Child Care: Routine Baby Care

Parents harbour doubts whether they are doing baby care correctly e.g. is the feeding proper, the clothing suitable etc? My advice is that parents should trust their natural instincts. The very fact that you are doing something for the care of your own child (even if awkwardly) is enough for the baby to feel loved and have a sense that she belongs to you and that you belong to her. Nobody else in the world, including the most perfect baby care provider, can give this feeling to your child. You and only you can make your baby feel as a part of you by your loving care, even if this care is less than theoretically perfect.

1. Bathing Your Baby

Before you bathe your baby, make sure everything you need is at hand: a baby bath tub/basin, baby soap, soft towels, some cotton wool, a set of clean clothes, a clean nappy and water that is approximately the same temperature as your body. Any standard baby soap and shampoo can be used. The mother can do the bathing sitting on the floor or standing (by keeping the bathtub at her waist level on some platform). Start by undressing your baby.

One hand should always be supporting the child (the head of the baby should be supported on your forearm or wrist and the fingers of that hand should hold the baby securely around her armpit) while the other can be used for applying soap, shampoo and then rinsing with water. With the other hand, wash the scalp. Gently rub some mild soap over the body and limbs. Then turn him over and soap his back. The important thing to remember is that the baby is very limp and with soap on his body, becomes slippery and liable to slip out of your grasp.

That is why I stress on a bathtub, so that even if the baby slips, he remains in the bathtub only and thus not get injured. Bathing the baby on the floor or bathing the baby without a bathtub makes the baby prone to injury due to accidental slipping. So hold him firmly around the top of the arm, giving support to the shoulders. With the other hand support his bottom and lower him gently into the bath tub. Continue to support the baby’s shoulders. Now rinse off all the soap by gently splashing water. Lift your baby out of the bath, wrap him in a towel and dry with another towel, paying attention to the skin creases and folds. Use a soft towel for drying. Drying should be doneby patting rather than rubbing. Finally apply some baby cream if you use and put on a fresh nappy and clothes.

It is not essential that the baby should be bathed daily. There is no basis in the theory that babies should not be bathed till the navel is completely healed. If the navel stump is there, just dry it after giving the bath and then apply some spirit over it with clean cotton.

In cold weathers there is no need to bathe the baby daily (twice a week will do). Instead you can give a sponge bath with warm water and soft towel (if not to the whole body, then at least the diaper area should be cleaned daily with soap and water). There is no need to clean the nose, ears, mouth, eyes and tongue of the baby.

2. Diapers

The diapers should be made of cotton rather than synthetic material. Because some leakage is bound to occur outside the diapers (unless they are of the disposable, absorbent types), it is advisable to put a large plastic or rubber sheet under the child. This way, even if some leakage occurs, it will stay on it only and not spoil the bed sheet or the mattress.

A necessary though tiring part of caring for a baby is the changing and washing of nappies. Babies dislike being wet or dirty and will protest by crying. Preferably, diapers should be changed after each soiling. No one, including a newborn, is very comfortable lying in urine or stool. If she is wet, wash your baby’s bottom with a piece of cotton wool moistened in warm water and then pat it dry. If she is soiled you can use a little soap to clean the baby.

The diaper should not cover the navel; as the navel should be kept as dry as possible. If the diaper covers the navel, there are chances that the urine might seep on to the navel making it wet and act as a source of infection. Plus accidental traction on the diaper by movement of the baby or during changing can apply a shearing force on the navel and lead to minor bleeding from there.

Clean soiled nappies by holding under running water. Scrape off the excess. Then wash the nappy in hot water with soap or detergent powders, and rinse thoroughly.

For going outside or undertaking journeys, excellent disposable baby diapers are available. Routine use of them is not done at home, basically because of the cost factor.

Preferably the diapers should be secured in place by tying with a knot. If you use safety pins, be careful that it doesn’t accidentally open and hurt the baby. The diaper should be of generous size and the most cloth should be around the area of passage of urine and stool.

3. Care of the navel

The delivering doctor cuts off the umbilical cord soon after birth. It dries and shrivels off gradually over a period of 1-2 weeks (depending on the climate) and then falls off leaving the healthy navel. During this period, the cord should be kept as dry as possible. It should be daily cleaned with spirit swab and left open to dry in the air. There is no need to apply any powder or ointment (medicated or non-medicated) over the navel.

4. Massage

Massage of the baby is good (most babies enjoy it). Any baby oil can be used for massaging. There is no harm in exposing the baby to sunshine, provided the sun is not too hot (the baby can tolerate the same amount of sun that you can). You can apply powder/lotions to the baby (at least it makes the baby smell good!). But it is best to avoid cosmetics on areas of the skin which are chapped and broken or have some rashes or allergic manifestations. One should also be aware of the fact that it is not absolutely necessary to massage or apply cosmetics on the baby.

5. Clothing

Common sense should guide the parents. In hot summers, the baby will feel comfortable in a light cotton wear. In general, a term, healthy baby is able to maintain his body temperature well and is comfortable in the same type & amount of clothing as an adult.

In winters, it is preferable to cover as much parts of the baby as possible including the head with a cap, the feet with woollen socks and the hands with woollen gloves. The covering of the head is important as it has got a large surface area and hence heat loss through it can be considerable. During sleeping, the baby may toss and turn and thus uncover himself of the blanket or the quilt. It is better to rap the baby with a blanket and if you feel that he requires more warmth, you can put a quilt on top of the baby swathed in the blanket.

Often, parents tend to over-clothe (rather than under-clothe the baby), which may be pretty uncomfortable to the baby. Over-clothing the baby can lead to excessive heat retention and the baby may land up with dehydration and fever. Common sense dictates that the parents should put themselves in the baby’s place and try to imagine in their minds whether they will be comfortable if covered with the same amount and type of clothes. Another precaution the parents should take is that the nose of the baby should be open to allow him to breathe easily Any type of clothing, which can slip and cover the nose of the baby, may be dangerous.

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