Bringing baby home from the hospital is a momentous time for parents. After all, this is where your brand new family life together really begins. The early days of motherhood can be overwhelming. There will be a lot of 'firsts' for you just as much as your baby but don't worry as we have the ultimate guide to help you take care of your newborn.
Going home outfit
Clothing your newborn baby in their going home outfit is one of those precious moments that you will remember and share with family through photos and stories for years to come. Whether you want to put your bundle of joy into a basic vest and sleepsuit combination or add a little more of your style to their outfit, the most important part to remember is, keep it simple.
Dress your baby in a comfortable, seasonally appropriate outfit which is easy to put on - chances are you’ll start your journey home with a content baby if you don’t spend a lot of time dressing your newborn into a complicated outfit.
A soft vest over the nappy, then an all-in-one sleepsuit with integrated feet, and a hat to keep their little head warm would be an ideal going home outfit.
If it’s a chilly day, you can always add additional blankets if you need to.
For you, it’s best to pack a comfortable, non-restricting and easy-to-wear clothing in your hospital bag to wear for your journey home.
Leaving the hospital
Take your time, get as much as advice and support as you can from midwives and healthcare professionals, and don’t feel rushed before all your questions are answered, especially if it’s your first baby. Once given the all-clear, you should be provided with handheld notes to hand over to your community midwife when she does a home visit, contact details of where to get help should you need this when you are at home, and any medication if required.
Remember to be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to recover physically and emotionally.
Having a car seat for baby is essential and will protect your baby on the drive home from the hospital and no doubt, many car journeys to come. Choosing your baby’s car seat can feel overwhelming and you may not be sure on the most up to date regulations so it is always best to...
- Do your research - Which.co.uk is a great resource
- Take a look in-store armed with questions to ask staff - Retailers such as Mamas & Papas, Mothercare, John Lewis, Halfords, Smyths will have staff available to offer advice and demonstrations
- Have your chosen car seat professionally fitted - Also, take a look at ‘10 essential car seat fitting checks’ for future reference
Be prepared for a slow car ride home as you safely travel with your precious cargo.
Bringing baby home
With all the thought of birth plans and baby clothes, you may not yet have given much thought to your first night at home with your baby. But it’s always a good idea to have a few essentials to hand for when your dream of becoming a new parent becomes reality. A valuable tip and time saver is to prepare all your essentials before your due date approaches. You will probably have already thought about your baby’s changing station (see newborn essentials guide LINK) but stocking up on essentials for mum (and dad) will also help you in the first few hours and days after getting back home with your newborn, allowing you to recover and really enjoy your newborn bubble.
- Comfort essentials such as pain killers, hot water bottle, postnatal bath soak, maternity pads, breast pads and postnatal underwear will help mum to recover from birth.
- A well-stocked freezer with nutritious meals and a cupboard filled with healthy, tasty snacks will ensure you eat well in the early days of parenthood.
- Accept as much practical support as you can to help with household chores and looking after children so that you can concentrate on getting to know your new baby.
How to change your baby’s nappy
Babies need frequent nappy changes, but how often they need changing depends on how sensitive their skin is.
Some babies have very delicate skin and need changing as soon as they wet themselves, otherwise their skin becomes sore and red.
Other babies can wait to be changed until before or after every feed.
All babies need changing as soon as possible when they have done a poo (stool) to prevent nappy rash.
Young babies need changing as many as 10 or 12 times a day, while older babies need to be changed at least 6 to 8 times.
What you need for nappy changing
Before you change your baby's nappy, wash your hands and get everything you need in one place, including:
- a changing mat or towel
- cotton wool and a bowl of warm water, or fragrance and alcohol-free baby wipes
- a plastic bag or bucket for the dirty nappy and dirty cotton wool or wipes
- barrier cream to protect your baby's skin
- a clean nappy (and liner and cover if you're using cloth nappies)
- clean clothes
Where to change a nappy
The best place to change a nappy is on a changing mat or towel on the floor, particularly if you have more than one baby.
That way, if you need to see to another child for a moment, your baby can't fall. It's best done sitting down so you don't hurt your back.
If you're using a changing table, keep an eye on your baby at all times. You shouldn't rely on the straps to keep your baby secure. Never walk away or turn your back.
Older babies may try to wriggle away when you're changing them. You could give them a toy or use a mobile to distract them.
Changing a nappy
It's just as important to clean your baby fully whether they have wet themselves or done a poo.
If your baby's nappy is dirty, use the nappy to clean off most of the poo from their bottom.
Then use the cotton wool and plain warm water (or baby wipes) to remove the rest and get your baby really clean.
Clean the whole nappy area gently but thoroughly and make sure you clean inside the folds of skin.
Girls should be cleaned from front to back to avoid getting germs into their vagina.
Boys should be cleaned around the testicles (balls) and penis, but there's no need to pull back their foreskin.
If it's warm enough, let your baby lie on the changing mat without a nappy on for a while. Wearing a nappy all the time makes nappy rash more likely.
If you're using disposable nappies, take care not to get water or cream on the sticky tabs as they won't stick if you do.
If you're using cloth nappies, put in a nappy liner and then fasten the nappy. Adjust it to fit snugly round the waist and legs.
Chat to your baby while you're changing them. Pulling faces, smiling and laughing with your baby will help you bond and help their development.
Try not to show any disgust at what's in their nappy. You don't want your baby to learn that doing a poo is something unpleasant or negative.
Disposable nappies can be rolled up and resealed using the tabs. Put them in a plastic bag kept only for nappies, then tie it up and put it in an outside bin.
Washable cloth nappies don't have to be soaked before they're washed, but you may choose to soak them to help get the stains off. Check the washing instructions first.
Cloth nappies can be machine washed at 60C, or you could use a local nappy laundry service.
There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.
Wash nappies that are dirty with poo separately from your other washing. You'll probably have enough nappies to make up a full load anyway.
To avoid infection, wash your hands after changing a nappy before you do anything else.
If your baby's old enough, they can wash their hands with you as it's a good habit to get into.
What baby poo looks like
Your baby's first poo is called meconium. This is sticky and greenish-black.
Some babies may do this kind of poo during or after birth, or some time in the first 48 hours.
After a few days the poo will change to a yellow or mustard colour. Breastfed babies' poo is runny and doesn't smell. Formula-fed babies' poo is firmer, darker brown and more smelly.
Some infant formulas can also make your baby's poo dark green. If you change from breast to formula feeding, you'll find your baby's poos become darker and more paste-like.
If you have a girl, you may see a white discharge on her nappy for a few days after birth.
It's caused by hormones that have crossed the placenta to your baby, but these will soon disappear from her system.
These hormones can occasionally cause slight bleeding like a mini period, but in both cases it's nothing to worry about.
Read the NCT guide to newborn baby poo to find out more.
How often should my baby do a poo?
Babies do an average of 4 poos a day in the first week of life. This goes down to an average of 2 a day by the time they're 1 year old.
Newborn babies who are breastfed may poo at each feed in the early weeks, then, after about 6 weeks, not have a poo for several days.
Formula-fed babies may poo up to 5 times a day when newborn, but after a few months this can go down to once a day.
It's also normal for babies to strain or even cry when doing a poo.
Your baby isn't constipated as long as their poos are soft, even if they haven't done one for a few days.
Is it normal for my baby's poos to change?
From day to day or week to week, your baby's poos will probably vary.
If you notice a definite change of any kind, such as the poos becoming very smelly, very watery or harder (particularly if there's blood in them), you should talk to your doctor or health visitor.
If your baby's poos look pale, this can be a sign of liver disease.
Speak to your health visitor or GP if you notice this.
Disposable and washable cloth (reusable) nappies
Disposable and cloth nappies come in a range of shapes and sizes. The choice might be confusing at first, but with trial and error you'll be able to work out which nappies suit your baby best as they grow.
Disposable and cloth nappies have different pros and cons, so you'll need to consider things like cost, convenience and the impact on the environment when you choose what to buy.
For example, disposable nappies are very handy, but washable cloth nappies work out cheaper if you add up the costs over the years your baby's in nappies.
Some cloth nappy brands and local councils offer free samples for you to try out.
If you use cloth nappies, you may want to sign up to a nappy laundry service that'll take away the dirty nappies and deliver a fresh batch each week.
Which? has more information to help you decide which type of nappy is best for your baby, budget and lifestyle.
If you're planning to bottle feed with expressed breast milk or infant formula, these tips will help keep your baby safe and healthy.
Buying bottle feeding equipment
You'll need a number of bottles and teats, as well as sterilising equipment.
There's no evidence that one type of teat or bottle is better than any other.
Simple bottles that are easy to wash and sterilise are probably best.
Sterilising baby bottles
It's important to sterilise all your baby's feeding equipment, including bottles and teats, until they are at least 12 months old.
This will protect your baby against infections, in particular diarrhoea and vomiting.
Before sterilising, you need to:
- Clean bottles, teats and other feeding equipment in hot, soapy water as soon as possible after feeds.
- Use a clean bottle brush to clean bottles (only use this brush for cleaning bottles), and a small teat brush to clean the inside of teats. You can also turn teats inside out and wash in hot soapy water. Don't be tempted to use salt to clean teats, this can be dangerous for your baby.
- You can put your baby's feeding equipment in the dishwasher to clean it if you prefer. (Putting feeding equipment through the dishwasher cleans it but doesn't sterilise it.) Make sure bottles, lids and teats are facing downwards. You may prefer to wash teats separately by hand to make sure they are completely clean.
- Rinse all your equipment in clean, cold running water before sterilising.
The advice above applies to all your baby's feeding equipment, and whether you are using expressed breast milk or formula milk.
How to sterilise baby feeding equipment
There are several ways you can sterilise your baby’s feeding equipment. These include:
- cold water sterilising solution
- steam sterilising
Cold water sterilising solution
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Leave feeding equipment in the sterilising solution for at least 30 minutes.
- Change the sterilising solution every 24 hours.
- Make sure there are no air bubbles trapped in the bottles or teats when putting them in the sterilising solution.
- Your steriliser should have a floating cover or a plunger to keep all the equipment under the solution.
Steam sterilising (electric steriliser or microwave)
- It's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions, as there are several different types of sterilisers.
- Make sure the openings of the bottles and teats are facing downwards in the steriliser.
- Manufacturers will give guidelines on how long you can leave equipment in the steriliser before it needs to be sterilised again.
Sterilising by boiling
- Make sure that whatever you want to sterilise in this way is safe to boil.
- Boil the feeding equipment in a large pan of water for at least 10 minutes, making sure it all stays under the surface.
- Set a timer so you don't forget to turn the heat off.
- Remember that teats tend to get damaged faster with this method. Regularly check that teats and bottles are not torn, cracked or damaged.
After you've finished sterilising
- It's best to leave bottles and teats in the steriliser or pan until you need them.
- If you do take them out, put the teats and lids on the bottles straightaway.
- Wash and dry your hands before handling sterilised equipment. Better still, use some sterile tongs.
- Assemble the bottles on a clean, disinfected surface or the upturned lid of the steriliser.
Expressing and storing breast milk
Expressing milk means squeezing milk out of your breast so you can store it and feed it to your baby later.
You might want to express milk if:
- you have to be away from your baby, for example, because your baby is in special care or because you're going back to work
- your breasts feel uncomfortably full (engorged)
- your baby isn't able to suck well but you still want to give them breast milk
- your partner is going to help with feeding your baby
- you want to boost your milk supply
How do I express breast milk?
You can express milk by hand or with a breast pump. How often you express your milk, and how much you express, will depend on why you are doing it.
Sometimes it takes a little while for your milk to start flowing. Try to choose a time when you feel relaxed. Having your baby (or a photo of them) nearby may help your milk to flow.
You may find it easier to express in the morning, when your breasts can sometimes feel fuller.
Expressing breast milk by hand
Some women find it easier to express milk by hand than to use a pump, especially in the first few days or weeks. It also means you won't have to buy or borrow a pump, or rely on an electricity supply.
Hand expressing allows you to encourage milk to flow from a particular part of the breast. This may be useful, for example, if one of the milk ducts in your breast becomes blocked.
Hold a sterilised feeding bottle or container below your breast to catch the milk as it flows.
These tips may help:
- Before you start, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
- Some mothers find gently massaging their breasts before expressing helps their milk to let down.
- Cup your breast with one hand then, with your other hand, form a "C" shape with your forefinger and thumb.
- Squeeze gently, keeping your finger and thumb near the darker area around your nipple (areola) but not on it (don't squeeze the nipple itself as you could make it sore). This shouldn't hurt.
- Release the pressure, then repeat, building up a rhythm. Try not to slide your fingers over the skin.
- Drops should start to appear, and then your milk usually starts to flow.
- If no drops appear, try moving your finger and thumb slightly, but still avoid the darker area.
- When the flow slows down, move your fingers round to a different section of your breast, and repeat.
- When the flow from one breast has slowed, swap to the other breast. Keep changing breasts until your milk drips very slowly or stops altogether.
Watch a video about expressing milk by hand, on the UNICEF website.
Expressing milk with a breast pump
There are two different types of breast pump: manual (hand-operated) and electric.
Different pumps suit different women, so ask for advice or see if you can try one before you buy.
Manual pumps are cheaper but may not be as quick as an electric one.
You may be able to hire an electric pump. Your midwife, health visitor or a local breastfeeding supporter can give you details of pump hire services near you.
The suction strength can be altered on some electric pumps. Build up slowly. Setting the strength to high straightaway may be painful or damage your nipple.
You may also be able to get different funnel sizes to fit your nipples. The pump should never cause bruising or catch your nipple as it is sucked into the funnel.
Always make sure that the pump and container are clean and sterilised before you use them.
Storing breast milk
You can store breast milk in a sterilised container or in special breast milk storage bags:
- in the fridge for up to five days at 4C or lower (you can buy cheap fridge thermometers online)
- for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
- for up to six months in a freezer
Breast milk that's been cooled in the fridge can be carried in a cool bag with ice packs for up to 24 hours.
Storing breast milk in small quantities will help to avoid waste. If you're freezing it, make sure you label and date it first.
Defrosting frozen breast milk
Breast milk that's been frozen is still good for your baby and is better than formula milk.
It's best to defrost frozen milk slowly in the fridge before giving it to your baby. If you need to use it straightaway you can defrost it by putting it in a jug of warm water or holding it under running warm water.
Once it's defrosted, use it straightaway. Don't re-freeze milk that has been defrosted.
Warming breast milk
You can feed expressed milk straight from the fridge if your baby is happy to drink it cold. Or you can warm the milk to body temperature by putting the bottle in a jug of warm water or holding it under running warm water.
Once your baby has drunk from a bottle of breast milk it should be used within the hour and anything left over thrown away.
Don't use a microwave to heat up or defrost breast milk. This can cause hot spots, which can burn your baby's mouth.
Breast milk if your baby is in hospital
If you're expressing breast milk because your baby is premature or sick, ask the hospital staff caring for your baby for advice on how to store it.
Read our guest blog post Challenges of Breastfeeding a Preemie
Having difficulty expressing?
If you are finding it difficult or uncomfortable to express your breast milk:
- Ask your midwife or health visitor for help. They can also tell you about other breastfeeding support available near you.
- Search online for breastfeeding support in your area.
- Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 (9.30am-9.30pm daily).
- Visit the Bliss website for advice on expressing milk for a premature or sick baby.
Making up bottles
Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised and wash your hands thoroughly.
If you're using infant formula, follow the instructions on the packaging carefully when you make up the feed.
Good hygiene is very important when making up a formula feed.
Your baby's immune system isn't as strong as an adult's. That's why bottles, teats and any other feeding equipment need to be washed and sterilised before each feed.
This will reduce the chance of your baby getting an infection, in particular diarrhoea and vomiting.
Step-by-step guide to preparing a formula feed
- Step 1: Fill the kettle with at least 1 litre of fresh tap water (don't use water that has been boiled before).
- Step 2: Boil the water. Then leave the water to cool for no more than 30 minutes, so that it remains at a temperature of at least 70C.
- Step 3: Clean and disinfect the surface you are going to use.
- Step 4: It's important that you wash your hands.
- Step 5: If you are using a cold-water steriliser, shake off any excess solution from the bottle and the teat, or rinse them with cooled boiled water from the kettle (not tap water).
- Step 6: Stand the bottle on the cleaned, disinfected surface.
- Step 7: Follow the manufacturer's instructions and pour the amount of water you need into the bottle. Double check that the water level is correct. Always put the water in the bottle first, while it is still hot, before adding the powdered formula.
- Step 8:
Loosely fill the scoop with formula powder, according to the manufacturer's instructions, and level it off using either the flat edge of a clean, dry knife or the leveller provided. Different tins of formula come with different scoops. Make sure you only use the scoop that comes with the formula.
- Step 9: Holding the edge of the teat, put it on the bottle. Then screw the retaining ring onto the bottle.
- Step 10: Cover the teat with the cap and shake the bottle until the powder is dissolved.
- Step 11: It's important to cool the formula so it's not too hot to drink. Do this by holding the bottle (with the lid on) under cold running water.
- Step 12: Test the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist before giving it to your baby. It should be body temperature, which means it should feel warm or cool, but not hot.
- Step 13: If there is any made-up formula left after a feed, throw it away.
Dos and don'ts of making up formula feeds
- Manufacturers' instructions vary as to how much water and powder to use, so it's important to follow them very carefully.
- Don't add extra formula powder when making up a feed. This can make your baby constipated or dehydrated. Too little powder may not give your baby enough nourishment.
- Don't add sugar or cereals to your baby's formula.
- Never warm up formula in a microwave, as it may heat the feed unevenly and burn your baby's mouth.
Reducing the risk of infection
Even when tins and packets of powdered infant formula are sealed, they can sometimes contain bacteria.
Bacteria multiply very fast at room temperature. Even when a feed is kept in a fridge, bacteria can still survive and multiply, although more slowly.
To reduce the risk of infection, it's best to make up feeds one at a time, as your baby needs them.
Use freshly boiled drinking water from the tap to make up a feed. Don't use artificially softened water or water that has been boiled before.
Leave the water to cool in the kettle for no more than 30 minutes. Then it will stay at a temperature of at least 70C. Water at this temperature will kill any harmful bacteria.
Remember to let the feed cool before you give it to your baby. Or you can run the bottle (with the lid on) under a cold tap.
Don't use bottled water to make up formula feeds
Bottled water is not recommended for making up feeds, as it's not sterile and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate.
How to bottle feed your baby
Bottle feeding is a chance to feel close to your baby and get to know them.
Make sure you're sitting comfortably. Enjoy holding your baby and looking into their eyes as you feed them.
Hold your baby fairly upright for bottle feeds. Support their head so they can breathe and swallow comfortably.
Brush the teat against your baby's lips and, when your they open their mouth wide, let them draw in the teat.
Always give your baby plenty of time to feed.
Keep the teat full
When bottle feeding, keep the teat full of milk, otherwise your baby will take in air.
If the teat goes flat while you're feeding, gently poke your little finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to release the suction.
If the teat gets blocked, replace it with another sterile teat.
Winding your baby
Your baby may take short breaks during a feed and may need to burp sometimes.
When your baby has had enough milk, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to bring up any wind.
Throw away unused milk
Throw away any unused formula or breast milk after you have finished bottle feeding your baby.
Be guided by your baby
All babies are different. Some want to feed more often that others, and some want more milk.
Just follow your baby's lead.
Feed them when they seem hungry and don't worry if they don't finish the bottle.
Don't leave your baby alone
Never leave your baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle as they may choke on the milk.
Help with bottle feeding
Talk to your midwife, health visitor or other mothers who have bottle fed if you need help.
You'll find the phone number for your health visitor in your baby's red book.
Your questions about bottle feeding
Why doesn't my baby settle after feeds?
If your baby swallows air while bottle feeding, they may feel uncomfortable and cry.
After a feed, hold your baby upright against your shoulder or propped forward on your lap. Gently rub their back so any trapped air can find its way out.
There's no need to overdo it – wind isn't as big a problem as many people think.
Why does my baby sometimes vomit after feeds?
It's normal for babies to bring up a little milk during or just after a feed. This is called possetting, regurgitation or reflux.
Keep a muslin square handy just in case.
Check that the hole in your baby's teat is not too big. Drinking milk too quickly can make your baby sick.
Don't force them to take more milk than they want during a feed.
Sitting your baby upright on your lap after a feed may help.
If it happens a lot, or your baby is violently sick, seems to be in pain or you're worried for any other reason, talk to your health visitor or GP.
Can formula make my baby constipated?
When using formula, always use the amount of powder recommended on the packaging.
Don't add extra formula powder. Using too much can make your baby constipated and may cause dehydration.
If your baby is under 8 weeks old and hasn't done a poo for 2 to 3 days, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP, particularly if they are gaining weight slowly.
Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.
Infant formula and allergies
If you think your baby might be allergic to or intolerant of formula, talk to your GP. If necessary, they can prescribe a special formula feed.
Some formula is labelled as hypoallergenic, but this isn't suitable for babies with a diagnosed cows' milk allergy.
Soya formula should only be given to babies under medical supervision.
Always talk to your GP before using hypoallergenic or soya-based formula.
Soothing a crying baby
All babies cry, and some more than others. Crying is your baby's way of telling you they need comfort and care.
Sometimes it's easy to work out what they want, and sometimes it's not.
The most common reasons for crying are:
- a dirty or wet nappy
- wanting a cuddle
- being too hot or too cold
There may be times of the day when your baby tends to cry a lot and cannot be comforted. Early evening is the most common time for this to happen.
This can be hard for you, as it's often the time when you're most tired and least able to cope.
The amount babies cry tends to peak at about 7 weeks, then gradually tail off.
How to calm a crying baby
Try some of the following ways to comfort your baby. Some may work better than others:
- If you're breastfeeding, let your baby suckle at your breast.
- Having some gentle noise in the background may help distract your baby.
- Some older babies like to use a bit of cloth or a blanket as a comforter.
- Hold your baby or put them in a sling so they're close to you. Move about gently, sway and dance, talk to them and sing.
- Rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or a drive. Lots of babies like to sleep in cars. Even if they wake up again when you stop, at least you'll have had a break.
- Find something for them to listen to or look at. This could be music on the radio, a CD, a rattle, or a mobile above the cot.
- Try stroking your baby's back firmly and rhythmically, holding them against you or lying face downwards on your lap.
- Undress your baby and massage them gently and firmly. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby's at least a month old. Talk soothingly as you do it and keep the room warm enough. Some health centres and clinics run baby massage courses. For information, ask your midwife or health visitor.
- Try a warm bath. This calms some babies instantly, but makes others cry even more.
- Sometimes too much rocking and singing can keep your baby awake. You might find lying them down after a feed will help.
- Ask your health visitor for advice.
Crying during feeds
Some babies cry and seem unsettled around the time of a feed. If you're breastfeeding, you may find that improving your baby's positioning and attachment helps them settle.
You can go to a breastfeeding drop-in group and ask for help if there's one available in your local area.
The Breastfeeding Network's website can provide information on the nearest group to you.
You can also ask your health visitor for advice.
Crying during feeds can sometimes be a symptom of reflux, a common condition where babies bring back milk after feeds.
Speak to your health visitor or GP for more information and advice.
If your baby cries constantly
There are several reasons that can cause a baby to cry excessively.
It can be exhausting if you have tried everything and nothing seems to comfort your baby.
Excessive crying could be a sign that your baby has colic. Everyone agrees that colic exists, but nobody knows what causes it.
Some doctors think it's a kind of stomach cramp. The crying sounds miserable and distressed, and stops for a moment or two, then starts up again, which suggests it could be caused by waves of stomach pain.
The crying can go on for some hours. There may be little you can do except try to comfort your baby and wait for the crying to pass.
Crying and illness
If your baby's crying constantly and you cannot console or distract them, or the cry does not sound like their normal cry, it can be a sign they're ill.
Or they may be ill if they're crying and have other symptoms, such as a high temperature. If this is the case, contact your health visitor or GP.
During the day, Monday to Friday, contact your GP surgery. At evenings and weekends you can call NHS 111 or your GP's out-of-hours number.
Call 999 and ask for an ambulance if your baby:
- has a fit (seizure or convulsion)
- has blue, mottled, ashen (grey) or very pale skin
- breathes rapidly or makes a throaty noise while breathing, or seems to be working hard to breathe, perhaps sucking in their stomach under their ribcage
- has a high temperature, but their hands and feet feel cold
- has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body – this could be a sign of meningitis
Trust your instincts. You know what's different or worrying behaviour in your baby.
Getting help with a crying baby
You can talk to a friend, your health visitor or GP, or contact the Cry-sis helpline on 08451 228 669, open 9am to 10pm, 7 days a week. You'll be charged for your call.
Cry-sis can put you in touch with other parents who have been in the same situation.
You can also visit the Cry-sis website for information on coping with crying babies.
If you decide to talk to your health visitor or GP, it can help to keep a record of how often and when your baby cries.
For example, this might be after every feed or during the evening. This can help your health visitor or GP to work out if there's a particular cause for the crying.
Keeping a record can also help you identify the times when you need extra support. You could think about possible changes to your routine.
There may be times when you're so tired and angry you feel like you cannot take any more. This happens to a lot of parents, so do not be ashamed to ask for help.
If you do not have anyone who can take care of your baby for a short time and the crying is making you stressed, put your baby in their cot or pram, make sure they're safe, close the door, go into another room and try to calm yourself down.
Set a time limit – for example, 10 minutes – then go back.
Never shake your baby
No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves their head violently and can cause brain damage.
Washing and Bathing your baby
Babies don’t need to be bathed everyday. You may prefer to wash your baby by “topping and tailing” by gently cleaning their face, neck, hands and bottom. Choose a time when they are awake and content. Get everything ready beforehand and make sure the room is warm. A bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and clean clothes.
Topping and tailing tips
You may find the following step-by-step guide to washing your baby useful:
- Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
- Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn't get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby's eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don't transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
- Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby's ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby's ears. Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
- Take off the nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
- It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they'll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you're saying.
Bathing your baby safely
You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but if they really enjoy it, there's no reason why you shouldn't.
It's best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired. Make sure the room you're bathing them in is warm.
Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, two towels, a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.
- The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
- Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face, as described above.
- Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
- Once you've dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
- Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders.
- Don't add any liquid cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
- Keep your baby's head clear of the water. Use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
- Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
- Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
- This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.
- If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn't too hot. It's easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.
Cutting your baby's nails
Some babies are born with long nails and it's important to cut them in case they scratch themselves. You can buy special baby nail clippers or small, round-ended safety scissors. If you find the idea of cutting your baby's nails too nerve-wracking, you could try filing them down with a fine emery board instead.