Newborn Baby Care


  • Babies only need a bath 2 to 3 times a week. If you clean up spills and spit up and keep the diaper clean, your baby will not need a bath more often. Do not give your baby a tub bath until the umbilical cord is off and the belly button has normal looking skin. Use a sponge bath only.

  • Pick a time of the day when you can relax and enjoy this special time with your baby. Avoid bathing just before or after feedings.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap. Get all of the needed equipment ready for the baby.

  • Equipment includes:

  • Basin of warm water (always check to be sure it is not too hot).

  • Mild soap and baby shampoo.

  • Soft washcloth and towel (may use cloth diaper).

  • Cotton balls.

  • Clean clothes and blankets.

  • Diapers.

  • Never leave your baby alone on a high suface where the baby can roll off.

  • Always keep 1 hand on your baby when giving a bath. Never leave your baby alone in a bath.

  • To keep your baby warm, cover your baby with a cloth except where you are sponge bathing.

  • Start the bath by cleansing each eye with a separate corner of the cloth or separate cotton balls. Stroke from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner, using clear water only. Do not use soap on your baby's face. Then, wash the rest of your baby's face.

  • It is not necessary to clean the ears or nose with cotton-tipped swabs. Just wash the outside folds of the ears and nose. If mucus collects in the nose that you can see, it may be removed by twisting a wet cotton ball and wiping the mucus away. Cotton-tipped swabs may injure the tender inside of the nose.

  • To wash the head, support the baby's neck and head with your hand. Wet the hair, then shampoo with a small amount of baby shampoo. Rinse thoroughly with warm water from a washcloth. If there is cradle cap, gently loosen the scales with a soft brush before rinsing.

  • Continue to wash the rest of the body. Gently clean in and around all the creases and folds. Remove the soap completely. This will help prevent dry skin.

  • For girls, clean between the folds of the labia using a cotton ball soaked with water. Stroke downward. Some babies have a bloody discharge from the vagina (birth canal). This is due to the sudden change of hormones following birth. There may be a white discharge also. Both are normal. For boys, follow circumcision care instructions.


The umbilical cord should fall off and heal by 2 to 3 weeks of life. Your newborn should receive only sponge baths until the umbilical cord has fallen off and healed. The umbilical cord and area around the stump do not need specific care, but should be kept clean and dry. If the umbilical stump becomes dirty, it can be cleaned with plain water and dried by placing cloth around the stump. Folding down the front part of the diaper can help dry out the base of the cord. This may make it fall off faster. You may notice a foul odor before it falls off. When the cord comes off and the skin has sealed over the navel, the baby can be placed in a bathtub. Call your caregiver if your baby has: 

  • Redness around the umbilical area.

  • Swelling around the umbilical area.

  • Discharge from the umbilical stump.

  • Pain when you touch the belly.


  • If your baby boy was circumcised:

  • There may be a strip of petroleum jelly gauze wrapped around the penis. If so, remove this after 24 hours or sooner if soiled with stool.

  • Wash the penis gently with warm water and a soft cloth or cotton ball and dry it. You may apply petroleum jelly to his penis with each diaper change, until the area is well healed. Healing usually takes 2 to 3 days.

  • If a plastic ring circumcision was done, gently wash and dry the penis. Apply petroleum jelly several times a day or as directed by your baby's caregiver until healed. The plastic ring at the end of the penis will loosen around the edges and drop off within 5 to 8 days after the circumcision was done. Do not pull the ring off.

  • If the plastic ring has not dropped off after 8 days or if the penis becomes very swollen and has drainage or bright red bleeding, call your caregiver.

  • If your baby was not circumcised, do not pull back the foreskin. This will cause pain, as it is not ready to be pulled back. The inside of the foreskin does not need cleaning. Just clean the outer skin.


  • A small amount of bluishness of the hands and feet is normal for a newborn. Bluish or grayish color of the baby's face or body is not normal. Call for medical help.

  • Newborns can have many normal birthmarks on their bodies. Ask your baby's nurse or caregiver about any you find.

  • When crying, the newborn's skin color often becomes deep red. This is normal.

  • Jaundice is a yellowish color of the skin or in the white part of the baby's eyes. If your baby is becoming jaundiced, call your baby's caregiver.


The baby's first bowel movements are sticky, greenish black stools called meconium. The first bowel movement normally occurs within the first 36 hours of life. The stool changes to a mustard-yellow loose stool if the baby is breastfed or a thicker yellow-tan stool if the baby is fed formula. Your baby may make stool after each feeding or 4 to 5 times per day in the first weeks after birth. Each baby is different. After the first month, stools of breastfed babies become less frequent, even fewer than 1 a day. Formula-fed babies tend to have at least 1 stool per day.

Diarrhea is defined as many watery stools in a day. If the baby has diarrhea you may see a water ring surrounding the stool on the diaper. Constipation is defined as hard stools that seem to be painful for the baby to pass. However, most newborns grunt and strain when passing any stool. This is normal.


  • Babies should be placed to sleep on their backs unless your caregiver has suggested otherwise. This is the single most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

  • Do not use a pillow when putting the baby to sleep.

  • Fingers and toenails should be cut while the baby is sleeping, if possible, and only after you can see a distinct separation between the nail and the skin under it.

  • It is not necessary to take the baby's temperature daily. Take it only when you think the skin seems warmer than usual or if the baby seems sick. (Take it before calling your caregiver.) Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly and insert the bulb end approximately ½ inch into the rectum. Stay with the baby and hold the thermometer in place 2 to 3 minutes by squeezing the cheeks together.

  • The disposable bulb syringe used on your baby will be sent home with you. Use it to remove mucus from the nose if your baby gets congested. Squeeze the bulb end together, insert the tip very gently into one nostril, and let the bulb expand. It will suck mucus out of the nostril. Empty the bulb by squeezing out the mucus into a sink. Repeat on the second side. Wash the bulb syringe well with soap and water, and rinse thoroughly after each use.

  • Do not over dress the baby. Dress him or her according to the weather. One extra layer more than what you are wearing is a good guideline. If the skin feels warm and damp from perspiring, your baby is too warm and will be restless.

  • It is not recommended that you take your infant out in crowded public areas (such as shopping malls) until the baby is several weeks old. In crowds of people, the baby will be exposed to colds, virus, and diseases. Avoid children and adults who are obviously sick. It is good to take the infant out into the fresh air.

  • It is not recommended that you take your baby on long-distance trips before your baby is 3 to 4 months old, unless it is necessary.

  • Microwaves should not be used for heating formula. The bottle remains cool, but the formula may become very hot. Reheating breast milk in a microwave reduces or eliminates natural immunity properties of the milk. Many infants will tolerate frozen breast milk that has been thawed to room temperature without additional warming. If necessary, it is more desirable to warm the thawed milk in a bottle placed in a pan of warm water. Be sure to check the temperature of the milk before feeding.

  • Wash your hands with hot water and soap after changing the baby's diaper and using the restroom.

  • Keep all your baby's doctor appointments and scheduled immunizations.


The cord stump does not fall off by the time the baby is 6 weeks old.


  • Your baby is 3 months old or younger with a rectal temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher.

  • Your baby is older than 3 months with a rectal temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or higher.

  • The baby seems to have little energy or is less active and alert when awake than usual.

  • The baby is not eating.

  • The baby is crying more than usual or the cry has a different tone or sound to it.

  • The baby has vomited more than once (most babies will spit up with burping, which is normal).

  • The baby appears to be ill.

  • The baby has diaper rash that does not clear up in 3 days after treatment, has sores, pus, or bleeding.

  • There is active bleeding at the umbilical cord site. A small amount of spotting is normal.

  • There has been no bowel movement in 4 days.

  • There is persistent diarrhea or blood in the stool.

  • The baby has bluish or gray looking skin.

  • There is yellow color to the baby's eyes or skin.