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Surviving your First Weeks with a Newborn Baby

Bonding with your baby

  • It is important to start bonding with your baby as soon as possible.
  • Cuddling, stroking, talking to and kissing your baby often helps build strong bonds with your baby.
  • When you feel joy and attachment to your baby, and in turn, your baby is soothed and comfortable in your presence, the bonds are becoming stronger!

Your baby's first bath

  • For the first week or so, sponge baths may be more suitable using a clean, warm sponge or flannel towel. Wipe his hands, face and genital area gently
  • Keep the room and bath water warm.
  • Contrary to popular belief, newborn babies do not need a daily bath.
  • The overuse of strong cleansers, and even tap water, may damage the developing skin of the newborn. Look for pH neutral cleansers or mild soaps designed especially for babies and use them sparingly in the first few weeks.
  • It is scary handling a small, wet, wriggling creature. This takes practice and confidence. Stay calm and make sure you have a good grip on baby.

Tips on bath safety

  • Never leave baby unattended. Even for a minute. If the doorbell or phone rings, take baby out of the bath with you.
  • Never put baby into a bath with the water still running.
  • Make sure water heater is set at 49°C. Baby can get third degree burns above that temperature.

How to bathe your baby

  • Wash your hands. Gather all necessary bath supplies and lay out at least one clean towel, a clean nappy and clothes.
  • Fill tub with lukewarm water. Put in a few drops of baby washing lotion.
  • Bring your baby to the bath area and undress him completely.
  • Gradually slip your baby into the bath feet first, using one hand to support his neck and head. Pour cupfuls of bath water over him regularly during the bath so he doesn't get too cold.
  • As you wash him, use your hand or a flannel from top to bottom, front and back. Wash his scalp with a wet, soapy flannel. Use moistened cotton balls to clean his eyes and face. If dried mucus has collected in the corners of your baby's nostrils or eyes, dab it several times to soften it before you wipe it out.
  • Rinse your baby thoroughly, then lift him out of the bath with one hand supporting his neck and head, and your other hand supporting his bottom, with your thumb and forefinger around one thigh (babies are slippery when wet).
  • Wrap your baby in a hooded towel, pat him dry immediately then put his nappy on. Then wrap him in a dry towel or blanket again, and give him a cosy cuddle for ten minutes or so to keep him warm You may want to apply a mild lotion or cream after his bath.

Changing diapers

  • Change diapers regularly as urine and faeces can cause diaper rash.
  • Babies tend to poo several times a day and pee every few hours. Disposable diapers are very absorbent, so its good to check for wetness every few hours.

Preparing for the change:

  • A safe changing area with a washable surface.
  • A clean diaper.
  • A bin or bag to dispose of the dirty diaper.
  • Wet wipes or cotton balls and warm water.

Tests and checks

In the first few hours of your baby's life, he will have undergone a series of tests to ensure he is healthy and well.

  • APGAR – a simple, painless and effective method used to measure your baby's health. They are given scores based on 
    Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration.
    • Babies who score between 8 and 10 are in excellent condition.
    • Those who score between 5 and 7 are in fair condition and might require some help in breathing.
    • Those who score below 5 are in poor condition and require immediate help.
  • Heel prick blood test – Carried out before your baby is one week old, the blood is tested for an enzyme deficiency (phenylketonuria), a thyroid deficiency, sickle cell disorders and cystic fibrosis (a condition which affects the lungs and digestive system).
  • Head to Toe examinations - Your doctor will check your baby's head, ears and eyes, mouth, heart, lungs, genitals, skin, hands and feet, spine, hips and reflexes.