After you have a baby, just keeping them fed and diapered can feel like a major accomplishment. Add in tending to tiny nails, bathing and more, and you may feel like absolutely overwhelmed by caring for your baby.
Thankfully, Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics understands how new parents feel. As a father himself, he can relate to the concern and responsibility of taking care of an infant. “Remember five basic tips about caring for your baby, and you will be just fine.”
Bathe Your Child Enough – But Not Too Much
Bathing your child every day is unnecessary and will dry out their skin, especially if using soap. Dr. Alzein recommends a schedule of once every three days, or as needed if there is a major diaper incident. For the first two weeks, while you wait for the umbilical cord to fall off, a sponge bath is sufficient. To do this, remember to use warm water. Wash the baby from head to toe, washing the diaper area last. Keep baby calm during their bath by having them wrapped in a towel, only exposing the skin being actively washed to keep the baby as warm as possible. Dr. Alzein also reminds parents of the AAP’s recommendations for bathing a baby. Keep the child lying flat on a safe area either on the floor or on a changing mat with a strap to ensure the baby doesn’t roll onto the floor.
After a few weeks, your baby will let you know when they are ready to advance from a sponge bath to an infant bathtub. Again, the schedule for bathing should be kept at once every three days or as needed. Mild soap should only be used to clean extremely dirty areas, otherwise, warm water is sufficient. While you are washing your child, make sure you are also observing anything out of the ordinary on their skin – a new skin tag, rash, or bruising that may be an early sign of illness. If anything looks out of the ordinary, Dr. Alzein advises to call your pediatrician and schedule an exam.
Dr. Alzein stresses safety just as much as good hygiene. Practice touch safety, keeping one hand on the baby and never leaving baby alone in the water. The AAP reports that most child drownings happen in their own home, in bathtubs, and over half of those deaths are children under the age of one. Additionally, before placing your child in the bathtub, always test the temperature of the water with your elbow to make sure that it is not too hot. Bathing is essential to keep your baby healthy, but safety should always come first.
It is important for parents to know how to care for their child’s genitals, especially as a newborn. If you choose to circumcise your boy, you will need to apply petroleum jelly to the penis to prevent sticking to the diaper as the skin heals. Dr. Alzein tells parents that if the skin has not healed within 10 days of the procedure, call your pediatrician and schedule an appointment to make sure there is not an infection.
If you chose not to circumcise your son, you will need to properly clean the penis underneath the foreskin by gently pulling the foreskin back and washing the area underneath with mild soap and warm water, and then gently pull the foreskin back over the penis. At some point, the foreskin will naturally retract from the tip of the penis, but that will happen on their biological timeline and should not be forced.
On the other hand, if you have a daughter, you will notice that her labia major and clitoris may be swollen and enlarged. This happens due to being exposed to hormones in utero. Genitalia will reduce in size as the extra hormones work their way out of the body. Dr. Alzein reminds parents that there is a natural cleaning system for inside the vagina and no extra care needs to be taken unless there is an unusual discharge. For proper hygiene, use warm water and gently wash the creases in the labia.
Dr. Alzein understands how incredibly sharp a baby’s fingernails are. They are often described as razor sharp, paper thin, and dangerous. They can slice through delicate skin in a blink, and must be kept short.
To cut a baby’s nails, use safety nail-clippers or a pair of blunt safety scissors to trim the nails down. Finish off the manicure with an emery board to eliminate any sharp edges. Dr. Alzein and the AAP discourage parents from biting the baby’s nails with their teeth or peeling the nail off, as that increases the chance of infection.
As soon as your child cuts their first tooth, on average between four to six months of age, they are at risk of developing cavities. When your child’s first tooth comes in, Dr. Alzein recommends a fluoride varnish treatment, which is a professional treatment where a doctor brushes the varnish on the child’s teeth. This sets quickly, allowing the child to eat and drink as soon as the varnish is dry. This treatment provides all the protection needed to prevent cavities in early childhood.
Your infant needs every single well-child appointment so their pediatrician can routinely check that they are meeting developmental milestones and growing in a healthy manner. This is also the best way to ensure that your child is up to date on all vaccines to prevent unnecessary illness.
Dr. Alzein recommends all parents follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) schedule of bringing your child in for routine visits and vaccines. The schedule for your baby’s first year of appointments are:
• within your baby’s first week of life
• 1 month
• 2 months
• 4 months
• 6 months
• 9 months
• 12 months
While this may seem like a lot of appointments, they are necessary to give your child the best, healthiest start. Dr. Alzein, along with the rest of the medical community, knows that there is a lot involved with taking care of infants. This information is constantly evolving as the medical information becomes more detailed and sophisticated. Whenever you have questions on how to do even the smallest task for your infant, reach out to your pediatrician. Your pediatrician should always be willing to patiently answer your questions and offer solutions.