Caring For Your Newborn

Questions about circumcision?




Choosing diapers

There are two main types of diapers available for babies. Disposable and cloth.

Reasons to consider using cloth diapers:

  • They are environmentally friendly – disposable diapers end up in the landfill and never fully decompose.
  • They are easy to use – really! There are many types of cloth diapers available today that are as easy to use as disposables. There are even diaper services available if you don’t want to launder diapers yourself.
  • They are healthier for your baby as they contain no chemicals
  • Babies who wear cloth diapers are less likely to have diaper rashes
  • Cost – cloth diapering is a lot cheaper than using disposables, and if you use them for more than one child, you save even more money!
  • Another option if you want something in between are “hybrid diapers” which use disposable inserts.

If you are using disposable diapers, consider using chemical free, biodegradable diapers. There are many brands available and they are becoming more affordable.

If you are thinking about cloth diapering, do some research and talk to friends who use cloth diapers.

Changing your baby’s diaper

  • Have everything you need before you lay your baby down to change the diaper (clean diapers, wet wash cloth or baby wipes, change mat, spare clothes)
  • Change your baby each time the diaper is dirty or wet (every 2-3 hours at least).
  • Use a clean washcloth with warm water or disposable baby wipes for the diaper area - wipe from front to back
  • You may need to change the diaper before and after each feeding
  • Tabs come from the back of the diaper and fasten at the front
  • Never leave your baby unattended – If you can't reach what you need take your baby with you
  • Wash your hands after each diaper change to prevent the spread of germs
  • Don't use baby powder or talc on your baby's bottom: it can cause breathing problems or lung damage if your baby breathes it in.

Call your health care provider if your baby's diaper rash:

  • Doesn't clear up after 3 days
  • Has spread to a larger area, up the abdomen or down the legs
  • Has pus (a yellow discharge)
  • Is accompanied by a fever

Diaper rash

Preventing diaper rash:

  • Change your baby’s diaper frequently, at least every 2-3 hours and every time they poop
  • Air or pat dry your baby’s bottom before putting on a new diaper
  • Use cloth diapers
  • Use warm wet wash cloths instead of baby wipes whenever possible
  • Give your baby “naked time” during the day to air out their bottom
  • Wash cloth diapers in cloth diaper friendly detergent and “strip” them if they become smelly

About diaper rashes:

  • Diaper rash is a red skin irritation on your baby's bottom caused by wet and soiled diapers.
  • A rash that lasts longer than a few days might be caused by a type of yeast called candida (Candida albicans).
  • Candida happens naturally in our intestines without making us sick; however, if candida overgrows it can cause a rash.
  • A candida rash is usually very red with small red spots close to larger, more defined patches.
  • Have your baby checked by your health care provider if you think his diaper rash is caused by candida.

Treating diaper rash:

  • Change your baby’s diaper frequently
  • Use warm wet wash cloths to clean your baby, do not use baby wipes
  • Make sure to air or pat dry your baby’s bottom before putting a new diaper on
  • Give your baby naked time with no diaper on several times a day
  • Try a zinc oxide cream to help soothe his skin and provide a barrier against moisture
  • Do not use baby powder or talcum powder as it is dangerous if breathed in
  • Call your health care provider if the rash does not clear up in 3 days

Adapted with permission from Peel Region and Trillium Health Care

Close this section

Urine and bowel movements (pees and poops)

How often should my baby be peeing/pooping?

Baby's age Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 - 6 and older
Wet diapers ("pees") 1 or more 2 or more 3 or more 4 or more 6 or more
Bowel movements ("poops") 1 - 2 black or dark green At least 3 black, green or yellow At least 3 large yellow
Babys first bowel movements
  • Babies will typically continue to have frequent loose yellow bowel movements while they are only breastfeeding.
  • Some breastfed babies will start having less frequent bowel movements at around one month old and may go several days without pooping. This is normal as long as your baby is not showing any signs of illness or discomfort.
  • Your baby's poops will change in colour and texture often, depending on his age and what he's eating.

Signs of dehydration

See your health care provider right away if your baby:

  • Is over 5 days old and has less than 6 wet diapers in 24 hours.
  • Has dark yellow urine (pee).
  • Is still passing meconium - dark bowel movements (poop) - on day 3 or later.
  • Has a dry mouth, lips, or tongue.
  • Has a weight loss of more than 10% in the first few days.
  • Has a fever.
Close this section

You can start giving your baby a bath in a tub right away, even when the umbilical cord is attached. This helps with decreased heat loss and makes sure the umbilical cord does not get infected.

Your baby only needs a bath every 2-3 days. Bathing too frequently dries the skin and can lead to increased irritation.

Bathing tips:

  • Arrange all your needed supplies within easy reach before you start the bath: wash cloth, soap/body wash, and a few towels.
  • Use a mild, unscented, and hypoallergenic soap or body wash.
  • The bath water should feel warm to your elbow or inner wrist.
  • Never turn your back or leave your baby alone during the bath, not even for a second.
  • Always keep at least one hand on your baby when in the bath or on the table.
  • Give your baby a bath in a warm room (about 22 to 27°C), free of drafts.

Washing your baby

Think cleanest to dirtiest.

  1. EYES: Using a clean cloth with no soap, wipe your baby’s eyes from the inner corner, moving outwards. Use a different part of the washcloth for each eye.
  2. FACE: Gently wipe the baby's face with a clean wet washcloth without soap.
  3. HAIR: You can wash baby's hair in the tub or wrap the baby in a warm towel and wash the hair before washing the body. Lather baby's hair using a very small amount of mild soap or shampoo. Rinse your baby's hair thoroughly and rub dry. Make sure to gently place your fingers over the opening in your baby's ears to prevent water from going inside the ears.
  4. BODY: Be sure to thoroughly wash and rinse the folds around your baby's neck, creases under the arms and between fingers. Wash baby's legs and between toes.
  5. DIAPER AREA: Clean baby's diaper area with warm water and a washcloth. Always clean from front to back to prevent a urinary tract infection.
    • Girls: Wash gently with unscented soap and water, between the labial genital folds (often swollen), from front to back. Mucous discharge with pink tinged blood is normal and is because your baby received some of your hormones at birth. This usually lasts about 5 days and is normal. Rinse baby's bottom with water from the tub.
    • Boys: Wash gently, with unscented soap and water, lifting the scrotum up to clean underneath. The scrotum is often enlarged and looks darkened and red in colour. Do not push back skin or clean under foreskin if penis is uncircumcised. Rinse baby's bottom with water from the tub.

Thoroughly dry baby's entire body, especially between skin creases and folds, and put diaper on. If you want to, you can also brush and comb baby's hair.

Creams and lotions

Use caution!

  • Newborn babies often have dry skin which may peel as they have been soaking in liquid during your pregnancy
  • Using baby lotion isn’t necessary.
  • Baby oil (mineral oil) is not recommended as it is not a natural product and can dry your baby’s skin out.
  • If you want to put something on your baby’s skin, olive oil or grape seed oil is safe.
  • If you choose to use baby lotions and creams, check the ingredient list and use a hypoallergenic, fragrance free one.
  • Before applying anything to your baby’s skin, check for sensitivity by putting a small amount on baby’s inner arm and waiting 24-48 hours to ensure there is no reaction.

Bathtime with baby

Adapted with permissions from Trillium Health Centre

Close this section

Dressing time is the perfect opportunity to talk to and play games - like "peek-a-boo" - with your baby.

Explain what you're doing as you dress him/her, and soon enough your baby will start to recognize body parts.

Source: Tori Kropp, R.N.

Keeping baby safe while dressing

  • Always lay your baby down in a safe place when dressing him. This leaves your two hands free to get your baby dressed faster!
  • Never pull your baby's arms or legs through clothing forcefully. Be patient and gentle.
  • To prevent strangling, don't dress your baby in clothes with ribbons or ties.

Choosing baby's clothes

  • Follow this simple rule: Dress your baby as you're dressed, plus one layer.
  • Dress your baby so they won't be too hot or too cold. Choose outfits that are easy to open with zippers or buttons on the front, and make sure the openings for the neck easily slide over your baby's head.

Dressing for car seats

  • Avoid dressing your baby in a snowsuit or heavy winter jackets as they can interfere with the effectiveness of the car seat and the harness straps may not fit properly.
  • Do not use anything that goes underneath your baby in the car seat (like a “cuddle bag” or “bundle bag”) as this will also interfere with the safety of the car seat
  • Dress your baby as you’re dressed, plus one layer.
  • You can use a thin cardigan, hoodie or thin fleece suit and then strap your baby into the car seat.
  • You can put a blanket over your baby to keep them warm and then remove it when your car warms up to prevent overheating.

Washing your baby's clothes

  • Brand new clothes can irritate a baby's skin, so always wash new items of clothing before your baby wears them.
  • Wash all of your baby's clothes with a very mild and preferably natural laundry detergent and rinse well.

Adapted with permission from the Region of Peel

Close this section

The umbilical cord:

  • Usually falls off 7 - 14 days after birth

After a baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut, leaving a short stump behind. Since an umbilical cord doesn't have nerves, your baby won't feel any pain or discomfort when the cord is cut.
Always keep the umbilical cord clean and dry to prevent infection.

Cord appearance and care

Your baby's umbilical cord will change colour from yellow/green, to brown, then to black.

Cord careUmbilical cord

  • You can still bathe your baby in a baby tub or the sink while his cord is attached. (Remember, however, that babies need a bath only every two to three days, otherwise the skin can dry out very easily.)
  • Wash the umbilical cord area (cord stump) with water when you bathe your baby. After each bath, make sure to pat the area dry with a clean towel or leave it open to air-dry. Fold the diaper down and away from the cord.
  • Also, be sure to wash the umbilical cord if it's wet or soiled from your baby's diaper. Always dry the cord after it has been washed.

When to be concerned:

  • You notice a strong foul smell coming from the area
  • You notice yellow pus or discharge
  • Your baby develops a fever
  • The skin around the umbilical cord is red and warm to touch
  • The bleeding doesn't stop

Adapted with permission from the Region of Peel

Close this section

You can care for your baby's nails by using an emery board, nail file and baby-sized nail clippers or scissors.

Use an emery board or nail file for the first few weeks. This is the easiest way to care for your baby's nails. Gently file your baby's nails while he's asleep.

After the first few weeks, switch to baby-sized nail clippers or scissors that have rounded tips.

How to trim your baby's nails

  1. Gently pull your baby's skin away from the nail.
  2. Hold his palm and finger steady with one hand and clip the nail straight across with the other hand.
  3. Use a nail file to smooth the nail.

Tips for making trimming easier

  • Trimming a baby's nails can be tricky.
  • If you see a little blood around your baby's nail, gently apply pressure to the area. Don't apply a bandage: if your baby puts his finger in his mouth, the bandage could come off, causing him to choke.
  • Use baby-sized nail clippers or round-tip scissors: they have rounded tips and will prevent damage to the nail bed.
  • You can make clipping or filing your baby's nails easier by teaming up with your partner. Try holding your baby on your lap or breastfeeding your baby to keep them calm and still while your partner trims and files baby’s nails.
Close this section

A premature baby (a "preemie") is a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

It's common for preemies to spend extra time in hospital until their organs and immune system are more developed. Over time, most premature babies grow and develop just like any other baby.

If your baby was born prematurely, you might have mixed feelings and emotions during your hospital stay. And when it's time to take your baby home, you might feel anxious about caring for him on your own.

Remember that hospital staff won't send you and your baby home until he's ready. Ask questions and talk about your concerns with your health care professional at the hospital before you take your newborn home.

Resources for parents and caregivers

Close this section

Check out these websites for helpful information:

Close this section