Baby Care 101

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
An adorable baby boy sleeping in his mother's arms

As a new parent, taking care of your infant can be a little intimidating. There are so many “firsts” to tackle – from baby’s first bath to those initial wobbly steps. Brush up on your caregiving skills with this quick primer.

Bathing

When bathing your little one, always check the temperature first to make sure the water isn’t too hot. Use mild soap sparingly. Gently wash your child’s face first and continue with the rest of the body, finishing with the diaper area. In addition, “Try to limit bath time to no more than three times a week for the first year,” advises Christine Stahle, MD, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “It can be tempting to give your baby a daily bath. After all, it’s a great way to bond. But too much bathing can dry delicate skin.”

Nail Trimming

Babies’ fingernails grow quickly. And because infants explore with their hands, long nails can result in scratched faces and other mishaps. To protect your little one, use a small nail clipper to keep nails under control. Trim your baby’s nails during naptime when hands are at rest. Gently push down on the skin above the nail when trimming to avoid cutting the finger. Smooth any rough edges with an emery board.

Teeth Brushing

Keep your infant’s mouth clean by gently wiping the gums with a washcloth. When their first tooth appears, brush it with a soft toothbrush and a tiny smear of toothpaste. And never put your baby to bed with a bottle—long exposure to liquids other than water can lead to tooth decay. As Dr. Stahle explains, “Tooth decay, which happens when the mouth is infected with bad bacteria, is among the most common infectious diseases in childhood. That’s why it’s so important to start good dental health early.”

First Haircut

When it comes to your baby’s first haircut, there are no rules. The timing of this milestone is largely based on family custom or preference. Whether the hair is cut in infancy or a year (or more!) down the road, it will not affect how thick your baby’s hair will be or how fast it will grow. Do what feels right. Just remember to save a snippet as a keepsake.

Baby Shoes

From sparkly booties to tiny sneakers, the choice of baby shoes is endless. But, even when your little one starts to walk, it’s best to go without shoes as much as possible and to opt for lightweight, flexible shoes when your child is walking outside or on rough surfaces. Why? “Walking barefoot helps build foot strength,” says Dr. Stahle. “Putting shoes on your infant can actually restrict movement and interfere with foot development.”

If you still have questions, or are looking for more tips, talk with your little one’s pediatrician. They’re your go-to baby expert. UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has an extensive network of pediatric practices located throughout Northeast Ohio. Getting regular check-ups with a trusted pediatrician is one of the most important things you can do to help your child grow strong and healthy in both mind and body.

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