Postpartum Baby Care
Caring For Your Newborn At Home

postnatal care

how to change a diaper

Postpartum Baby Care


Leaving Hospital
Car Journey
At Home
Handling A Newborn
Keeping Your Baby Warm

Cord Care
Diaper Basics
Sleeping Arrangements
Bathing Tips
Routine Doctor Visits

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Postpartum Guide
Leaving Hospital

When it is time to go home, wrap your baby up well for the journey. If it is cold outside dress him (or her) in a snowsuit and extra blankets. Don't be in a hurry to run out the door until you have asked all the questions you need to. Make sure your baby's first checkup is scheduled, as well as your own 6 week postpartum checkup. If you have any questions on breastfeeding or bathing, make use of having a lactation consultant or nurse on hand.
Note: If you haven't already, read baby care after delivery to find out what happens to your newborn in hospital.

Car Journey

It is never safe to hold your baby in your arms in a car, even if the journey home is a short one. Make sure you have arranged to instal a baby car seat in advance. There are two main options for newborns (one is not necessarily better than the other): rear facing-only seats and convertible seats (faced backwards). Some strollers even have car seats attached, so that the baby can be passed from one to the other without being removed from the seat.

At Home

The first few days will be exhausting, so where possible ask your partner, friends and family for support. Don't be surprised if you feel weepy, baby blues are a normal hormone reaction which will settle after a day or two. Read postpartum emotions for more advice on what you may be feeling.

Handling A Newborn

Small babies are fragile and need to be handled carefully. Here are a few basics:

Head and neck support: Support the baby's head and neck when you lift him up, lie him down and when carrying him upright.
Avoid shaking: Be careful not to shake your baby either in play or out of frustration. Vigorous shaking can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake your baby, tickle his feet or blow on his cheek, avoid shaking him.
Wash your hands: Your baby's immune system is not fully developed yet so he is susceptible to infections. Make sure that you and anyone else who handles him washes their hands first.
Play gently: Don't bounce your baby on your knees or throw him in the air.

Keeping Your Baby Warm

• New babies need one more layer of clothes than children or adults.
• Keep the baby's room warm (ideally not less than 25°C) with no draught.
• During the day keep the baby dressed or wrapped.
• Never place the baby on a cold or wet surface.
• Do not leave the baby in direct sun.


Some babies like being swaddled in the first few weeks, it helps keep them warm and feeling secure. Swaddling is a method of wrapping a baby in a blanket so that the baby's arms and legs are close to the body.

how to swaddle a baby
How To Swaddle
A. Spread the blanket out and fold the top corner slightly. Lie the baby on his back on the blanket with his head above the folded corner.
B & C. Wrap the left corner over the baby's body and tuck into the baby's back under the right arm.
D. Lift the bottom corner over the baby's feet and pull towards the face. Fold the fabric down if it gets too close to the face.
E. Wrap the right corner around the baby and tuck under the baby's back on the left side. This leaves only the neck and head exposed.

Cord Care

The umbilical cord takes 10 days to 3 weeks to fall off. In the meantime here are some cord care tips:

• Wash your hands before and after cleaning the baby's cord.
• If the stump is soiled wash with water and soap. Dry well with a clean cloth.
• Avoid submerging the navel area in a bath until the cord has fallen off.
• Fold diapers below the stump.
• Some doctors recommend swabbing the area with rubbing alcohol until it falls off, others say to use nothing. See which your doctor recommends.
• Keep the stump loosely covered with clothes. Don't bandage it and avoid touching it where possible.
• The cord will change from yellow to black before falling off, this is normal.
• If there is swelling or pus, contact your doctor.

Advice For Mom
Postpartum exercises: Kegels and other routines.
Losing weight after childbirth: Calories and nutrition.
Hair loss after pregnancy: When your luscious locks fall out.

Diaper Basics

Your baby will need about 10 diaper changes a day (that's a whopping 70 a week!). Some tips to consider:
• Use water, cotton balls, wipes or a washcloth to gently clean your baby's genitals after removing a dirty diaper.
• When removing a boy's diaper do so carefully because sudden exposure to air can make him urinate.
• When wiping a girl, wipe her bottom from front to back to prevent urinary tract infections.
• Apply an ointment to prevent diaper rash and always wash your hands after changing a diaper.

Preventing Diaper Rashes
A diaper rash (or nappy rash as the English say) is a common problem in newborns. To prevent a rash:
• Change your baby's diaper regularly and as soon as possible after bowel movements.
• After cleaning the area with water and mild soap apply a diaper barrier cream such as Weleda Calendula Diaper Care or Boudreaux's Butt Paste (we love this name!).
• Allow baby to go diaper-free for part of the day, giving his skin a chance to breath.
• If a rash persists for more than 3 days it may be caused by a fungal infection which needs treating. Talk to your doctor.

Sleeping Arrangements

• Most newborns sleep about 16 hours a day, in periods of 2 to 4 hours at a time.
• Don't expect them to sleep through the night, this is unlikely to happen until they are at least 3 months.
• Use a bednet (mosquito net) at night when the baby is sleeping.
• Let the baby sleep on his back or side to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
• Keep the baby away from sick people and those who are smoking.

Bathing Tips

Newborns should only be sponged bath when the:
• Umbilical cord drops off (1 to 4 weeks).
• Circumcision heals (1 to 2 weeks).
• Naval heals completely (1 to 4 weeks).

Tips For Sponge Baths
• Wash the baby's neck, face and underarms daily.
• Wash the buttocks when soiled and dry thoroughly.
• When bathing ensure the room is warm with no draught.
• Use warm water. Test it with your wrist which is your most sensitive area of skin.
• Dry the baby well after bathing and dress him.

Tub Baths
When your baby is ready for a tub bath make sure the water is no more than 2 to 3 inches deep. If he becomes upset, return to sponge baths for a week or two before trying again. In the tub, pour water over the baby's body regularly to prevent him from becoming cold. Take care never to leave the baby alone, even to fetch a towel. Alternatively take the baby into the bath with you and hand him to another adult when you have finished for drying.

Routine Doctor Visits

Your baby will either have had his first postnatal visit while still in hospital, or it will be scheduled for a few days later. He will then have a well-baby checkup every 2 to 4 months for the first year. At each visit a top-to-toe physical examination will take place. The baby's weight, eyes, ears, skin, mouth and genitals will be inspected. Various vaccinations will also be needed at different times.

When Something’s Wrong
Take your baby to hospital immediately if he has:

• Breathing difficulties.
• Fever or very cold.
• Bleeding.
• Diarrhea.
• Not feeding at all.
• Head to your health center quickly if your baby has:
• Skin pustules.
• Yellow skin (sign of jaundice).
• Pus leaking from the eyes.
• Difficulties feeding.
• Feeds less than 5 times in 24 hours.
• A cord stump that is sore or leaking pus.

When Traveling To Hospital
• Cover the baby with a blanket and put a cap on his head.
• Keep him out of direct sunlight.
• Keep him warm with direct skin to skin contact.
• Encourage breastfeeding during the journey.

  Related Articles on Postpartum Care

For more advice, see the following:

Postpartum bleeding: How much is normal?
Postpartum sex: When is it safe to start again?

Back to Homepage: Womens Health Advice

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