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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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Giving your baby a bath

Rub-a-dub-dub, your baby’s in the tub! Give your baby a bath every 2 to 3 days. Bathing him more often can dry out his skin.

How do you prepare for bath time?

Collect your supplies:

If you need to leave the room to get something, take your baby with you. Babies can drown in just a little water. NEVER leave your baby alone near water!

How do you give your baby a sponge bath?

A sponge bath is when you clean your baby using a wet washcloth without placing him into water. This helps keep the belly button or circumcision dry for healing.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Place your baby on a flat surface, like a changing table.
  2. Undress him and wrap him in a towel.
  3. Use a washcloth in plain water to gently wipe his eyes.
  4. Use a soapy washcloth to clean the rest of his body. Wash one area at a time. Clean between skin folds. Keep the rest of him wrapped in a towel so he doesn’t get cold.
  5. Wash the diaper area last to keep germs from spreading.
  6. Rinse him off with plain water and pat him dry.

How do you care for your baby’s umbilical cord stump?

Until your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off:

  • Tuck her diaper below the stump.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. If it gets dirty, clean it with a baby wipe or rubbing alcohol.
  • Call her provider if you see signs of infection, like pus or redness, or if she cries when you touch the area.

How do you care for your baby’s penis after a circumcision?

Until your baby’s penis heals:

  • During bath time, wash the penis and diaper area with soap and warm water.
  • For the first few days, put a new bandage on the penis each time you change your baby’s diaper.
  • Use petroleum jelly on the penis or on the part of the diaper or bandage that touches the penis. This helps prevent the diaper or bandage from sticking to or rubbing against the penis.

How do you give your baby a tub bath?

Once your baby’s belly button or penis is healed, you can give your baby tub baths. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a small tub or a sink with 2 to 3 inches of warm water. Use your elbow to check that the water’s not hot. Support her head with one hand and use the other to hold her body as you place her in the tub feet first.
  2. Pour warm water over her so that she doesn’t get cold.
  3. Gently wash her face with plain water.
  4. Wash her body with soapy water.
  5. Use baby shampoo to wash her head. Be careful not to get shampoo in her eyes.
  6. Wash the diaper area last.
  7. Rinse her with warm, clean water.
  8. Wrap her in a towel and pat her dry.

Last reviewed November 2011

See also: Caring for the umbilical cord stump, Changing your baby's diaper 

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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