Your guide to washing a newborn
First baths can be surprisingly scary, but luckily, for the first week or so, you can stick to ‘top and tailing’ to keep your newborn clean.
1. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water.
2. Place your baby on a soft, safe, waterproof surface and remove their clothing.
3. Open the dirty nappy. Holding their legs, clean the area with wet cotton wool or wipes. Dry thoroughly.
4. Slide the dirty nappy away from your baby, and quickly replace it with a clean nappy.
5. Pull up the front of the clean nappy and fasten the sticky tabs.
6. To avoid the umbilical cord, fasten tabs lower and fold nappy, front down.
7. Roll up the dirty nappy and use sticky tabs to refasten into a neat bundle.
8. Dress your baby.
9. Place the nappy in a disposable bag in the bin and wash your hands.
When it comes to changing nappies, preparation pays off. A well-stocked changing station makes a world of difference. You don’t need any fancy kit, but making sure you have everything to hand before you start will stop it getting too messy.
Once you’re home you can set up a changing station anywhere in your house. A changing table is handy in the early days as it means you don’t spend as much time hunched over, but it’s not essential. If you have a changing mat, you can change a baby’s nappy on the floor in any room, and this is actually safer once your baby becomes more mobile. Quick access to a sink is also useful. It’s all about what’s easiest for you.
You can use baby wipes if you prefer, but cotton wool and water are fine at first and won’t irritate your newborn’s delicate skin. Nappy bags are also useful for disposing of nappies hygienically. As your baby get older, you may need to use a barrier cream to prevent soreness and nappy rash, but it shouldn’t be necessary at first.
You’ll need another set of nappy changing essentials in a bag to carry with you whenever you leave the house. Consider investing in a lightweight, portable changing mat. They can be a lifesaver when you’re on the go. Remember that you can never pack too many spare clothes.
Your baby’s stools will change colour quite dramatically in their first week, and won’t resemble adult stools until they start to wean from 6 months onwards.
Your baby’s first stool is known as meconium. It’s made up of the waste products like mucus, bile, cells, amniotic fluid and lanugo. It also keeps their intestine ‘inflated’ so that it’s ready for action after birth. It’s greenish-black, sticky, tar-like and hard to clean off skin, but while it looks unpleasant, it doesn’t smell as there are no bacteria present. The passing of meconium is an important milestone as it shows your baby’s bowels are working properly1.
Babies’ stomachs are delicate, and their stool colour, consistency and smell can change quite frequently, making ‘normal’ hard to define. The warning signs to look out for are diarrhoea, constipation or blood-streaked stool. If it’s a one-off, then it could be due to a change in your baby’s diet. Switching to formula, for example, can cause thicker stools that are associated with constipation. Dehydration can also cause constipation, which in turn can cause your baby to strain, leading to bleeding. If you notice frequent or continuous diarrhoea, constipation or bloodstreaked stool, ask your doctor, health visitor or midwife for advice.
Dark sticky, tar-like meconium
Stools turn greener as your baby takes more milk
Meconium is cleared out and stools become yellowish
The stool colour of a healthy breastfed baby
In the first day or two, you will only get through a few nappies, but by the end of the week this number is likely to go up to 6 to 12 nappies. Most will be just wet2, although breastfed babies poo more regularly than bottle-fed babies. Your baby may cry if they are feeling uncomfortable in a dirty nappy, and some disposable nappies have built-in moisture indicators to tell you when it’s time for a change.
1. NCT. Newborn baby poo in nappies: what to expect [Online]. 2015. Available at: http://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/whats-your-babys-nappy [Accessed March 2017]
2. Shevlov SP, Altmann TR. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5-6th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics: New York, 2014.
3. Environment Agency. An updated lifecycle assessment for disposable and reusable nappies [Online]. 2008. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/an-updated-lifecycle-assessment-for-disposable-and-reusable-nappies [Accessed March 2017]
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