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Baby care 101

  • Always put your baby to sleep on her back.
  • Give your baby some tummy time when she's awake.
  • Respond quickly to your crying baby, but don't shake her.
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Tummy time

Many moms know to place newborns on their backs when it’s time to sleep. Babies who sleep on their backs are less likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But babies still need to develop their neck, shoulder and arm muscles. Your baby needs these muscles for when she learns to sit up on her own, roll over and crawl. The best way to help strengthen your baby’s muscles is to give her some tummy time while she’s awake.

Your baby can begin tummy time when she’s a few days old. When your baby is awake, lie on your back and place your baby on your chest so she can see your face. You also can try laying your baby across your lap lengthwise while helping to support her head. Try giving your baby tummy time for 3 to 5 minutes for about 2 or 3 times each day. At first, your baby may struggle to raise her head for longer than a few seconds. But as your baby strengthens her muscles, she can hold her head up for longer periods of time.

As your baby gets older and stronger, place her on a blanket on the floor. Motivate her by bringing yourself down to her eye level so she can look at you. You can also try placing a rattle or other attractive toy in front of her to get her attention. 

As with all baby activities, keep a close watch on her and never leave your baby unattended. If your baby gets tired or falls asleep, place her to sleep on her back in her crib.

Last reviewed December 2013

Why baby cries

  • She's hungry.
  • He has a dirty diaper.
  • She needs to be calmed.
  • He doesn’t feel well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.

How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

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