Baby Basics

By M. J. Horowitz

While nothing could be more relaxing and endearing than cuddling and cooing with your new baby, there are certain tasks that bring fear into the hearts of new parents. Both diapering and bathing are among them.

“Being a first-time parent, you are afraid you might injure or harm your baby due to your lack of experience. We have all walked in your shoes, and our children have all survived, despite us,” says Ari Brown, M.D., coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year (Windsor Peak Press, 2004) and a pediatrician in private practice in Austin, Texas. Relax.
With a bit of education and forethought, both bathing and diapering will be easy and fun bonding times with your baby.

Diapering 101

The rule of thumb is to change a baby’s diaper every few hours, or when it’s wet. So that’s about eight diapers or more a day, 56 a week…you get the picture. By the time your baby is a week old, you’ll be a pro. Here’s how to start:

Be organized.
Have everything—a diaper, wipes or washcloths, warm water, ointment, and a change of clothes—within reach. “Hypoallergenic, fragrance-free wipes are extremely gentle and okay for newborns,” says Anthony J. Mancini, M.D., associate professor of pediatric dermatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago. “But if your baby is prone to recurrent diaper rash, then water and a gentle cloth are better.”

Hold on.
Place the baby on the changing table or the floor, put your hand on her firmly, and don’t let go until you’re done. Talk to her in a calming voice.

Out with the old.
Lift the baby’s legs, take away the soiled diaper, and wipe front to back if she has had a bowel movement. “There is no need to wipe after a urine-only diaper,” says Mancini. (It’s a good idea to keep a boy’s penis covered with a washcloth as you remove the diaper and put on a fresh one.) Slide in a new diaper. Watch out for the umbilical cord—either use a newborn diaper with a cut-out notch for the cord area, or fold the diaper down—until the cord falls off at about two to four weeks.