and how often to apply.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2018 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by Cook Children's, The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.