No matter how many children you have, those first few days at home with your new baby are full of questions. The following tips for new parents can help answer some of these questions about your newborn until you get the chance to meet with your pediatrician.
- Use a pacifier.
Even in breastfed babies, it’s OK to introduce pacifiers right away if you continue to follow a breastfeeding schedule with your baby. Babies are not able to soothe themselves and the sucking motion is very calming for them. Also, pacifiers can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS. So, keep to the 2-3-hour feed schedule and go ahead and give that pacifier after a good feed.
- Expect and don’t worry about spit-ups.
All babies spit up. Sometimes it can be from burping, drooling, or eating too much but sometimes there is no clear reason at all. Some babies even spit up after every single feed and that is also normal. There is nothing harmful about spit-up if your baby is growing and doesn’t appear to be in pain with the episodes. Their stomach is still immature and that alone is making them spit up. However, if your baby has forceful projection of the spit-up – more like vomiting – and gets upset or cries with the episodes, be sure speak with your pediatrician.
- Use bottles to give mom a break each day.
One way to care for new parents is to give them at least one “feed break” per day. A new breastfeeding mom (or whoever is the primary formula-feeding parent) benefits from having their partner or another family member handle at least one full feeding per day. This means the bottle should be made/given by someone else so mom can go take a break (or even a nap). It is also OK for this to be formula instead of pumped breast milk. This will not have a negative effect on babies who are exclusively breastfed.
- Babies may look like they are straining sometimes, and this is normal.
Babies have immature and weak abdominal muscles when they’re born, so doing things that are easy for adults, like passing gas or pooping, require more force and pushing for a baby. This is normal, is not hurting the baby and will get better as baby gets bigger and develops these muscles more.
Home safety and hygiene
- The safest position for your baby to sleep is a flat surface on their back without any nearby blankets or pillows. They are NOT sleeping safely in your arms if you doze off.
Flat, back-on-bed sleep is always best for your baby. This prevents Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Some new babies have difficulty sleeping when not being held. Exhausted parents will sometimes try to sit up with their infant and then fall asleep in a recliner chair. This is especially dangerous as babies can slip out of a parent’s arm and fall and hit their head or suffocate in the chair. If you or the baby are tired, don’t hesitate to put them in their bassinet or somewhere they can sleep flat on their back safely.
- It’s OK and encouraged to cut baby’s fingernails.
Baby fingernails grow quickly, and they can be very sharp. As scary as it might seem, it’s safe to cut your baby’s nails using small nail clippers. Fingernails are often fused to the fingertips in newborns. If this seems to be the case with your baby, wait until the end of the nail separates from the fingertip before clipping. Do nail trimmings in a well-lit area. It may be easiest to do when your baby is sleeping. It’s not uncommon for parents to nick the fingertip and cause a little bleeding. Do not panic! You’ll likely be more upset about it than your baby is. Just apply pressure for a few minutes until the bleeding stops. Avoid using bandages on your baby’s fingers as these can become a choking hazard.
- You don’t need to bathe your baby every day but be sure to check your home water heater temperature.
Before bathing your baby, it’s recommended that you make sure your home water heater does not go above 120F. Scald burns can occur quickly when water temperature is above 120F. Babies typically love water temperatures of 98–100F. In the first year of life, bathing your baby too frequent can dry out their skin. Once the umbilical cord and circumcision (if applicable) have healed, giving your baby sponge baths or warm baby tub baths (always with supervision) 1–3 times a week is sufficient.
- You don’t need to adjust your home air temperature for your baby.
Room temperature – or 68F – is the safest temperature for babies. Do not overheat your home or over-bundle your baby. This increases the risk of SIDS. If your baby is sweating or feeling hot to the touch, consider removing layers or putting a fan near baby’s bed for air circulation.
- Take your baby outside with you.
It’s nice to get outside of your house with your baby and it’s safe to do so right away. Protect your baby from the sun with a light sheet or blanket over the stroller to provide shade, but make sure air can flow through the sides so your baby doesn’t overheat. Signs of overheating include sweating or feeling hot to the touch, so look out for those and remove layers as needed.
- Take care of yourself!
Ask for and accept help from friends and family when they offer it, but also make sure you limit visitors and guests if it is more stressful than helpful for you.
It’s OK to take breaks from your baby, especially if you’re getting overwhelmed. Consider putting your baby in their bassinet and taking 10-minute breaks for yourself as you need them.It’s completely normal to feel frustrated, tired, sad, and nervous when you first bring your baby home and even for weeks after.
For postpartum women, this is even caused by hormonal changes. If these feelings are not improving within a month of pregnancy, seek help at any doctor (your pediatrician, OB-GYN, family doctor or any medical professional can direct you).
Written by Michelle Glick, M.D.; reviewed by Sara Laule, M.D.
Updated August 2022