Being a new parent can be overwhelming. Here is a helpful guide to the first few weeks of caring for your newborn.

Umbilical Cord Care & Bathing

Newborn with Red Cap at BIDMCYour baby's umbilical cord stump has a clamp on it for a day or two as a precaution against the slight chance of bleeding. When the clamp is taken off, the cord stump begins to dry up naturally. Sometimes, it will remain intact for as long as three weeks. As it begins to separate, a little mucous and blood appear at the edges. You should keep the stump dry until it falls off in two to three weeks. No wiping is necessary.

The stump is drying and separating normally if the surrounding skin shows no redness or thickening and the stump shows no sign of a green, foul-smelling oozing. Remember, try not to pull on the cord stump; let it fall off on its own. It is fine to give your baby a sponge bath or a tub bath as long as the cord is kept as dry as possible. While it is still attached, it is a good idea to keep the diaper folded below it so the air can dry out the stump.

If the skin around the stump becomes red and swollen, call the baby's pediatric care provider. This may be a sign of infection.

Circumcision Care

Generally a circumcision is done the day after delivery. Afterwards, the doctor will put gauze coated with petroleum jelly around the tip of the penis. The petroleum jelly keeps the healing tip of the penis from sticking to the diaper. The gauze will fall off or be removed later that day. Continue to apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly to the tip of the penis for one to two days while it heals. You may note mild bleeding and some yellow or white creamy material on the tip of the penis. Both of these are normal as long as they are not excessive and there is no swelling of the penis itself.

Care of the Penis and Vagina

The care of the uncircumcised penis is easy — you need to do nothing! Do not try to pull the foreskin back from the tip of the penis. In time, perhaps three or four years, the foreskin will loosen naturally to the point where it can be pulled back over the tip of the penis.

Care of the vagina is also easy. Any vaginal discharge should be wiped away, always wiping toward the anus, from front to back. You can safely clean the folds of the labia and the most external part of your baby's vagina, but no deeper cleansing is needed or advised.

Eye Care

Most babies' eyes are puffy during the first several days, and may have some mucous discharge. Usually the puffiness will disappear in a day or two, and the discharge in one week. While the discharge is there, however, always clean his eyes by wiping from the inside corner to the outside, using a cotton ball or part of a wash cloth for each eye. You need to seek medical advice only if the whites of his eyes become red or yellow (which can be a sign of jaundice) or if the discharge persists for more than a week. By state law, each baby is given a dose of antibiotic ointment within two hours of delivery to prevent eye infections that may have been acquired during the birth process.


Babies have very soft nails that are difficult to cut. Their fingertips are very delicate for the first few weeks, and scissors or clippers may produce cuts. The fingernails can be smoothed with an emery board. As your baby becomes older, you can use nail clippers or cuticle scissors to clip the nails. To make it easier, try to do this while he is asleep. Do not bite your baby's nails to make them shorter; this former "traditional" way of cutting the nails causes infections.

Hair Loss

Very often baby hair falls out during the first three to four months. Do not be alarmed about this — your baby's permanent hair will eventually grow in, though it may take a year or more.

Taking Baby's Temperature

A baby has a fever if the temperature is greater than 100°F. She is cold if it is below 98°F. There are two ways you can take your baby's temperature: axillary (under the arm) or rectal. A rectal temperature is more accurate, but an axillary temperature is easier to take and more comfortable for the baby.

Axillary (under the arm) Method

We recommend using a digital thermometer. Place the thermometer with the bulb end in the baby's armpit and hold the baby's arm against his side so the end is well covered by skin. Be sure that no clothing is in contact with the bulb end of the thermometer. Hold in place until the digital thermometer designates that it is reading the final result.

Rectal Method

To take a rectal temperature using a digital thermometer, grease the tip with petroleum jelly or lubricant. Slide the tip into the baby's anus, three quarters of an inch at most. If you meet any resistance, do not push hard. Once you have the thermometer inside, hold the thermometer near the tip end, leave it in until the thermometer says that it is reading the final result. Remove the thermometer and clean. For sanitary reasons, once you use the thermometer to take a rectal temperature do not use if for any other method of temperature taking.