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Newborn Care

At Women & Infants, we have all the educational resources you need to care for the newest addition to your family.

Everything You Need to Know

Whether you are a new or “seasoned” parent, you have lots of questions about your newborn – how she looks, how to care for him, what “stuff” you need. At Women & Infants, we have all the educational resources you need to care for the newest addition to your family.

Contact Information

Have Questions?
Call the Warm Line at 1-800-711-7011


We provide new parents with a toll-free telephone support system. Staffed by professional nurses, offers helpful information regarding new baby, breastfeeding and postpartum issues.

Learning the Basics

Bathing

Baths can be special times for parents and their new baby. Here are some bath tips:

  • Bathe your baby every other day. The skin may get too dry if a baby is bathed too often. Every other day or every third day is fine. Until the cord stump falls off your baby should have a sponge bath only.
  • Use mild soaps on your baby's skin. Unscented Dove or Johnson & Johnson soaps are recommended.
  • Avoid lotions with perfume. It is normal for the skin on your baby's hands and feet to be very dry. The skin may peel for the first few weeks. But, lotions with perfume may bother baby's skin. Women & Infants uses Eucerin and Lubriderm cream for dry skin. Do not put lotion on the baby's face. If you put lotion on the baby's hands, cover them with a baby mitt or socks so the baby doesn't get the lotion in his or her mouth.
  • Avoid baby powder. It is not necessary, and it can be harmful to the baby's lungs.
  • Vaseline or Eucerin cream may help fight cradle cap. Cradle cap is dry skin on the scalp that looks flaky and/or crusty. If your baby develops cradle cap, try rubbing Vaseline or Eucerin cream into the scalp at night and shampoo the hair in the morning. It may help to shampoo the baby's hair more frequently and follow with gentle brushing. Notify your baby's health care provider if the cradle cap continues or worsens.
Crying

Babies may cry when they are hungry, wet, tired or just want company. Crying may be a way a baby deals with tense feelings. Just as many of us often need a hug for comfort, your baby may also. During your pregnancy, your baby heard your heartbeat and voice, and felt you. Sometimes, he or she just needs the comfort and the closeness they felt in the womb.

Listening to a crying baby can be hard, but it is the only way that he or she can tell you they need something. With time, you will learn which cries mean hunger, pain or play with me. And, despite the old wives' tale, you cannot spoil a baby in the first few months by responding to every cry. In fact, that may help develop trust between you and your baby. Babies may cry four to six hours over a 24-hour period. Crying tends to increase between three to six weeks of age. Babies usually cry less after eight weeks and begin making other sounds.

When your baby cries, you can try:

  • Skin-to-skin contact - This is very comforting to a newborn. Place your baby in a diaper only and lay him or her against your bare chest, "heart to heart." Cover your baby with a blanket. This works for moms and dads and is a great way to spend time with your baby.
  • Changing the diaper.
  • Feeding your baby if it has been at least one hour since the last feeding.
  • Gently rocking your baby.
  • Burping your baby.
  • Holding and cuddling the baby.
  • Taking the baby for a ride in the stroller or car.
  • Putting the baby in an infant swing.
  • Swaddling your baby.

If you tried all of these ideas and nothing seems to be working, talk with your baby's health care provider to be sure there is no medical cause for crying, or call the Warm Line (1-800-711-7011) to talk to a nurse.

You may also want to consult the specialists with the Infant Behavior, Cry and Sleep Clinic (IBCSC) or the Healthy Early Relationships Program (HER), both through the Center for Children and Families at Women & Infants. BCSC was developed to diagnose and treat infants with crying, sleeping, feeding and associated early behavior problems by helping parents understand and adjust to the disruption caused by having an infant that is difficult to manage in the first few months or years of life. HER focuses on strengthening the parent-infant relationship and repairing the impact of disruptions in early attachment to promote child development and healthy family functioning.

The services are covered by most insurance after pre-authorization. Call the Center for Children and Families at (401) 274-1122, ext. 48935 for more information.

Remember, no matter how long and often your baby cries, avoid shaking him or her. Even gentle or playful shaking can result in severe injury or death.

Diapering

Babies will initially need to be changed every two to three hours, or six to 10 times a day. You may find you need to change your baby when he or she wakes, after feeding and/or just before you put him or her down to sleep.

To clean your baby's bottom:

  • Use warm water and a wash cloth.
  • Rinse and pat dry.
  • Be sure to clean between the skin folds and creases. If you have a girl, clean between the labia and folds. Remember to clean from front to back.
  • You can use baby wipes, although some babies are sensitive to them and develop a rash. If your baby appears to have sensitive skin, apply a thin layer of Vaseline or A&D ointment at diaper changes to protect the skin.

Diaper Rash
Diaper rash happens even with the best of care. Babies have tender skin, and they sometimes get rashes. If your baby gets a diaper rash, you can:

  • Wash the area carefully and gently.
  • Pat dry and apply a thin layer of Vaseline or A&D ointment to seal out wetness.
  • If the diaper rash persists, you could try another brand of disposable diapers or switch to cloth. When washing cloth diapers, use an extra rinse cycle to remove soap that may be causing the rash.

If your baby's diaper rash does not go away or becomes worse, call the baby's health care provider for additional advice.

Eyesight

Your baby can see right after birth. Babies can focus up to eight inches in front of themselves. By one month, they can see clearly up to three feet. At four months, distance vision is fully developed and babies can follow moving objects with their eyes.

At birth, babies prefer human faces and, as they grow, they will respond to facial expressions.

Hearing
Your baby's hearing is mature by one month of age. At that time, he or she can recognize some sounds. At three months of age, your baby may begin to imitate some sounds and turn his or her head toward your voice.

Babies are very sensitive to noise levels. In fact, if your baby is in a very noisy area, he or she may "tune out" the sound and fall into a deep sleep. Your infant will become more social with time and will enjoy responding to other people.

At three months, your baby may use his or her face and body to communicate or "talk." He or she may imitate movements and facial expressions and will enjoy looking in the mirror. At seven months, your baby may use voice to express joy and displeasure and to babble. At 12 months, your baby may respond to simple requests and to the word "no." He or she may try to repeat words, and say "dada" and "mama."

Protecting Your Baby From Illness

Wash Your Hands Frequently

The best way to prevent spreading germs to your baby is by washing your hands often and thoroughly. Wash your hands before and after you care for your baby, especially before feedings and after diaper changes.

Avoid having visitors who have symptoms of a cold or the flu. Be sure to wash your baby's toys and pacifiers regularly in hot, soapy water or on the top shelf of the dishwasher.

Steps to Good Hand Washing

  • Have paper towels or clean towels handy.
  • Wet hands with warm water, and then add soap.
  • Rub your hands together and lather. Wash your hands for 20 seconds (long enough to sing "Happy Birthday").
  • Be sure to wash around your fingernails and the spaces between your fingers.
  • Rinse with lots of warm, running water.
  • Dry your hands completely with paper towels or a clean towel.
  • Turn off the faucet with the towel.

Protecting Your Baby

Child-proofing your home gives your baby some freedom and helps develop self-esteem by letting him or her discover, test and use new abilities without getting hurt. Making your home safe for your baby helps prevent accidents and allows your baby to learn and explore the world.

To protect your baby:

  • Set up smoke detectors near bedrooms, the kitchen and on each living level.
  • Set your water heater at 120 degrees to prevent your baby from getting burned.
  • Always test water temperature before placing your baby in a bath.
  • Never leave your baby unattended when giving him or her a bath.
  • Keep small objects that could cause choking out of the crib and away from your baby. In addition, cribs should never be placed near blinds that have cords.
  • Remove pillows or quilted blankets from the crib until your baby is one year of age.
  • Use safety latches on doors and cupboards.
  • Use safety covers on all electrical outlets.
  • Keep dangling wires out of your baby's reach.
  • Do not allow anyone to smoke around your baby. Infants can easily be burned and should not breathe second-hand smoke, which leads to a higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and asthma.
  • Never eat, drink or carry anything hot when holding your baby.

You will need a variety of things to take care of your baby. The following are some of the key items you should have:

Car Seats

A car seat is the single most important piece of baby equipment. It is not safe or legal for a child to travel in a car unless he or she is secured in a car seat. Unfortunately, 97 percent of car seats are not installed correctly. Your local police department has officers who are certified in car seat installation. You should install the car seat prior to your baby's birth and have a qualified person inspect it. Contact the Warm Line (1-800-711-7011) or your local police department for more information. Women & Infants' valet staff and security officers are also certified to install car seats. They can help you before you go home with your baby.

Car seat safety tips:
  • Use a car seat that is federally approved for infants. Check the owner's manual in your car. Other attachments, such as a locking clip, may be needed for installation.
  • Car seats should be installed in the back seat of the car, preferably in the center of the seat. Never put an infant in the front seat, especially if the car has air bags.
  • Check the expiration date. Car seats have a five-year expiration date.
  • If the car seat has been in an accident, even a minor one, get a new one. Car seats are safety tested for one crash only.
  • Rhode Island law mandates that car seats should be placed in the rear-facing position until your baby is two years of age and weighs 20 pounds.

Cribs

When choosing a crib for your baby, make sure it meets current safety standards. Since June 2011, federal safety standards prohibit the manufacture or sale of drop-side rail cribs. The standards also require stronger parts and hardware. If you have an older crib made before the new safety standards were enacted, check with the manufacturer to see if it offers hardware to keep the drop side from moving. Check the crib frequently to make sure the hardware is tight and no parts are broken or missing. Consider buying a new crib that meets the stronger standards, if possible.

Bassinets/Cradles

These are useful for just a few weeks. To get the longest and safest possible use out of your bassinet or cradle, make sure:

  • The bottom is well supported so it won't collapse as your baby gains weight.
  • The base is wide so it won't tip if someone bumps into it.

Move your baby to a crib once he or she weighs 10 pounds or more.

Swings

Swings can be helpful when trying to settle a fussy baby. Review the weight guidelines to be sure your swing is safe for your baby's size. Be sure to support the baby's head with a rolled blanket or towel. Do not leave a baby in a swing unattended or for a long period of time.

Strollers

Strollers are a great way to travel with your baby. They allow the baby to nap comfortably while you get some fresh air and exercise. When choosing a stroller, look at price, convenience and practical features such as protection from the sun. A model that reclines flat for infants is helpful, so they can sleep and have comfortable head support.

A Safe Sleep Environment

Sleep is so important to a growing baby. But as new parents, you want to be sure that your baby is sleeping soundly … and safely.

Always

  • Place your baby to sleep on his or her back at naptime and at night time.
  • Use a crib that meets current safety standards, with a firm mattress that fits snugly and is covered with only a tight-fitting crib sheet.
  • Remove all soft bedding and toys from your baby's sleep area. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests using a wearable blanket instead of loose blankets to keep your baby warm.
  • Breastfeed your baby, if possible. After each breastfeeding session, put your baby back to sleep in his or her own sleep area.
  • You may offer a pacifier when putting your baby to sleep. If you are breastfeeding, introduce the pacifier after one month or once breastfeeding has been established.

Never

  • Put your baby to sleep on any soft surface, including your bed, sofas, chairs, water beds, on quilts, sheet skins, etc.
  • Dress your baby too warmly for sleep – keep the room temperature at approximately 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid overheating.
  • Use sleep wedges or positioners to prop your baby up or to keep him or her on his back.
  • Allow anyone to smoke around your baby or to take your baby into a room or a car where someone has recently been smoking.

 

What does a safe sleep environment look like? Download the brochure in English or Spanish.

What Does a Newborn Look Like?

Many first-time parents have never seen a newborn baby the first day after birth and may be surprised about the normal newborn appearance.

Skin Color

A blue/gray skin color is normal in the first few minutes after birth. The skin color changes to pink after the baby starts to cry. It is normal for a baby's hands and feet to appear slightly blue one or two days after birth. Call your baby's health care provider if you notice a blue or gray coloring anywhere on your baby's skin after you leave the hospital. African American and Hispanic babies may have lighter skin than their parents at birth. The skin color darkens in a few days.

Vernix

Your baby may have a creamy yellowish-white coating called vernix on his or her skin at birth. This protects the baby before birth and will wash off after the first few baths.

Lanugo

Lanugo is a fine, downy hair on the face, shoulders and back of some babies. It will fall off in the first few weeks.

Milia

Milia are tiny white bumps or yellow spots across the top of the baby's nose or skin. These are caused by skin gland secretions and disappear in the first two to three weeks of life.

Puffiness

Swelling or puffiness, also called edema, is normal on the baby's head, face and eyes. It usually goes away in a few days. Swelling of the breasts is also common in both male and female babies, due to mother's hormones that are passed to the baby before birth. In addition, you may notice a few drops of milk leaking from your baby's breast. This, too, is normal and usually only lasts about one week.

Jaundice

Many newborns develop a yellowish tinge to their skin in the first few days of life. This is jaundice and is caused by a normal breakdown of old red blood cells resulting in an increased amount of bilirubin. As the bilirubin levels rise above normal, this yellowish tinge will appear first on the face, then on the chest and abdomen, and finally on the legs. Bilirubin levels in term infants usually reach their highest between days three and four. For late pre-term infants, bilirubin levels will reach their highest between days five and seven. If you are concerned that your baby is jaundiced, especially if the yellowish tinge reaches the level of the belly button, you should call the baby's health care provider. A blood test may be ordered to determine if treatment is needed.

Head

At birth, your baby's head may appear long and/or misshapen. This is called molding and enabled the baby to fit through the birth canal. Molding is normal, and your baby's head will become round in a few days. If you had an internal monitor during labor, you may see a scab on the baby's head. This heals in a few days. If forceps or vacuum extraction were used during delivery, there may be a small amount of redness and bruising.

Soft Spot

All babies have two soft spots, or fontanelles, on their head. These are the areas where the immature bones of the skull are still growing together. The larger opening is on the top of the head and will remain soft until after the baby's first birthday. It is normal to see it moving up and down as your baby feeds or cries. A smaller fontanelle is at the back of the head and will close by four months of age. It is okay to touch these areas gently. If either of the soft spots looks sunken or bulging, call your baby's health care provider.

Genitals

It is not unusual to see swelling of the genitals (sexual organs) in newborns after birth. This is due to the mother's hormones passed to the baby before birth.

In girls, the labia or lips around the vagina may appear swollen or enlarged and will return to normal in a few days. Sometimes a drop of blood or pink tint may appear on the diaper. This is normal. A clear mucous discharge from the vagina is also normal.

In boys, the penis and scrotum may appear swollen or enlarged and will return to normal in a few days.

Routine Newborn Health Screenings

In the hospital, your baby will have the following screenings, as required by the Rhode Island Department of Health:

  • Hearing – a simple, quick test as part of the nursery routine in the hospital.
  • Metabolic screening – a blood test for rare metabolic disorders.

The results of these screenings are sent to your baby's health care provider, and you will be contacted if there is a problem.

Circumcision

Circumcision is a surgical procedure in which the skin covering the end of the penis is removed. Circumcision is usually performed by a doctor in the first few days of life. An infant must be stable and healthy to safely be circumcised. Scientific studies show some medical benefits of circumcision. However, these benefits are not sufficient for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised. Parents may want their sons circumcised for religious, social, and cultural reasons. Since circumcision is not essential to a child's health, parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and risks.

Many parents choose to have their sons circumcised because "all the other men in the family were circumcised" or because they do not want their sons to feel "different." Others feel that circumcision is unnecessary and choose not to have it done. Some groups, such as followers of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, practice circumcision for religious and cultural reasons. Since circumcision may be more risky if done later in life, parents may want to decide before or soon after their son is born if they want their son circumcised.

As noted above, research studies suggest that there may be some medical benefits to circumcision. These include the following:

  • A lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). A circumcised infant boy has about a 1 in 1,000 chance of developing a UTI in the first year of life; an uncircumcised infant boy has about a 1 in 100 chance developing a UTI in the first year of life.
  • A lower risk of getting cancer of the penis, although this type of cancer is very rare in both circumcised and uncircumcised males.
  • A slightly lower risk of getting sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and the AIDS virus.
  • Prevention of foreskin infections.
  • Prevention of phimosis, a condition in uncircumcised males that make foreskin retraction impossible.
  • Easier genital hygiene.

Just as there are reasons parents may choose circumcision, there are reasons why parents may choose NOT to have their son circumcised:

  •  As with any surgery, circumcision has some risks. Complications from circumcision are rare and usually minor. They may include bleeding, infection, cutting the foreskin too short or too long, and improper healing.
  • The belief that the foreskin is necessary to protect the tip of the penis. When removed, the tip of the penis may become irritated and cause the opening of the penis to become too small. Rarely, this can cause urination problems that may need to be surgically corrected.
  • Some people believe that circumcision makes the tip of the penis less sensitive, causing a decrease in sexual pleasure later in life. This has not been proven by any medical or psychological study.

Almost all uncircumcised boys can be taught proper hygiene that can lower their chances of getting infection, cancer of the penis, and sexually-transmitted diseases.

When done without pain medicine, circumcision is painful. There are pain medicines available that are safe and effective. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they be used to reduce pain from circumcision. Local anesthetics can be injected into the penis to lower pain and stress in infants. Talk to your pediatrician/obstetrician about which pain medicine is best for your son. Problems with using pain medicine are rare and usually not serious.

What should I expect for my son after circumcision?

After the circumcision, the tip of the penis may seem raw or yellowish. There will be a gauze dressing, and it should be changed with each diapering to reduce the risk of the penis becoming infected. A&D ointment should be used to keep the gauze dressing from sticking. It takes about seven to 10 days for the penis to fully heal after circumcision.

Are there any problems that can happen after circumcision?

Problems after a circumcision are very rare. However, call your pediatrician right away if:

  • Your baby does not urinate normally within six to eight hours after the circumcision.
  • There is persistent bleeding.
  • There is redness around the tip of the penis that gets worse after three to five days.
  • Your baby develops a fever.

It is normal to have a little yellow discharge or coating around the head of the penis, but this should not last longer than a week. See your pediatrician if you notice any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or foul-smelling drainage.

What if I choose not to have my son circumcised?

If you choose not to have your son circumcised, talk to your pediatrician about how to keep your son's penis clean. The foreskin usually does not fully retract for several years and should never be forced. The uncircumcised penis is easy to keep clean by gently washing the genital area while bathing. You do not need to do any special cleansing, such as with cotton swabs or antiseptics.

Later, when the foreskin fully retracts, boys should be taught how to wash underneath the foreskin every day. Teach your son to clean his foreskin by:

  • Gently pulling it back away from the head of the penis.
  • Rinsing the head of the penis and inside fold of the foreskin with soap and warm water.
  • Pulling the foreskin back over the head of the penis.

Source: The American of Pediatrics, www.aap.org

Taking Your Baby's Temperature

How to Read a Thermometer

Learn how to take your baby's temperature when he or she is well, so you will know how to do it when he or she gets sick. Note that ear probe thermometers and pacifier thermometers are not recommended for infants.

  • Hold the thermometer sideways so you can see the temperature lines and numbers.
  • Turn the thermometer a little until you see a dark, solid line.
  • The temperature reading will be the number where the line ends.
  • Hold the end without the bulb tightly between fingers and shake the thermometer until the dark line is below 96 degrees.
  • After use, clean the end of the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or wash with cool water and soap.

Taking a Rectal Temperature

A rectal temperature reading is taken in your baby’s bottom. A normal rectal temperature is 97.7 to 99.7 degrees. Call the baby’s health care provider if your baby’s rectal temperature is less than 97.5 degrees or greater than 100.4 degrees.

How to Take a Temperature Rectally

  • Put Vaseline at the end of the thermometer bulb.
  • Lie your baby on his or her belly on a firm surface.
  • Hold your baby still by gently pressing the palm of your hand against the baby's back just above the buttocks (bottom).
  • With your other hand, gently insert the thermometer one-half inch into the rectum. Do not push it in any further.
  • If you are using a glass thermometer, hold in place for two minutes and read it. Digital thermometers generally take less time to display a reading. Refer to the package directions for specific information.
  • Clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol after every use.

Taking an Axillary Temperature

An axillary temperature is taken under the arm. A normal axillary temperature is 97.2 to 98.8 degrees.

How to Take an Axillary Temperature

  • Take your baby's shirt off.
  • Hold the thermometer at a 45-degree angle and place the bulb in the baby's armpit.
  • Hold your baby's arm snugly against his or her side.
  • If you are using a glass thermometer, hold it under the baby's arm for three minutes and read it. Digital thermometers generally take less time to display a reading. Refer to the package directions for specific information.
  • Clean thermometer with rubbing alcohol after each use.

Call your baby's health care provider when he or she has a fever. Be sure to mention if you took the temperature rectally or under the arm.

When Your Baby is Sick

It is normal to be concerned about your baby's health. When newborns are sick, they don't always give you a lot of signs. Because you are just getting to know your baby, it may be difficult to notice a change in behavior. Trust your instincts. If you think your baby is sick, call his or her health care provider. Although usually harmless, call your baby's health care provider if the baby has any of the following symptoms:

  • Rectal temperature of 100.2 degrees or higher.
  • Unusual crying or irritability.
  • Sleeping too little (less than 12 hours a day) or too much (more than 22 hours a day).
  • Forceful or projectile vomiting.
  • More stools or stools that are different in color or odor.
  • Disinterest in eating, either refusing to feed or feeding poorly.
  • Weakness and no energy to cry.
  • Jaundice.

Caring for the Umbilical Cord at Home

The umbilical cord is clamped immediately after birth. The clamp is removed before the baby goes home from the hospital. The cord stump should fall off in seven to 14 days. When it falls off, a small amount of blood or wetness is normal. At home, you should:

  • Keep the cord clean and dry. The drier the cord, the sooner it will fall off.
  • Use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to clean around the base of the cord three times a day or when soiled with urine or stool. You may continue to apply alcohol even after the stump falls off until the area is dry.
  • Do not give your baby a tub bath until the cord falls off and the area looks healed. This will take seven to 10 days. Give him or her a sponge bath instead.
  • Roll the diaper as low as you can so that when the baby kicks, the diaper does not hit the cord.

Call your baby's health care provider if you notice:

  • A bad smell coming from the cord.
  • Redness around the cord.
  • A yellow or greenish discharge.
  • Bleeding.
  • A cord that remains soft and moist.

What is Jaundice?

Most people have heard about jaundice, when the baby's skin is yellow, but may not understand why it happens or what to do for it.

When babies are born, they have a lot of red blood cells. These extra red blood cells break down into bilirubin (pronounced billy-ru-ben). A newborn baby's liver is not mature enough to get rid of this bilirubin so it builds up in the baby's body and causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to turn yellow. If the bilirubin level gets too high, it can hurt your baby's nervous system.

Finding out that your baby has jaundice can be scary but it is very common, and most times does not cause any problems. Ask your doctor or nurse if you have any questions or concerns about jaundice in your baby. You can also call the Warm Line at 1-800-711-7011. The Warm Line is staffed by registered nurses who will answer questions you may have about your baby. The Warm Line is open Monday thru Friday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Are there different types of jaundice?

There are two types of jaundice. Normal jaundice happens in about half of all full-term babies and in about 80 percent of babies born early (before 37 weeks). Jaundice may last longer in babies born early.

Pathologic jaundice is caused by an illness or other medical problem like an infection. Sometimes the baby's blood type is different than the mother's and that causes problems such as jaundice. Other causes can be liver or intestinal problems, or being born too early.

When will I see the color change?

Jaundice usually starts to show on about day two or three of life. Bilirubin levels reach the highest level at about day three or four in a term baby. The levels in a late pre-term baby (born at 35 to 37 weeks) will peak between day five and seven. Jaundice usually disappears in about one week, but can last longer in babies who are born early.

The yellow is first seen in the eyes and face, and then it spreads down the body. If the baby is yellow just in the face, it is okay. If the baby is yellow to the belly button or you cannot wake the baby for a feeding, call the baby's doctor or the Warm Line (1-800-711-7011).

How can I tell if the baby is getting jaundiced?

In natural lighting, press on the baby's skin with your finger tip. When you raise your finger, the skin should be white. If it is yellow, your baby is jaundiced to that point. In babies whose skin color is darker, you need to watch the white of their eyes and palms of their hands for the yellow color.

How will they test for jaundice?

A small bit of blood will be taken from your baby's heel and tested to see how much bilirubin is in the blood.

How does my baby get rid of the bilirubin?

The bilirubin collects in the baby's stool. When the baby has a bowel movement, the bilirubin goes out. If the baby doesn't have a bowel movement, the bilirubin goes back into the body and levels get higher. So we want babies to have bowel movements. It is very important to feed them. They do not need water. Water will make them urinate, but not have a stool. They need calories (food) to make them move their bowels.

If you are breastfeeding, make sure you feed the baby eight to 12 times in 24 hours. If you are bottle feeding, feed the baby six to eight times in 24 hours.

How do they treat jaundice?

Treatment may include:

  • The baby is fed breast milk or formula (not water or sugar water). This helps the baby to have a bowel movement and get the bilirubin out of his/her body.
  • The baby is sometimes put under special lights to help break the bilirubin down. All the baby's clothes are taken off and the eyes are covered to protect them. Your baby's doctor will decide if this is necessary.
  • If jaundice appears in the hospital, some babies will go home with instructions to follow up with blood tests.
  • If you have any questions about jaundice, ask your baby's health care provider, nurse or call the Warm Line (1-800-711-7011).

Does breastfeeding cause jaundice?

If a breastfed baby is jaundiced, it is often because he or she is not nursing enough and not having a stool. Breastfeeding on cue day and night may help prevent jaundice. Breast milk is a natural laxative and feeding your baby frequently will help remove the jaundice. Sometimes a breastfed baby can become jaundiced when he or she is two or three weeks old. This may be due to something in the breast milk that prevents the bilirubin from being removed. Treatment is not usually needed. If there are no other causes for the jaundice, continue breastfeeding. It may take as long as three months for the levels to return to normal.

Stay in the Shade

When the weather permits, it is fine for you and your baby to enjoy the fresh air. Because baby's skin is tender, however, avoid direct sun exposure during his or her first year. 

To protect your baby's skin from the sun, you can:

  • Keep the baby in the shade or covered before six months of age. Do not use sunscreen for the first six months.
  • Use a bonnet or hat to keep the baby's head and ears covered.
  • After six months of age, apply sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher every time you bring the baby outside. Reapply every 60 to 90 minutes. The sunscreen you use should be PABA free and made specifically for babies.
  • Take your baby with you into a store. Do not leave him or her in a parked, closed car even for a few minutes. Heat stroke can occur and even lead to death. Heat stroke can also occur if the baby is overdressed in the heat.
  • Dress your baby in warm clothing in the cold weather, remembering to cover his or her head. Use the rule of one – put on the same number of layers that you are wearing, plus one additional layer.

If your baby gets sunburned, call his or her health care provider. A mild burn for an adult could be serious for your baby. Babies can burn even on overcast days.