Surviving the First Weeks With a Newborn Baby

It can be a bit daunting when you are on your own looking after a
newborn so here are some simple guidelines for dealing with the basics.

It can be a bit daunting when you are on your own looking after a
newborn so here are some simple guidelines for dealing with the basics.


Topping and tailing is an option. Newborn babies don’t need to be
bathed every day and it’s a good idea not to over bath as it can
dehydrate the skin. You could just do a daily top-and-tail, cleaning
his face, neck, hands, plus the nappy area, with damp cotton wool, and
save baths for when your baby really needs them. For the face, using
cotton wool dipped into cooled boiled water reduces the risk of eye

  • When cleaning your baby’s eyes, wipe from inner to outer.
    (Use a new piece of cotton wool for each wipe.) Then clean your baby’s
    face, behind their ears and under his chin
  • Unfurl their fists to clean inside.
  • You’ll also need to get into the creases: the top of the legs, under the armpits, behind the ears and under the chin
  • Clean the nappy area, wiping girls from front to back.
  • Pat gently dry.

You can bath your baby anywhere – in a baby bath, the sink, your bath
(either with you or not). But never leave your baby alone, even for a

  • Gather together towels, cotton wool, cooled boiled water, clean nappy and sleepsuit. Keep the room warm.
  • Wash
    your baby’s face, as for topping and tailing, then fill the bath a
    little, checking the temperature with your elbow (your hand may be hot
    or cold so will not give you an accurate guide to the temperature). It
    should feel neutral – neither hot like your own bath, nor cold.
  • Undress
    your baby and then lower them into the bath, supporting them with one
    hand. Swish water around him and dampen his hair – you don’t need
    bubble bath or shampoo in the early days. Some babies like to have
    their heads wet first and then be lowered into the bath. For a big bath
    there are a variety of items available that support your baby while you
    wash them.
  • Wrap them in a towel and pat dry, getting into all the creases.

Cord care

To help healing, keep your baby’s cord stump clean and dry – it
should fall off anytime from five days onwards. When it needs cleaning,
use cotton wool and water, patting dry with cotton wool balls (wash
your hands before and after). A bad smell, stickiness or bleeding may
indicate an infection so check with your midwife or doctor. 

Nappy knowledge

What to expect poo-wise. For a couple of days your baby will pass
meconium, which is greenish-black and very sticky. Then their poo will
turn greenish brown. By around day 5-6, breastfed babies’ poo will be
runny, curdy, mustard-coloured and won’t really smell. Bottle-fed
babies will have darker, more solid, smellier poo.

Nappy-changing may feel fiddly at first, but you’ll get lots of
practice! After the first few days, dirty nappies are fairly frequent
and you should get at least six wet nappies a day.

  • Lay your baby on a changing mat or towel and undo the dirty
    nappy, then use damp cotton wool to clean the area. (You don’t need to
    buy special wipes; cotton wool and water are gentler on the skin.)
    Clean girls from front to back and don’t pull back a baby boy’s
  • Little boys tend to wee once they feel the air, so
    have something like a tissue ready to cover his penis You could put
    your baby on a terry or small towel, so that if he or she wees it will
    soak it up.
  • A mobile or picture book can be useful to distract your baby’s attention while they are having their nappy changed.
  • Put on the new nappy – try to point a boy’s penis downwards as this will help prevent the nappy from leaking.
  • If
    possible, tip a dirty nappy’s contents down the loo. Put reusables to
    soak; fold disposables and bag dirty ones before putting them in the

Keeping the fluids up

Bottle-fed babies may get constipated or dehydrated. Give cooled boiled
water if their poo is hard or dry, if there are fewer than six wet
nappies a day or their wee looks dark. If you breastfeed when your baby
wants feeding, your baby shouldn’t get dehydrated. But however you
feed, see your GP if your baby’s nappies are very smelly or watery, or
contain blood or mucus.

Dressing a newborn

Many newborns object to dressing or undressing, yelling when they feel
air on their skin or clothes going over their head. With dribbled milk
and leaky nappies, you may get through several outfits a day in the
first few weeks, so keep clothes simple. Sleepsuits – with poppers down
the front – make nappy changing easier and are great for day and night.

Clothes that you wrap around your baby may be better than ones that you
have to pull over their head, cardigans are simpler than jumpers, for
instance. Watch out for any wrinkles or bumps that might annoy your
newborn baby, such as hoods. When dressing your baby, be guided by how
many layers you need; they probably needs one more layer than you. A
vest and sleepsuit, plus cardigan if it’s cold, should be enough when
you’re indoors. When going out, add a jacket or pramsuit (depending on
the season) and a hat. But beware of overheated shops and pull back
blankets and undo jackets. To check your baby’s not too hot or cold,
slip your hand down his front or feel the back of their neck – they
should feel warm, not sweaty or chilly.

Clothing care

  • Wash clothes, bedding and towels in non-bio powder or liquid – biological can irritate newborn skin.
  • Wash new clothes before using to remove shop treatments and fabric finishes.
  • Unstitch
    rough labels so they don’t scratch your baby. Look out for any vests
    that have ‘hard’ logos or pictures stitched on the front; the reverse
    side might irritate your baby.
  • Tumble drying makes metal poppers and zips hot – check these before you dress your baby.
  • Make sure sticky nappy tapes aren’t touching your baby’s skin. 

Getting help

If possible, get your partner or a relative or friend to stay at home
to help for the first few days. Going up and downstairs may be hard, so
if possible keep a supply of nappies/sleepsuits/cotton wool in the room
that you spend most time in. And good luck! It’s a special time so try
and make the most of it.

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