Infants

Expectant parents often feel excitement and anticipation about the arrival of their child, but also uncertainty about what to expect in the months ahead. Below are common questions and concerns that arise during the first year of life.

Bonding and Soothing Your Infant

Bonding is a pleasurable experience for parents during the first hours and days following birth. Physical closeness contributes to an infant's emotional and physical growth. Gentle stroking and cradling are good ways to bond with your baby. When your baby is fussy, sing a song, recite a nursery rhyme or poem or read aloud while gently swaying or rocking him or her. During the first few weeks, swaddling is also a great way to comfort your baby.

Sleeping Basics

Newborns typically sleep about 16 hours or more each day for periods of 2-4 hours. Because their digestive system is so small, they need to be fed every few hours. By three months, most babies sleep through the night. However, if your baby doesn't, don't panic. Like adults, babies must develop their own sleep patterns. To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), always place your baby on his or her back. Remove all quilts, stuffed animals and fluffy bedding to ensure your baby does not get intertwined in them or suffocate.

Newborns generally have their days and nights mixed up, and as a result they tend to be more awake at night and sleep throughout the day. One way to help your baby is to keep him or her awake a little longer during the day by talking or playing with them.

Feeding and Burping

Newborn babies should be fed every 2-3 hours. If you're breast-feeding, allow your baby to nurse for about 10-15 minutes at each breast. Formula fed babies typically drink about 2-3 ounces at each feeding. Some newborns have to be awakened every few hours for feeding. Contact your pediatrician if you have to wake your newborn regularly or if he or she does not want to eat.

It is easy to monitor how much a formula-fed infant is eating. Monitoring how much a breast-fed baby consumes is a bit trickier. If your baby is sleeping well, producing six wet diapers and several stools a day, and is regularly gaining weight, he or she is most likely eating enough.

Babies frequently swallow air while feeding, and tend to get fussy. Burping frequently is the best way to prevent this. Formula-fed babies should be burped each time they drink 2-3 ounces of milk. Breast-fed babies should be burped each time you switch breasts to nurse them.

Formula-fed babies that tend to experience gas, gastroesophageal reflux, or are fussy during feedings, should be burped after drinking one ounce of milk. Breast-fed babies experiencing these problems should be burped every five minutes.

Remember, always burp your baby after feeding and place him or her in an upright position for at least 10-15 minutes to prevent spitting up.

Bathing Basics

Babies should have a sponge bath until the umbilical card falls off and the navel heals completely. In addition, male babies should receive a sponge bath until their circumcision heals.

Bathing your baby two to three times a week during their first year of life may be enough. More frequent baths may dry their skin. Sponge baths and tub baths should be done in a warm room on a flat surface, like a counter or changing table. For tub baths, you'll need an infant tub that can be placed in a bath tub.

Be sure to use a gentle soap and shampoo. Thoroughly and carefully wash the baby; paying close attention to the folds around the neck, under the arms, behind the ears and in the genital area.

After the bath, wrap the baby in a towel immediately, being sure to cover his or her head.

Most importantly, when bathing the baby, never leave him or her alone.

Diaper Rash

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of babies between 4 and 15 months will experience diaper rash at least once in a two-month period. Babies between 8 to 10 months are more likely to experience diaper rash. Diaper rash is also common among babies who have diarrhea frequently. Most rashes develop because the baby has worn a soiled or wet diaper too long.

When your baby has a diaper rash, be sure to rinse the affected area with warm water with each diaper change until the rash subsides. After a bowel movement, wash the area using a mild soap only. Choose wipes that are alcohol and fragrance free. If wipes seem to bother your baby, wipe them using a damp washcloth until the rash heals. To give the area a chance to "air out," allow your baby to wear a loose diaper.

To prevent diaper wash, apply an ointment containing zinc oxide or petroleum jelly with each diaper change. Don't wrap the diaper too tightly, which will lock in moisture and prevent air circulation. Use super-absorbent diapers, which absorb moisture from the skin. Most importantly, change your baby's diaper frequently.

If you're using an over-the-counter ointment to heal diaper rash, and it does not improve within a few days, contact your child's pediatrician.

Umbilical Cord Care

Your baby should not receive a tub bath until the umbilical cord stump falls off and heals which should fall off within 1-2 weeks and heal in a few days. Caring for the stump is important. The doctor may instruct you to rub alcohol on the stump until it falls off or leave the area alone. The stump will change colors until it falls off; from yellow to brown or black. If the area becomes red, develops a foul smell, or you notice discharge, contact the pediatrician.

Circumcision Care

Immediately following circumcision, gauze covered with petroleum jelly is typically placed on the tip of the penis. This keeps the wound from sticking to the diaper. With each diaper change, wipe the tip with warm water and apply petroleum jelly so it does not stick to the diaper. Redness and irritation should clear up within a few days, but if redness or swelling increases or a pus-filled blister develops, there may be infection. Contact your baby's pediatrician immediately.