Newborn do's and don'ts
You made it through pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and now you're ready to go home and begin life with your baby. But, you feel like you have no idea what you're doing! A newborn constantly feeding, puking, pooping, and crying can be overwhelming. The do’s and don'ts of newborn baby care after birth require you to be alert, attentive and prepared, and there are certain precautions you can take to keep your baby from sickness and danger. Even though you may feel anxious about handling a newborn, in a few short weeks you'll develop a routine and be parenting like a pro! These tips can help even the most nervous first-time parents feel confident about caring for a newborn. Here is a list of newborn do’s and don’ts to look out for when handling a newborn baby.
DON’T shake your baby.
While you may become tired or frustrated, you should never shake, spank, or yell at your baby. Many parents will try shaking their infant to stop them from crying. Shaking your newborn can lead to Shaken Baby Syndrome, which causes seizures, abnormal breathing, poor eating, bruises, and vomiting. You shouldn’t shake your newborn, whether in play or in frustration, because it can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake your infant, don't do it by shaking — instead, tickle your baby's feet or blow gently on their cheek. Try to limit activity that could be too rough or bouncy. Remember that your newborn is not ready for rough play, such as being jiggled on the knee or thrown in the air. It is best to tickle him and rock him gently. You’ll have plenty of time for rough play once they’re older.
DO support & strengthen baby’s head and neck.
At birth, your baby has little control over his head because his motor skills and neck muscles are fairly weak. He'll develop this crucial skill little by little during the first year of life. He will probably be able to lift his head when he’s about a month old, but until then, you will need to cradle your baby’s head when carrying him, holding him upright, lifting him, or laying him down. One of the best things to do with a newborn is help strengthen their back, neck and abdominal muscles through tummy time. Tummy time is essential for building muscles and coordination needed for rolling over, crawling, walking, reaching, and playing. Babies who start tummy time early, take to it better later on.
DON’T over-bathe your baby.
According to the American Acadamy of Pediatrics (AAP), newborn babies shouldn’t get their first bath until after their umbilical cord stump falls off—usually in their first or second week of life. Bathing your babies too frequently can dry out their skin and worsen conditions like eczema. A bath two or three times a week in the first year is fine and perfectly healthy, as long as you are wiping the diaper area thoroughly at each changing and applying moisturizer daily.
DO give sponge baths.
Remember that certain baby parts need attention daily whether they’re getting a full-on bath or not. Sponge baths are a great way to briefly clean what’s needed without completely submerging baby in water. Using warm water and a soft washcloth or cotton ball, wipe your infant's eyes from the inner to the outer corners. Clean your baby's nose and ears. Wash his or her face gently with a little soap and pat dry. Use baby shampoo to wash your baby's head. And gently wash the rest of your baby, paying special attention to creases under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and in the genital area. You should give your baby a sponge bath until the umbilical cord falls off and the area heals completely (1–4 weeks) or the circumcision heals (1–2 weeks).
DON’T place baby on stomach to sleep.
In order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS, it is encouraged to not place your baby on her stomach to sleep. Babies lying on their bellies are more likely to end up inhaling and rebreathing their own carbon dioxide. This can be fatal because it can cut off their oxygen supply, which could lead to suffocation and death. For baby’s safety, let them sleep on their back, and keep a close eye on them as they sleep. There’s no shame in checking on them! Many parents report that their baby appears to sleep longer when on the tummy. This is thought to be due to reduced arousal responses. However, arousal and swallowing are needed to protect your baby’s airway and work best when a baby is placed to sleep on her back.
DO place baby on back.
It is recommended to always place babies on their backs to sleep. Putting your baby to sleep on his back decreases his chance of SIDS, which is responsible for more infant deaths in the United States than any other cause during the first year of life. This recommendation applies throughout the first year, but it is especially important in the first six months after birth when the incidence of SIDS is the highest. To prevent a flat spot on one side of the head, you can alternate the position of your baby's head from night to night.
DON’T put newborn to sleep with loose bedding.
Blankets, quilts, sheepskins, stuffed animals, pillows, toys, or soft objects in the crib or bassinet are not recommended because they can potentially cause suffocation. Loose bedding can also become stifling and hot, and cause your baby to overheat. Not only can your newborn become uncomfortable, but he can also become so overheated and lethargic that he is unresponsive and unable to rouse himself. Some cribs and crib bedding sets may also come with bumpers, or cushioned linings that are meant to prevent your baby from bumping into the hard crib. But, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, they cause more harm than good due to cases of babies getting trapped in them. All loose bedding and bumpers pose the risk of suffocation and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
DO swaddle or use a sleep bag or sack.
One of the best things to do with a newborn when it comes to soothing them, is swaddling. Proper swaddling keeps a baby's arms close to the body while allowing for some movement of the legs. Not only does swaddling keep a baby warm, but it seems to give most newborns a sense of security and comfort and reminds them of being in the womb. Swaddling also may help limit the startle reflex, which can wake a baby. Remember that babies should not be swaddled after they're 2 months old. At this age, some babies can roll over while swaddled, which increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In the case of rolling over, it is advised to transition to a baby sleep bag or wearable blanket.
A baby sleep bag, also called a wearable blanket or sleep sack, is a bag-like garment or covering worn by children for sleeping. It replaces loose blankets in the crib that can cover your baby's face and interfere with breathing. Since 2005, The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended the use of wearable blankets for safe sleep. Unlike regular blankets, a wearable blanket or sleep bag is worn over your child's sleepwear, so it won't be kicked off and baby stays covered all night. The sleep bag will become part of your child's bedtime routine, providing a sense of security and comfort. Woolino 4 season merino wool sleep bags specifically add the magical temperature regulating benefits of merino wool and help to keep your baby comfortable all night long, giving you peace of mind knowing your baby is safe and never too hot or cold.
Co-sleeping, or sleeping in close proximity to your baby, can be very dangerous. When a parent and infant sleep together in an adult bed, on a couch, or really anywhere other than the baby’s designated crib space, the baby is at risk for getting smothered or strangled if the parent rolls over unknowingly. It is recommended that children under the age of two are not placed in adult beds to sleep. Co-sleeping also involves sleep issues such as delayed development of independence. Infants who fall asleep with their parents in the same bed have been observed to have more sleep problems associated with shorter and more fragmented sleep.
DO share a room.
While bed-sharing can be dangerous, room sharing is a safe alternative and even recomended. Sharing a bedroom (but not a bed) with the parents for the first 6 months to 1 year is considered a safe sleep practice. By securely attaching baby's bassinet or crib to one side of the parents’ bed (preferably next to the mother), mother and baby have easy access to one another, which can work perfectly when breastfeeding every few hours. This also gives mama piece of mind knowing she can check on her infant beside her, while the confined crib space keeps baby safe from suffocation.
DON’T feed baby certain liquids and solid foods.
Honey, cow’s milk, fruit juice, and sugary treats are not necessary for a newborn to consume. They contain bacteria, are lacking proper nutrients, and provide too much sugar for a weak baby's immune system. These foods can also cause tummy problems and discomfort that can lead to poor sleep and restless nights. Solid foods (or foods that can’t be mashed with baby’s gums) are also a choking hazard since they don’t dissolve in the mouth, or can be sucked down a windpipe. Once the molars come in around 12 months, you can start adding foods that require chewing. Water, as harmless as it is, is simply an unnecessary filler that will inhibit the intake of breastmilk or formula for proper weight gain. Your newborn, if filled with water, is less likely to want to feed on breast milk or formula and will be lacking in the proper nutrients his body needs to grow and develop.
DO give your baby breastmilk or formula.
Breast milk or iron-fortified formula is all your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Breast milk is the perfect food for a baby's digestive system. It has the nutrients that a newborn needs, and all of its components — lactose, protein, and fat — are easily digested. Commercial formulas try to imitate breast milk, and while they cannot match it exactly, they still provide essential vitamins and minerals. You should feed your baby on demand or at least every 2 to 3 hours. You can be assured that your baby is getting enough to eat if he or she seems satisfied, produces about six to eight wet diapers a day, has regular bowel movements, sleeps well, is alert when awake, and is gaining weight.
DON’T allow sleeping in baby swings or carriers.
Leaving baby in a swing or carrier for hours is not one of the best things to do with a newborn. Let your baby lie down to sleep and let him play on his tummy rather than keeping him seated for too long. It will put too much pressure on his spine and after a while, it could interfere with his breathing. Baby swings are fun and convenient, and they help you take a break from carrying the baby once in awhile, but letting your child sleep in one... is a big no-no. Scientific journals show that when babies that are four months old or younger and sleep in a slightly upright position, their oxygen intake may be cut down, causing eventual suffocation. Letting your baby sleep in a car seat also poses the same risk of lessened oxygen intake, which could even lead to suffocation if left unchecked. Try keeping a close eye on your baby as they sleep and make sure to transfer them carefully to the crib once they are deep in dreamland already. Don’t let them to sleep where they’re not supposed to.
DO have baby sleep on a firm crib mattress.
Many parents are under the impression that a soft sleeping environment means baby will be more comfortable or will be protected from injuries. The truth is: softer isn’t always safer. In fact, it’s actually dangerous! Soft or squishy sleep environments can lead to accidental suffocation or strangulation. Soft bedding may even cause the infant to become overheated. A baby’s crib mattress should be safety approved, firm, and covered with a sheet. Babies’ bones are still developing and their bodies need much more support than ours do as adults, so for babies, it’s important to remember that firmer is always better. Newborns also lack mobility so they have a harder time lifting themselves up and repositioning, which can be dangerous if their face becomes submersed in soft material. So, how firm should your baby’s crib mattress be? Put pressure on the mattress to make sure it resists the impression of your hand. It should feel a bit firmer than you’d think is comfortable. Don’t worry - your baby will sleep just fine!
DON’T put on too much clothing.
Bundling up your baby may seem like the right decision, especially during the colder months. After all, it is your job as a parent to keep your child safe and warm. But there is a really good reason not to over-bundle babies. There’s even a simple rule to follow: dress your baby like you would dress yourself, with no more than 1 extra layer. Bundling up too much can lead to overheating your baby’s body, which could make them feel uncomfortable, but it could also lead to SIDS.
DO keep your home a proper temperature for baby.
While a chilly nursery can make a baby fussy, an overheated one can be downright dangerous. This is why the temperature of your home, or more importantly, your baby’s nursery, should be a comfortable temperature for your baby’s little developing body. Most experts recommend that you keep your home within the range of 68 and 72 degrees F. Using air conditioning, opening the bedroom window, or turning on a fan can help in hotter months, just be sure your baby is not directly in the stream of cold air. If you are worried about temperatures changing and baby getting cold or overheated during the night, try putting baby to bed in a Woolino 4 season merino wool sleep bag. Merino wool helps to naturally regulate your baby’s body temperature and wicks away moisture, keeping baby comfortable and cozy all night long. Woolino sleep bags also come with a room thermometer and a dressing guide, which takes the guesswork out of deciding what to dress them in underneath the sack based on the room’s temperature.
DON’T ignore them when they’re crying.
According to scientific research, allowing your baby to cry it out can be a risk to their brain development. Letting your child cry continually without responding will heighten their stress levels and keep them cranky for longer. This rise in stress hinders positive brain development. As they grow, they could get used to less attention and feel neglected. In the early newborn stages, crying is all a baby has to communicate, so for all you know, your baby could be hungry, tired, or needs to be changed. Or maybe they’re just lonely!
DO teach them to self soothe.
Self-soothing is when your baby comforts herself instead of depending on you to comfort her. As newborns, they may sleep for only a couple hours at a time because their stomachs are so small, but as they get bigger and eat more each feeding session, they should be able to sleep longer stretches. Allow your baby to fall asleep on her own as this will make your life easier. Always give a small gap between your baby’s nursing and nap time. Try to feed, break, then nap. Also try putting your baby down to sleep when she’s drowsy but still awake. By doing so consistently, your baby should learn how to fall asleep on her own, rather than depending on you to rock, hold, nurse or sing.
DON’T use scented products.
The skin of your newborn baby is very sensitive. You should avoid using any types of perfumed wipes, scented soaps, oils, lotions, or detergents, as the chemicals can cause allergic reactions or skin rashes. Moms should also avoid using strongly scented products on themselves as well since these can also affect their babies. Before 6 months, your baby's skin is very sensitive and prone to allergies. Rather than using sunscreen at that age, it is best to keep your baby in the shade and protect him with loose clothing and a hat.
DO use organic products.
When shopping for your newborn, look for products that are as natural as possible. Scented products have a history of triggering asthma symptoms, eczema flare-ups, and skin irritation in babies. When it comes to clothing, fabrics such as organic cotton and merino wool are hypoallergenic, free of harmful chemicals, and are soothing on sensitive or eczema-prone skin. Woolino offers sleep bags, clothing, and blankets in organic cotton and merino wool fabrics to ensure better comfort for your baby.