Daily Care

Umbilical cord care

It is important to keep the umbilical cord clean and dry. Use a cotton ball or Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol on the cord every time you change the baby's diaper. This will help speed drying. (take care that alcohol does not run down into the genital area) The cord usually falls off within 7-21 days. Be sure to keep the diaper folded below the cord, until it falls off. Continue to use the alcohol until the cord area has completely healed. This usually takes 3-5 days. If the cord area turns red, starts draining or has a foul odor, call the baby's healthcare provider.

Bathing your baby

Bathe your baby in a room that is warm and in an area that has enough space to lay out all the things needed for a bath. Until the umbilical cord falls off and is completely healed, give your baby a sponge bath. Never leave your baby alone in the bathtub or sink.

Be sure to view this helpful video, which has detailed information and useful tips for preparing to bathe your newborn plus caring for umbilicus and circumcision sites.

Dressing your baby

Your baby will be comfortable in clothing similar in weight to what you are wearing. Typically, your baby should be wearing one more layer than you. If you are wearing a T-shirt and shorts, the baby should be wearing an undershirt, T-shirt and shorts. Do not use the baby's hands or feet to check for warmth because it is normal for them to feel cool. Instead, use the back of the baby's neck. It is important to cover your baby's head, unless it is really warm outside. The baby can chill quickly if the head is not covered. Your baby's head is the largest part of the body and most of the heat is lost from here. Remember, if you're hot, your baby is hot.

Sleep patterns

Most infants wake up for feedings every 2-3 hours until 6-8 weeks of age. On occasion, a baby will sleep through the night much sooner, but that is not common. Each baby tends to establish its own pattern of sleep. Some drop off to sleep after feeding, while other take only brief naps. Your baby's sleep habits are not like that of an older child and usually nothing you can do will change that pattern. Feeding with solid foods such as cereal does not alter this pattern. You should plan your "rest periods" to match your baby's.


Most babies begin teething at six to seven months, but a few may begin teething at two to four months. Most babies are not troubled by this process, but some eat poorly, become irritable and fussy, and have problems with sleep. Teething toys may be helpful. Consult your baby's healthcare provider if teething troubles your baby.

Bowel function

Stool color and consistency can vary from day to day. Formula fed babies generally have stools that are yellowish-tan. Breastfed babies have more liquid, runny, mustard color stools that are seedy in consistency. The number of stools can vary from 6-8 each day to one every other day.

Constipation in newborns is present when stools are small, firm and pebble like. How often the baby has a stool has nothing to do with constipation as in adults. Babies often grunt, strain and turn red in the face during normal bowel movements. This is also normal and is usually not an indication of constipation.

Diarrhea is characterized by stools that are frequent, and associated with excessive water. Call your baby's healthcare provider if diarrhea persists more than one day or is associated with bleeding.


Newborn fingernails and toenails are very soft and thin. Extreme care should be taken when cutting them because they can bleed easily if cut too close to the finger. When the nails have grown a little, you may cut them with manicure scissors (with rounded tips) while the infant is sleeping or very relaxed. Clothes with mitts on them are available to prevent the baby from scratching him or herself.

Weight loss and gain

The average newborn weighs approximately 7 ½ pounds at birth. Infants typically lose weight (5 to 10% of their birth weight) in the first few days of life. Most regain their birth weight by 10 days, double it by the sixth month, and triple it by one year.


You should limit the number of persons, especially children, who handle your newborn baby during the first few weeks at home. Large crowds should always be avoided initially to allow the baby to build-up resistance to infection. Do not allow anyone with a cold or other contagious disease close to your new baby. It is also very important that everyone coming into contact with the baby wash his or her hands.

Take the next step

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