Infant Care 101: Five Essential Tips for First-Time Parents

By Jonathan Whitbourne

Caring for a newborn, especially your first, is one of life’s biggest challenges. You and your partner will probably feel overwhelmed at the beginning—after all, there’s so much to learn! But don’t worry: you’ll soon know your baby’s needs and how to appease them. Here are five “crib notes” to get you started.

Mom infant1. Picking Up and Holding Your Baby

There are several safe, comfortable ways to carry a baby. Whatever position you choose, always support your newborn’s head and neck—a baby cannot hold his head up.

  • Start by laying your baby on his back and scoop him up with two arms, one should support his bottom while the other rests comfortably against his head.

  • Lay him across one arm with his head in the crook of your elbow and his bottom in your hand. Your other arm is now free to offer support and gentle caressing.

  • You can also nestle the newborn at your neck. One hand should support the head and neck, and the other should support the baby’s bottom.


2. Feeding Your Baby

Newborns usually eat every three to four hours; some feed as often as every two hours. Breastfed babies feed more frequently than bottle-fed infants because breast milk is easier to digest.  As your baby grows, she will feed less frequently but her mealtimes will lengthen.

Here’s more food for thought on your newborn’s eating habits.

  • Your baby will let you know when she’s full, usually by turning away from the nipple or bottle.
  • Because healthy infants rarely become dehydrated, it’s unnecessary to give them supplemental feedings of juice or water. In fact, the usual intake of breast milk or formula meets all of an infant’s fluid needs for at least the first six months of life, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • If you think your baby may be dehydrated, watch for these signs: lethargy; fewer than eight wet diapers a day; refusal to feed; and dry, sallow skin and mucous. In more serious cases, a sunken soft spot will appear on the top of the baby’s head.

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