The best fabric next to a baby’s skin is 100% cotton (wool and acrylic can irritate). As your new baby is delightfully ‘floppy’, the easiest outfit is a cotton all-in-one suit – try one with snap fasteners down the front and legs so you can change nappies easily. Clothing with a wide neck and some stretch makes it easier to get tops on and off.
Try to avoid synthetic fabrics (except fleece material) for newborns. They might be less expensive, but they don’t breathe well and can scratch your baby’s very sensitive skin.
A hat is a great way to protect your baby from the sun. Look for a soft hat so he can still lie down comfortably while he’s wearing it.
Babies can’t regulate their temperature as well as adults, so you might need to add or remove layers to his basic outfit throughout the day. As a general guide, dress him in one layer more than you’re wearing. At bedtime, choose pyjamas to suit the night room temperature. Try wrapping your baby to keep him safe and cosy in bed – it’s better than using loose blankets.
Using cloth or disposable nappies is a matter of personal choice and your budget. Cloth nappies are now user-friendly with easy plastic fasteners. Disposable nappies are convenient but are expensive and might be less environmentally friendly than cloth nappies. However, disposables might be more practical if you live in a drought-affected area under tight water restrictions.
Expect 9-10 nappy changes a day. Lots of wet nappies are a good sign that your baby is getting enough fluid. Understanding and examining your baby’s poo and wee isn’t disgusting – it’s actually one of the best ways you can regularly monitor her health.
To avoid nappy rash, change your newborn’s nappy as soon as possible after a poo (you may need to check with a sniff or quick peek). Poo is acidic and can actually ‘burn’ the skin – aside from other obvious reasons, this is why you want to change a ‘number two’ nappy straight away. You can apply a dollop of nappy rash cream or a barrier cream (for example, Sorbolene) right where it counts to prevent rashes. If her skin is raw with severe nappy rash, don’t wipe – instead, rinse with water and gently pat dry. Apply lots of nappy rash cream to create a barrier, and check the rash to make sure it’s healing. See your doctor if the rash seems to deteriorate and starts to weep.
It’s important to thoroughly clean poo from your newborn’s bottom. Always wipe girls from front to back to avoid urinary infections. You can use mild commercial baby wipes or cloth wipes with water and a drop of non-soap cleanser for messy bottoms.
Bathing and keeping clean
A newborn’s bathing routine can be a daily ‘top and tail’ with a clean washcloth to keep his face, hands and bottom clean. A full bath is needed just once or twice a week. However, many parents find an evening bath can be a calming ritual for their baby. See the step-by-step guide to bathing a newborn if you need some tips on ‘how to’.
It’s important to keep your baby’s belly button area clean and dry until it heals – the same goes for a circumcised penis. Soap isn’t the best idea as it can irritate the skin, so a gentle wash with water should do the trick. Dry carefully, blotting moisture gently with a cotton bud. If redness develops, call your GP as soon as possible.
After a bath is a good time to massage your baby.
Newborn nails are often so delicate that they simply soften in the bath and the ends then flake off. Eventually the nails will harden and need trimming. Arm yourself with a soothing nail trimming song (see Baby Karaoke for some ideas) and a small pair of ordinary nail scissors. Remember to clip straight across when trimming toenails – rounding the edges can lead to ingrown toenails.
If your baby protests or pulls her hand away when trimming, stop and try again later when she’s in the mood or sleeping soundly.
Teeth and gums
Healthy teeth and gums are vital to children’s general health. Dental care should start even before the first tooth appears in your baby’s mouth.
Dressing your newborn
This video is available in different languages
This short video gives you a simple demonstration of how to dress newborns and babies – it includes tips on what order to put clothes on your baby. And if your older baby fidgets and wriggles on the change table, watch this video for some handy distraction techniques.