Your Baby (An owner’s manual)

Tending to the Umbilical Cord

  • Keep the umbilical cord stump as dry as possible. Don’t immerse the area in water until the stump falls off.
  • Fold down the front of your baby’s diaper, or buy newborn diapers with a cut-out space for the cord, so the stump is exposed to air and doesn’t rub against the diaper.

While some doctors say to clean the area with rubbing alcohol, recent studies show that it doesn’t reduce the risk of infection or speed healing. That’s why most physicians now take a “less is more” approach. Ask your caregiver for his or her advice.

CAUTION! If your baby has a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher, redness or swelling around the navel, or pus at the base of it—all signs of infection—call your pediatrician.

Combating Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is essentially baby dandruff. While it may look yucky, the white or yellowish flakes shouldn’t cause your baby any discomfort. Many experts advise doing nothing and letting it run its course. Most cases disappear within four to six months.

Alternatively, you can try massaging mineral oil into your baby’s scalp to loosen the scales. Next, wash his hair with anti-dandruff shampoo, such as Head & Shoulders. Use a fine-tooth comb to remove the flakes. Repeat two to three times a week.


Before starting, be sure that all of your supplies are within reach: clean diapers, cotton balls, warm water, baby washcloths, diaper cream or ointment, and clean clothes (in case the diaper has leaked).

  • Place your baby on her back on a changing table, washable pad or thick towel.
  • Unfold a clean diaper and lay it to one side.
  • Put another clean diaper beneath your baby in case she pees or has a bowel movement. (Fresh air on the skin can stimulate your baby to go, so beware!) If you have a boy, place a baby washcloth over his penis to prevent him from using you for target practice.
  • Wipe from front to back, being careful to clean inside all the creases.
  • If your baby has had a bowel movement, use the unsoiled parts of the dirty diaper to clean up as much of the mess as possible.
  • Meconium (your baby’s first stool) can be really sticky, so you may have difficulty removing it. Some parents find that water and a washcloth work best, while others swear by baby oil on a cotton ball. Experiment and see what works for you.
  • To prevent diaper rash, let the area dry completely before putting on diaper cream and/or a clean diaper. To speed the process, you can dry with a baby washcloth or lightly blow on the area.
  • Apply diaper cream or ointment liberally on areas that look pink and rashy.
  • Lift your baby’s legs and place the clean, unfolded diaper that you set aside earlier under his bottom. If you have a boy, make sure his penis is pointing down. Pull the front of the diaper between his legs and fasten.
  • To contain the odor and mess, roll up the dirty diaper before disposing of it.
  • >Try talking, singing or make funny faces to distract your baby as you change him.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and warm water when you’re finished!

CAUTION! While it may be months before your baby is able to roll over, keep a hand on him at all times when he’s on the changing table. Don’t leave him alone, even for a second!