Baby Basics: The fundamentals of newborn care

Its funny–I see so many women who despite having other children, have forgotten the ins and outs of basic infant care. In some cases, its been years between babies.  In other cases, I think “momnesia” has set in. (Do you know what that is? Its the endless supply of forgetfulness most new moms have for at least a year after their first child is born. Never seemed to go away for me though…)  Anyway, regardless of the cause, a lot of moms are unsure when it comes to how to properly clean an umbilical cord, care for a circumcision,  or even give a bath.  

Last week I went to see our newest addition to the family–a nephew–and my brother and sister in law’s third child.  I was surprised to find that at two weeks old, he still had his cord.  (Cord’s usually fall off at around a week or two.)  When I investigated, I pulled the skin back from the base of this umbilical cord to find a not-so-pleasant goo of things you don’t want to know about.  Requesting alcohol and a cotton swab, I meticulously cleaned it–much to my nephew’s dislike.  But nonetheless, it was clean.
I reminded my sister in law to make sure that she was cleaning deep enough, and she looked at me like I was crazy. “I don’t remember doing that with the girls. They didn’t have cords like his, and I didn’t know I was supposed to.” she said.  And that’s exactly right–every baby is different and just because you have one or two under your belt, don’t underestimate those baby basics.

Cord Care:
The cord can be the source of dangerous and serious infection if it is not cared for correctly.  Some hospitals (though not many) paint cords with a special blue dye after birth to help protect it, and others do not.  Research has proven that cords actually come off more quickly without being dyed, but either way is acceptable.  Clean your baby’s cord while at the hospital and at home until it comes off. Wipe between the skin and the cord (not just the belly) with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball, cotton swab or alcohol wipe three to four times a day. NO TUB BATH until the cord has come off, and the skin has had 4-6 more days to heal. Your baby’s belly button should look like yours before submerging into bath water.
A circumcision is the removal of the foreskin on the baby’s penis.  Circumcisions are an entirely optional procedure and will be left up to the parents to decide if it will be done while in the hospital.  Today, many physicians use a numbing medication by injection to prevent pain.
There are a few ways to do a circ, but care is essentially the same. Care for your baby’s skin by using petroleum jelly and either a gauze square, or just piling some jelly on the end of his penis to protect it and keep it from sticking to his diaper while it heals.
Keep your baby off his belly (this includes laying on your chest) to prevent increased blood flow to the area that could cause pain.  Change the gauze with each diaper change, and if the circumcision gets dirty (i.e. poop) just rinse it with mild baby soap diluted in warm water, dry gently and reapply the petroleum jelly.  Your doctor may also recommend pain relievers like acetaminophen, but follow his or her instructions carefully regarding its use.

This is certainly longer than I intended for it to be…stay tuned for part 2 next week when we will explore the  fascinating world of bathing, sleep positioning and feeding schedules!