Infant Care

Caring for an infant for the first time can be scary.

Infants look so helpless and fragile, but handling them firmly yet gently and speaking to them in a soothing voice helps the routine care-giving activities go smoothly.

Here are some helpful tips for you and your new baby:

    Cord care: If the skin around the cord looks bright red, is sore to the touch, has pus or gives off a foul odor, call your pediatrician. Do not give baby a sponge bath until the cord stump falls off and belly button looks healed, not raw.

    Diapering: Today's disposable diapers - which the majority of parents use in the United States - do a good job absorbing wetness, but you still need to change them at least every three hours. Change them immediately if they are soiled.

    If you are using cloth diapers, they should be changed more frequently because they don't wick moisture from the skin as well as disposables do. Babies don't need a lot of diapering products like rash creams, unless they have a rash. If you are changing diapers frequently, baby's skin should stay dry and healthy.

    Sponge bath: Bathe baby in a warm room on a flat surface that is comfortable for both of you, like a changing table, bed or counter next to the sink. Pad hard surfaces with soft blankets or towels. Always keep one hand on baby or use a safety strap. Have a basin of water, damp washcloth and mild baby soap within reach. Start by washing the cleanest part of baby - the face - and work your way down, saving the diaper area for last.

    Wash baby's face with dampened washcloth only - no soap - so it doesn't get in his eyes or mouth. Keep baby wrapped in a towel and only expose those parts being washed so he doesn't get cold. Wash, rinse, dry and move on.

    Tub bath: Your baby is ready for a tub bath after his cord stump and circumcision are healed and do not look raw anymore. Water should be comfortably warm without being hot. (It should feel warm to the inside of your wrist or elbow.)

    Always keep one hand under baby's neck and head for support. Keep bath supplies - including a cup to rinse baby's hair - within reach. Use an incline baby bath, sink or plastic tub lined with a clean towel. Fill basin with two inches of water.

    Make sure your hot water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave a baby alone in a bath. If you need to answer the phone or door, take baby with you.

Call the pediatrician at any hour if your baby:
  • Has a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Shows signs of breathing difficulty, such as rapid breathing (more than 60 breaths in one minute), flared nostrils, retractions (sucking in the muscles between the ribs with each breath, so that his ribs stick out) and grunting sounds. Call 911 immediately if baby's skin has bluish tint.
  • If newborn is persistently coughing, call pediatrician during daytime hours. (Sneezing is normal for infants; it is how they clear their airway.)
  • If baby's skin looks jaundiced (or yellow) call pediatrician during daytime hours. Jaundice is a sign that the body is not ridding itself fast enough of bilirubin, a chemical formed during the normal breakdown of old red blood cells. Excessive amounts of bilirubin cause the yellow pigmentation. Treatment is placing baby under fluorescent-type lights, which help break bilirubin down so the body can excrete it.
  • If baby's abdomen feels swollen and hard - and if she hasn't had a bowel movement for more than a day or two or is vomiting - call pediatrician. The problem is likely gas or constipation, but it also could be a sign of a more serious problem.

Links & Resources

Find a Physician: 844-744-5544

Fathers/significant others/partners: 24 hours
Family/friends: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Children under 12, other than siblings of the infant, are not allowed to visit.

Charlton Memorial Hospital:

St. Luke's Hospital:

Tobey Hospital: