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Caring for your new baby

Why Your Baby Cries

Crying is your baby’s only way of speaking to you. You’ll soon learn to recognise her different cries and what to do in response.

Your baby’s first cry may sound more like a whimper, or splutter, before it turns into a full blown cry. She’ll take a deep breath, her body will tense, her face will grimace and become bright red, and she’ll open her mouth wide and literally scream. Distressing as you might find this, it does show that your baby is perfectly healthy. She’ll cry when she’s hungry and usually won’t stop until she’s put to your nipple or given a bottle.Tiredness, discomfort, clothing, being too hot or too cold or being undressed is all other reasons why babies cry, in addition sudden movements, very bright lights, loud noises, or feeling too hot or too cold- all these things make your baby cry.

Washing Your Baby
You don’t need to give your newborn baby a bath every day, once a week on a regular day is often enough. You can bathe her more often if you both enjoy it. Lots of babies do like having a splash in the bath once they get used to it. You can bathe her in any room in the house as long as it is warm enough. Always check the temperature of the water first to make sure it is not too hot by dipping in your elbow, or inside of your wrist.

Topping and Tailing
A younger baby doesn’t need bathing very often as only her face, neck, bottom, and skin creases get dirty. Topping and tailing is a quick way of washing the parts that really need cleaning with the minimum of disturbance and distress to her. Many young babies don’t like having their skin exposed to the air and this way you don’t have to completely undress your baby. For a newborn, use pieces of cotton wool dipped in cooled, boiled water and squeeze dry. When your baby is a little older you can use warm water straight from the tap.
Wipe her eyes carefully, using a clean piece of cotton wool for each eye to avoid spreading any infection that may be present. Don’t try t poke around your baby’s nose and ears; they are self-cleaning.
Clean her face, neck and eyes: Wipe her face and chin and the creases in her neck with moist cotton wool to remove any traces of milk or spittle. Use a clean piece of cotton wool for each eye and wipe inside outward.

Clean Her Hands: Gently uncurl her fingers. Moistened a piece of cotton wool, use it to wipe over the fronts and backs of her hands, and in between her fingers. Take a new piece of cotton wool and wipe her arms. Dry with a soft towel.

Clean Her Bottom: Undo lower garments and remove her nappy. Using a new piece of cotton wool, wipe around her genital area. If she’s soiled; moisten the cotton wool with some baby lotion. Wipe from front to back to avoid spreading germs from the anus to the urethra, in both boys and girls.


  1. Before bathing: Undress your baby down to her vest and nappy. Before you put him in the bath, wipe her eyes and face with some cotton wool. Then undress her completely and wrap him in a soft clean towel.

  2. Wash her head: Hold her just above the bath in a football carry, so that she lies along your arm and her head is supported by your hand. With your other hand, carefully wash her hair with the bath water. Then gently dry his hair with a soft towel.

  3. Put her into the bath: Support your baby’s shoulders with one hand, tucking your fingers under her armpits, and support her legs or bottom with the other hand. Always hold him securely and keep smiling and talking to your baby as you place him in the bath.

  4. Wash her all over: Keep him semi-upright and slowly splash water over her body with your free hand. Talk and smile to her all the time. When you’re finished, lift her out with your free hand held firmly under her bottom and wrap her gently in the towel.

  5. Dry her carefully: Pat your baby dry after the bath and be very careful to dry her skin creases well. It’s best not to use baby powder, particularly in the nappy area. It can be drying to baby’s skin and tends to cake in the creases and cause irritation.

Cleaning Her Cord Stump
Your baby’s umbilical cord stump dries and drops off within a week after birth.
Every day gently wipe the skin creases around the stump with a surgical baby wipe containing pure alcohol. Continue after stump has separated so it heals quickly. If you notice any redness, discharges, or other signs of infection, check with your midwife or health visitor. 

Avoid Infection
Dry the Umbilical area carefully every time you bathe your baby. Leave the area open to the air as often as you can in order to avoid infection.

Benefit to Your Baby
Recent research has show that the more physical contact babies have, the healthier and happier they become.

You can appeal to your baby’s sense of rhythm by rocking and swaying her (ensuring you are supporting his head and neck). Skin-to-skin contact stimulates his senses of touch and smell, and even helps him to grow. Human skin sends and receives warmth that has a positive effect on other human skins. Snuggling together will help to promote bonding. A good way to do this is to place your naked baby on your bare chest, so you have skin to skin contact. Cover her with a blanket if necessary to prevent her from getting cold.

Cradle her in your arms
Your baby will feel safe and secure cradled in the crook of your elbow, with her head and limbs well supported.
Your baby may like being face down in your arms, her cheek resting on your forearm so she can feel your skin.
Hold her against your Shoulder: Held upright like this our baby will feel very secure. Put one hand under his bottom, and support her head with your other hand.

Loving Support
A mother often feels prime responsibility for her newborn baby, but it is important that you are fully involved with caring for him as early as possible. Both of you will be able to develop a better understanding of each other through cuddling, handling, and carrying, and the more tactile their relationship, the more loving it will be.
All through the day, especially when changing him, you can discover ways to gently explore and caress his body.

Benefits to you
From the moment your baby is born you can develop a special feeling of intimacy by holding him close to your bare skin.

Skin-to skin contact enables you to become intimate with your baby you will enjoy ‘skin bathing’ with your baby- the feel of his soft, warm skin against yours, and the wonderful smell of a newborn baby.

Feeding Your New Baby

Breast or formula?

Breast feeding is better for your baby than bottle feeing. But if for some reason your partner can’t breastfeed your baby, don’t worry, modern milk formulas are good and she will be adequately nourished.

The best possible preparation for breast feeding your baby is to make sure you and your partner are aware of all the benefits it has. Check that you know what’s involved, and that you’re both physically and mentally ready for it. Physical preparations are simple and straight forward: all you need to do is help to keep your partner well nourished to avoid hazards that could affect her milk supply. Your midwife, doctor, obstetrician, child birth teacher, or health visitor should be able to answer any questions you have.

Breast milk is the perfect food for baby. It contains all the essential nutrients he needs; it’s never too rich or too watery; it’s clean, readily available, and always at the right temperature. Like the colostrum that’s made by the breast before the milk comes in, it contains anti bodies that help protect your baby from infections such as gastro-enteritis.

Breastfeeding is a fulfilling and enjoyable experience that will enhance the loving relationship between your partner and your baby. What’s more, despite occasional snags such as sore nipples or engorged breasts, it’s good for your partner too. The extra calories she uses in producing milk help to use up the fat reserves she gained during pregnancy, so she’ll get back to her pre-pregnant weight more easily. When baby suckles, the hormone Oxytocin that makes the milk glands contract causes contractions in the uterus, which helps it to return to its normal size more quickly.

There is also some evidence that women who have breast fed are less prone to breast cancer and to osteoporosis (brittle bones). From a purely practical point of view, breastfeeding is quick, easy and convenient. It’s free and you don’t need to carry round special equipment.

Breastfeeding does have some drawbacks, though. Until mum’s milk supply is sufficiently well established for Mum to express, collect and store some for later feeding by bottle, she is the only person who can feed your baby. If your partner prefers privacy when breastfeeding, then she may find it difficult when away from home.

Breast feeding can lead to sore  cracked nipples and other breast problems; illnesses, tiredness, worry and menstruation can reduce your milk supply; if your partner is taking any medication or drugs while breastfeeding, these can pass into your milk and possibly harm your baby; and some foods that you eat, such as oranges may upset your baby stomach . Most problems and difficulties that there may be in getting your babies to breastfeed tend to lessen after the first couple of weeks. So give your partner plenty of support and encouragement if she finds feeding trying at first. Help her to persevere. Once it is established she will probably find it easy, immensely rewarding, and enjoyable.

Formula Feeding
Although modern infant formula milk provides adequate nourishment for your baby it doesn’t contain the protective antibodies found in colostrums and breast milk. Other disadvantages are that it’s harder to digest than breast milk; it gives more formed bowel movement with stronger smell than those of breastfed babies; formula may lay the foundation for milk allergy later on. Preparing it is time-consuming and your partner may find it harder to lose weight because she is not using up calories producing milk. If you decide on bottle feeding, you’ll need to buy supplies of formula, bottles and teats, as well as sterilising equipment, before your baby is born. When you go out you’ll need to take feeding equipment with you.