It is completely normal to feel both excited and scared about bringing your baby home from the hospital. Being prepared can go a long way in making you feel more confident and making your baby more comfortable. What will your newborn need? The essentials include food, clothes, diapers, and a quiet and safe place to sleep. Of course, your baby will also rely on you for love and attention.
Whether by breast or by formula, a newborn needs to be fed throughout the day. In the first few weeks, you should wake your baby to feed if 3-4 hours have passed since the last feeding. Unless they are premature or have special nutritional needs, you may not need to wake them up overnight, as they usually wake up on their own.
If you are breastfeeding, you will likely need to feed your baby every 2-3 hours. If you are feeding your baby formula, your baby may have 6-10 formula feedings (2-4 ounces each) per day. If you do decide to use formula, be sure to follow the product’s instructions for storing and warming it.
Essential Feeding Supplies:
- Bottles and nipples
- Bibs, washcloths, and towels
- Breast-fed babies may need extra Vitamin D
*Mom Tip – There are many feeding resources available in the area. Check with your hospital for a list of lactation professionals, or for advice on the right formula and bottles for your baby. Your Ob/Gyn or Pediatrician can also be an excellent resource for feeding advice. Lastly, La Leche League and KellyMom.com are fantastic online communities.
Dress your baby in comfortable clothes that make it easy for you to change diapers. Be sure that the clothes do not have anything hanging from them, like strings or ties, which can become a choking hazard. Also check to make sure that your baby’s sleepwear is flame-retardant. Newborns can sometimes have trouble regulating their own body temperature, and as a result, too much clothing can result in overheating, just as underclothing can result in heat loss. For room temperatures of 75°F (24°C) or less, use several layers of clothing. As a guideline, dress your baby in one more layer of clothing than you are comfortable wearing. In warmer weather, you can use a single layer of clothing.
Essential Clothing Supplies:
- Receiving gowns
- Footed sleepers
- Undershirts and onesies
- Blanket sleepers
- Hand mitts (to keep babies from scratching themselves)
*Mom Tip – Have hand mitts on hand to place over your newborns hands. Their small fingernails can be sharp, and they can easily scratch their skin (or their face!) in the early days.
When you first arrive home, your baby will not have regular-looking stool. It will be thick and sticky and have a greenish-black color, and is called meconium. If your baby is breastfed, the stool will become more liquid in consistency, seedy, and yellow. For formula-fed babies, expect soft, pasty, and yellowish-brown stool. Hard or dry stools may be due to your infant not getting enough fluid or losing too much fluid due to an illness.
The frequency of bowel movements can vary greatly in infants. If your baby has many or infrequent bowel movements or if you have any concerns, call your doctor. Your baby should have at least 6-8 wet diapers per day. If your child looks to be in pain while urinating, let your doctor know, as this may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
Essential Diapering Supplies:
- Safe changing area for your baby—Have all of the supplies that you will need in the changing table’s drawers. Never leave your baby alone, and use the safety straps on the table to secure your baby.
- Extra diapers
- Baby wipes
- Diaper rash ointment
- Diaper pail and trash bags
Your baby may sleep 12-20 hours per day in 1-3 hour intervals, and will develop a routine. It is common for your baby to wake up during the night for a feeding or a diaper change. When you place your baby down to sleep, always place them on his or her back, as this is the safest position. The baby should sleep in a place where you can hear and care for him immediately for the first few months of life.
Essential Sleeping Supplies:
- A safety-approved crib or bassinet that has a firm mattress
- Fitted crib sheets
- Waterproof crib pads
Avoid having anything in the crib or bassinet that could restrict your baby’s breathing. Do not place pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed animals, or other items in the crib. Also, do not use sleep positioners, as they can increase your baby’s risk of suffocation.
You can help your baby sleep better by keeping the environment calm and quiet during changing and feeding at night. Try to put your baby in the crib when he or she is drowsy but not yet asleep rather than waiting until he or she is fully asleep. This will help your baby to learn to fall asleep independently. If your baby is fussy, wait a few minutes to see if he or she falls back to sleep. If crying persists, try to determine if your baby is hungry, has a wet diaper, or is not feeling well.
*Mom Tip – Install a dimmer switch on a lamp in the baby’s (or your) room, so that you don’t have to turn on bright overhead lights during nighttime feeding, keeping the environment soothing for a fast return to sleep.
Other Day-to-Day Activities
Giving Your Baby a Sponge Bath
Your baby’s umbilical cord stump needs time to dry and fall off. Until that happens, you will need to give your baby a sponge bath, rather than a tub bath. Gently clean your baby girl’s genital area from front to back. For an uncircumcised baby boy, do not pull back the foreskin. This can cause swelling and other problems. If your baby has been circumcised, follow the doctor’s instructions for caring for your baby.
Essential Bathing Supplies:
- Wash cloths
- Mild bath soap
- Cotton balls or gauze pads—Do not use soap on your baby’s face. Instead, use a wet cotton ball or gauze to gently wipe your baby’s eyes.
Taking Your Baby’s Temperature (Rectally)
It is good idea to have a rectal thermometer at home to take your baby’s temperature, in case they feel warm. These thermometers give the most accurate readings in infants, and your doctor will likely ask for it to be verified this way. Follow the product’s instructions for taking the temperature. Having a temperature greater than 100.4°F (38°C) may be a sign of an infection in babies younger than 1 month. If this occurs, call your baby’s doctor.
Traveling in the Car With Your Baby
Your baby will need a safety-approved rear-facing car seat. Some manufacturers make rear-facing convertible seats, which can be switched to a front-facing seat once your child has reached the height and weight requirements. Rear-facing seats placed in the back seat are the safest option for your baby. Be sure that the seat is strapped into your car properly and that your baby is buckled in correctly. On the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website, you can find a local inspection station where the staff will check to make sure that the car seat is safely installed.
*Mom Tip – In Central Virginia, there are several fire stations around Richmond that will both install and check your car seat for you. They stay annually updated on the latest requirements and advice, and are the best private resource for you. Your baby will not be allowed to leave the hospital without an approved and installed car seat.
Taking a Walk With Your Baby
Just as with the car seat, you will want to buy a safety-approved stroller for your newborn. There are many options available, including ones that allow you to attach the car seat to the stroller. Never leave your baby alone in the stroller.
Some features to look for in a stroller include:
- Five-point harness that is securely attached to the stroller
- Brakes that lock and work well
- Storage area located behind and low to the ground, so items will not fall onto your baby
- Reclining back—If the stroller has leg-hole openings, be sure that you can close them when your baby is resting.
- Canopy to protect your baby from the elements
Playing With Your Baby
You can help your baby to develop his brain and body by doing activities like:
- Touching your baby—cuddling, holding, rocking, and massaging
- Talking to your infant—Call out your baby’s name. Tell your baby what you are doing. Sing or read to your baby.
- Showing your baby objects—While your baby’s vision will take time to develop, your baby will be able to see items that are close. Newborns like bright colors and patterned objects.
- Moving your baby—If your baby is active, place him or her on his or her belly while supervised. Do not let your baby sleep in this position.
Some toys that your baby might enjoy include a brightly-colored stuffed animal, a rattle, or a book with lots of colors. Be sure that the baby’s toys are safety-approved for infants.
Soothing Your Baby
When your baby cries, it can be distressing. Crying is how newborns let you know that they need something, whether it is a diaper change, a feeding, or time in your arms. Over time, you will become better at understanding what your baby needs. Some newborns get upset by bright lights or loud noises. Their bodies are sensitive. Making their environment relaxing and quiet may help to reduce crying. Your baby may also be soothed by being wrapped in a blanket. Remember, it is normal for a newborn to cry for several hours throughout the day. If you think your baby may be sick, call the doctor right away.
If you ever feel that you are becoming aggravated or angry with your baby, ask for help from friends or family right away. Never shake your baby. This can cause brain damage or even death. Get support from your loved ones to help you care for your newborn. There are many people who will be happy to help you. If you find yourself feeling frustrated, remember there are always resources available for you. Call 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373) 24/7 if you’re in urgent need of support, and dial 911 if there is a medical emergency.
Once your baby is home, you will soon develop a routine. Do your best, ask for help, and talk to the doctor or nurse if you have any questions or concerns about your new arrival.
HCA Virginia Physicians is home to the largest physician network of Ob/Gyn and Pediatric providers in Central Virginia, with more than 12 area locations specializing in newborn (and new mother!) care.
Visit hcavirginiaphysicians.com for more information, or click THIS LINK to schedule an appointment online with a provider today.