How to Care for Infants

Infants are small, helpless, and needful newborns and need their parents or caregivers to take care of them. They need a lot of attention. Sometimes, providing that care as a new parent or caregiver can seem daunting. Take a deep breath - it gets easier once you learn about your infant's basic needs and how to provide for them.


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    Eating is pretty much a new infants favorite way to spend "awake time". Newborns grow very quickly and have a need to consume milk, either from a breast or bottle, to help support and sustain that growth. Breastmilk or formula is a choice each parent should make before a newborn arrives so they can be prepared with the appropriate knowledge and equipment that will be needed to feed a newborn. Make sure to ask the nursing staff or a lactation consultant if you need help feeding your infant before leaving the hospital.
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    Dirtying up diapers is the result of all that eating! Plus, it's a good indication that your infant is getting enough nutrients and formula. Each baby should have about 8-10 wet and/or dirty diapers a day through the first six weeks of life. After about six to eight weeks you may see this decrease to between 4-6 wet diapers a day, and some baby's may only have a bowel movement once every week or two! Make sure you are prepared with some diapers before your newborn arrives; pull them out of the pack and familiarize yourself with the way the diaper goes on and closes. Be prepared for "accidents" when your still getting use to changing your baby.
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    Bathing an infant everyday is not necessary. Since most newborns do not get down on the floor and crawl around in dirt, bathing is not essential to everyday care. However, it is a good idea to give your infant a wipe down (especially in the diaper area and under chin/neck folds) just to ensure baby is clean and sanitary. A gentle bath at night before bed may help an infant relax and sleep better.
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    Umbilical cord care is an often unpleasant but necessary task with newborns. Each time you change a baby's diaper you should use a cotton swab or ball to cleanse around the umbilical cord. Be careful not to pull or tug on the umbilical cord as this could force it to come off before has healed into a belly button. Also, when you are cleaning the umbilical area, be sure to watch for unusual discharge or blood as this may indicate an infection or tear. By the time your baby is two months old, this will fall off and you won't have to worry about it anymore!
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    Toys are not necessary to newborn infants as they cannot see far and have little interest in anything but people and faces. If you want to buy toys for your infant, pick things that are contrasting, like a soft black and white block with some red on it, as colors are very hard for newborns to make out.
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    Infant massage and skin to skin time are important bonding times when caring for an infant. As a parent, you want to do all you can to make your baby feel safe, secure, and loved, so take some time out of the day to rub your baby down with lotion or hold him/her up against your bare skin (baby's skin should be bare also). This contact is reassuring to a newborn, who is used to being inside of mom's belly and hearing and feeling the constant presence of another human being.
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    Sleep is important for both new parents and new babies. New babies should sleep about 16 hours a day, but they usually sleep in spurts. Don't get frustrated with your infant because they won't sleep, there is probably a reason why. Most babies need to be fed about every 2-4 hours because they have small stomachs. Uncomfortable wetness or dirty diapers can also wake a baby. Sometimes, babies just want to be held or comforted. Develop a strategy with your partner for taking care of an infant when you are both tired. Ensuring that everybody is well rested will make life with an infant much easier.


  • Be prepared with a car seat for your baby when you leave the hospital. Most hospitals will not let you leave with a newborn if you do not have a car seat installed in your car.
  • Always be prepared for anything and everything.
  • Child-proof your home before your infant starts crawling. Get down on the floor and look around from a baby's viewpoint. What can you see? If you can see it, chances are your baby will too, which means they will want to play with it and taste it.
  • Be prepared to start teaching your infant limits when they begin to move around. If baby tries to play with an electrical wire or outlet (covered or not) or anything else that may present a danger, tell your baby that it is not safe and invite him/her to engage in a different activity.
  • Create a "care box" using a small box, crate, or basket filled with things for your infants essential needs to take with you around the house. Include 4-5 diapers, a wipe case, rubbing alcohol, nail clippers or scissors, petroleum gel and gauze (if baby is boy and will be circumcised), bottles (if formula feeding), a change of clothes for your infant, and a burp cloth. Use the box around the house to avoid the need to interrupt relaxation time and reduce the need to turn on lights, create noise, and disturb sleeping partners or children.
  • Make sure your car seat is installed properly. Contact your local fire department, police station, or insurance agent for car seat safety check locations.


  • Never leave a baby unattended. As they learn to roll, sit-up, and crawl it becomes easier for them to get hurt.
  • Many items can pose choking hazards for infants. If you are unsure whether your infant of baby should be playing with an object, grab a cardboard paper towel or toilet paper tube. If the object fits inside the tube it is a choking hazard and your baby should not be allowed to play with it.

Things You'll Need

  • A place for baby to sleep. Cribs, playpens, or bassinets work well. If you plan on co-sleeping make sure you've read up on safe co-sleeping guidelines, like those published by Dr. Oz
  • Diapers
  • Formula and Bottles (If you plan on bottle-feeding)
  • Breast Pump and Bottles (if you plan on pumping, especially useful if you plan on returning to work)
  • Wipes or soft washcloths
  • Baby lotion
  • Baby clothes
  • Baby nail clippers and/or scissors
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Petroleum gel and gauze (need for care after circumcisions)

Article Info

Categories: Newborns