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Expectant parents may be really excited about meeting their baby, but also a little scared about caring for their little one in the early months. Our tips should help you gain confidence.

You'll have been pregnant for an average of 38 weeks by the time you have your baby. Chances are that you have read up on newborn care and received plenty of (unsolicited) advice from loved ones and total strangers.

Many first-time parents still find it a little scared to take care of that tiny, helpless being all by themselves but the best advice any new parent can receive is to listen to her instincts.

Humans have been raising children for a long time, and most of the information you need about how to look after your baby is already stored somewhere deep in your being. That does not mean you can't do with some practical tips of course.

Diapers — Which Ones, And How Often?

You'll need to purchase a stack of diapers before your baby is born. Most parents opt to use disposable diapers, but cloth diapers have also made a come-back in recent years and they are much more modern than the ones your grandmother used. Whether you choose cloth or sposies, it is a good idea to get diapers in multiple sizes because you are never quite sure how big your baby will be when he is born.

Newborns will wet diapers around 10 times a day, while the frequency of bowel movements varies individually and depends on whether you breastfeed or formula-feed.

The baby's first bowel movement will contain meconium, a sticky substance that lined her bowels in utero.

If you gave birth in a hospital, you might be lucky enough to have a nurse change that first diaper. Cleaning your baby up after a meconium poop takes quite a bit of work, because the substance is tar-like in consistency. Don't worry, as every bowel movement that comes after will be much easier.

Parents who use cloth should use a new diaper after every pee, but those who use disposable diapers can wait a while before changing the diaper — modern sposies are truly extremely absorbent.

Many parents choose to clean their babies' bottoms with wet wipes, but you can also simply wash your baby. If you notice a diaper rash, you'll want to air your baby's bottom more and switch to a new wet-wipe brand. 

Bathing your baby in water with a bit of baking soda clears diaper rash up in no time.

Bathing And Hygiene

Your baby's umbilical cord does not typically drop off until she is between three and seven days old. That means almost all new parents will personally care for their baby's cord stump. It might look scary, but it's no big deal.

Exposing the cord stump to air and allowing it to dry out will encourage it to fall off sooner and will guard against infections. Putting antiseptics like Iodine on the cord stump will lengthen its lifetime — something you don't really want.

New parents are encouraged to give their babies sponge baths until the cord stump comes off and the belly button heals. Baby boys who were circumcised should heal before getting a proper bath. 

How do you give your baby a bath? The newborn's neck should be supported at all times, and the temperature should be appropriate. You can make sure the water is just right by dipping your elbow into the water, or you could get a bath thermometer. 

You can bathe your newborn in a baby bath tub, in the sink if they're small enough, or in your regular tub with a special newborn support device. There are even "tummy tubs" that look like buckets on the market. Do be careful when you take your baby out of the bath, as newborns can be very slippery!

While there are many baby products on the market, you'll want to stick to the basics to prevent rashes and dry skin. A natural diaper cream and soap is really all you need.

Feeding, Sleeping, Bonding And Medical Care

Feeding Time

Mothers who are breastfeeding their babies might not be able to pass feeding duties off to dad or someone else, but they do have a lot less planning to do.

The World Health Organization advises breastfeeding mothers to feed on demand, meaning as often as the baby wants for as long as they like.

There is no need to prepare a bottle if you breastfeed, and your baby's meal is always served at the right temperature. 

Breastfeeding doesn't mean you have to be a slave to your baby's food schedule, however — with a good baby carrier like a mei tai, moms can breastfeed while engaged in other activities like household chores or a walk!

Formula-feeding parents need to be careful about how much they feed their babies (two to three ounces for newborns), and how often.

The package will give you instructions that you'll need to stick to unless your pediatrician recommends otherwise. You can sterilize your baby's bottles and teats by boiling them or using an electric steam-sterilizer. 

Newborns need to burp after each feeding. You can facilitate that by holding your baby in an upright position over your shoulder. Place a burp cloth on your shoulder in case she spits up some milk!

Sleeping? Hopefully!

Newborn babies spend around 16 out of every 24 hours asleep, but they only usually sleep in two to four hour stretches. New parents are bound to be a little sleep-deprived because tiny babies really don't sleep through the night. 

In which position should your baby sleep? Medical advice is always based on current research, so your mom might give you completely different advice than your pediatrician.

The most up-to-date studies suggest that it is safest for babies to sleep on their backs. This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

Where should your baby sleep? That's a more difficult decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises all parents to place their babies in a crib, and discourages bed-sharing with parents. Most medical professionals agree that it is safest for a newborn to sleep in his own crib in his parents' bedroom, so he has his own sleeping space but you can still attend to his needs immediately. 

Many parents decide to bed-share with their babies despite that advice. If you are one of them, do make sure that you don't have blankets covering your baby. Don't share your bed with your baby if you are intoxicated, a very heavy sleeper, or obese. 

When Should You Call The Doctor?

It's normal to be worried about your baby all the time, but when should you call the doctor? First of all, phone your pediatrician at any time you are genuinely worried that anything is wrong with your baby. Your instincts may be right and your call could make the medical help your baby needs possible.

They could also be wrong, but your pediatrician is used to unnecessary calls. "Better safe than sorry" certainly applies in this case. 

You'll also want to contact your baby's pediatrician if the following symptoms are present:

  • Rectal temperatures of more than 100.4 or less than 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Bad smells, a hot feeling, pus, redness or bleeding from the belly button while the cord stump is attached
  • Breathing problems, indicated by grunting, fast breathing, or wheezing
  • Crying that just won't stop no matter what you do for longer than 30 minutes
  • Sleeping for longer than four hours at the time, more than once
  • Jaundice
  • No appetite
  • Bloody or mucus-filled bowel movements or signs of constipation

While most babies will get ill, and some will have problems within the first month of life, most conditions you'll come across won't be serious. Some will be, and those that aren't might also require medical treatment. With a pediatrician you trust on board, your life will be a lot less stressful. 

Bonding With Your Baby

Bonding with your baby is the most exciting part of the newborn period! You'll get to know each other through every day life and care, but there are certainly other things you can do too. Your newborn will recognize your voice and your partner's from when she was in the womb, and he'll enjoy it when you talk to him or sing him songs.

By chatting about your daily activities constantly, you'll develop his linguistic skills and work on bonding. 

You can gently massage your baby, rock her, and take her out for short walks. Before you know it, your baby will be smiling, cooing, sitting up and eating solids! Your baby might not remember the care you gave her in her first months consciously, but loving and holding her will definitely give her the solid foundation she needs later in life!

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