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Caring for your baby
Caring for your babyTom Gamwell2023-10-23T14:24:08+00:00
If this is your first baby, it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed by their care needs – some new parents have never changed a nappy or bathed a baby before. Newborns are so small and seem so fragile, and it’s common to feel nervous about taking care of them at first.
There’s lots of information here on caring for your baby, but you can also ask your midwife or maternity support worker for advice if there is anything you’re concerned about.
The umbilical cord is attached to your baby’s tummy, connecting them to the placenta. After your baby is born, the cord will be clamped with a plastic clamp and then cut, either by your midwife or your birth partner. The cord is made up of three blood vessels, it doesn’t contain any nerves so cutting it will not hurt your baby.
After the cord is cut, your baby will be left with a small stump, with the plastic clamp still attached. Over the next few days, the stump will start to dry up, go hard and become darker until it is almost black. The stump will fall off by itself, usually between 5-15 days after birth. Do not try and remove it yourself, as this should be left to happen naturally.
You can use warm water and cotton wool to wipe around the area to keep it clean. It is normal for the stump to be a little smelly as the tissue dies. Most will heal with no problems, however very occasionally the stump can become infected. If there is any redness or inflammation around the cord, or a very foul smell coming from the area, it’s best to contact your midwife, general practitioner (GP) or NHS 111.
Changing nappies is not really any parent’s favourite job, but changing your baby regularly is really important, and regular wet and dirty nappies are a good sign that your baby is healthy.
One thing that surprises new parents is just how often their baby does a wee or a poo – by the time your baby is a week old, they may be having more than six wet nappies a day and two or more dirty nappies!
This table shows how often your baby should have wet or dirty nappies based on their age:
1-2 or more
1 or more black/dark green
3 or more
2 or more dark green/changing
5 or more
2 or more becoming yellow and looser
6 or more
2 or more yellow, watery, seedy appearance
Regular wet and dirty nappies show that your baby is feeding well and healthy. If your baby is having fewer wet or dirty nappies than usual, you should speak to your GP or midwife. If your baby hasn’t had a wet nappy for 12 hours, you should seek medical advice right away as they may be dehydrated.
Newborns have extremely sensitive skin, so they need to be changed regularly to prevent nappy rash. You should always change a dirty nappy right away to prevent damage to the skin, but you don’t necessarily need to change nappies as soon as they are wet. If your baby’s skin isn’t as sensitive, you can wait until before or after a feed to change them.
You might see urate crystals in your baby’s nappy, especially in the first few days. This has the appearance of an orange-red stain and can be mistaken for blood. These can also be a sign of dehydration, so look out for other symptoms and seek medical advice if you are concerned.
If you have a baby girl, she may have a small amount of bleeding from her vagina in the early days, like a “mini period”. Babies are exposed to your hormones in the womb, so when they are no longer getting these it can cause some vaginal bleeding. This is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about, but if you are at all worried you should speak to your midwife or maternity support worker.
A newborn’s fingernails can be long and very sharp because they are so thin. Babies can scratch themselves with their nails, so it’s important to trim them regularly. You can buy special baby nail scissors and nail clippers, or you could try filing them with an emery board if cutting them is just too daunting. Their nails grow quickly so you’ll need to check them regularly. You might want to use some scratch mitts if your baby scratches themselves often.
It can be nerve-wracking caring for a newborn. They can’t tell you what they need, or whether something is wrong, and most new parents find this quite daunting. In time you will learn to understand your baby’s feeding cues, and they will develop different cries which can help you to understand what they need.
In the first few weeks, it can be really difficult to tell if your baby is unwell, especially if this is your first baby and you’re unsure what’s normal. See the list below of things to look out for.