Welcome to parenthood! An amazing new relationship has begun and these early weeks of parenthood can cause a variety of emotions and questions. Southwestern Public Health is here to help you.
For information on registering your newborn visit the Service Ontario website.
Babies are born ready to connect with their caregiver. This is important for their healthy development. Healthy emotional bonding and attachment form positive relationships. Attachment to your baby develops as you respond nicely and consistently to your baby’s needs. Babies need to know they can rely on you to respond to their needs.
You are your baby’s most important connection to the world.
Ways to respond to your baby:
- Nurture, comfort and respond to your baby. Show your baby that he can trust you for care and comfort.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin (placing your baby, wearing only a diaper, chest-to-chest against your body and then covering you both with a light blanket). This is a great way to establish an emotional bond between you and your baby. It can help with breastfeeding as well. Parents can place their baby skin-to-skin right after birth and as the baby gets older.
- Plan daily face-to-face time with your baby to cuddle and tummy time to play with your baby.
- Be sure to spend a lot of time with your baby. Talk soothingly, sing songs, and look into your baby’s eyes.
- Listen to your baby and watch for cues to understand your baby’s behaviour.
Building a secure and trusting relationship with your baby will promote healthy brain development. Be with your baby. Talk, sing, read, and play with your baby. You are your baby’s most important person.
For more information:
As your baby grows and develops, he will be reaching different milestones. As you watch your child, you may wonder if they are reaching the milestones appropriate for his/her age.
The Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS website) is one such tool used to monitor these milestones.
Newborns are small and it can take some practice to get used to how to hold and care for them. Spending time with your baby close by is the best way to learn more about them. Spend time skin-to-skin and talking to your baby.
- You will have many opportunities to practice changing your baby’s diaper since it will be changed 8 to 10 times a day as they start to grow and take in more breastmilk. Be sure to have all supplies within reach and never leave your baby unattended on a change surface, even for a moment. If your baby develops a diaper rash that doesn’t clear up in a few days, see your health care provider.
Change your baby whenever his diaper is wet or soiled.
Learn more about diapering:
- How many diapers will my baby go through? – Canadian Paediatric Society
- Diaper Rash – Canadian Paediatric Society
- Your Baby’s Skin – Canadian Paediatric Society
Your baby’s umbilical cord will fall off on its own in about 1-3 weeks after birth. It will begin to harden and turn dark in colour. Keep the umbilical area dry and clean until it does fall off.
When caring for the umbilical cord, there are some things to watch for. Notify your health care provider if your baby has a fever or if the umbilical area:
- Looks red and swollen
- Oozes yellow pus
- Has a foul-smelling discharge
- Bleeds (a small amount of bleeding is normal and it is not uncommon to find a few spots of blood on baby’s clothing)
- Babies do not need to be bathed every day. Bathing too often can cause your baby’s skin to dry out. You can bath your baby even if the cord stump has not fallen off.
Bathe your baby every few days. Wipe your baby’s hands, face, neck, and diaper area every day.
- Choose an area that is safe and easy to bathe your baby, such as in a baby bathtub or in a sink. Test bath water temperature with your wrist or elbow to make sure it is warm, not hot. Never leave baby unattended in the bath, even for a moment. Keep all supplies within reach. If you need to walk away from the baby, take the baby with you.
- Don’t forget to trim baby’s nails once they grow beyond the skin. Try cutting them with blunt scissors when your baby is sleeping or after feeding.
- Clean baby’s gums twice a day. Use a soft, clean, damp cloth or an infant finger toothbrush to gently wipe baby’s gums from back to front to remove any leftover milk.
- It is important not to overheat your baby. In general, babies need one more layer of clothing than what you are wearing. Babies lose a lot of heat through their heads, so depending on the season, a hat may be necessary.
Dress your baby according to the temperature.
- To reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), baby should not be dressed so their skin is hot to the touch and/or is sweating. Pack some extra layers in baby’s diaper bag so you can always add another layer if you walk into a cold area.
- Choose clothes that are easy to take off and on, especially for diaper changes.
If your baby seems sick, check their temperature. The best way to check your baby’s temperature is by gently placing a clean thermometer in the opening of his bum, however many parents are more comfortable checking baby’s temperature underneath the armpit. If your baby has a temperature higher than 38 degrees Celsius (100.4º F) by bum or higher than 37.5º C (99.5º F) by armpit, this is a fever.
Babies can get sick quickly. If you are concerned about your baby, takethem to see a health care provider.
Take your baby to see a health care provider right away if your baby:
- Has a fever and is younger than 3 months (if older than 3 months of age, see your health care provider if the fever has lasted longer than 72 hours).
- Appears jaundiced or yellow in colour.
- Has a rash, especially in and around the diaper area that does not go away.
- Feeds poorly or will not feed.
- Has a dry mouth, lips, or tongue.
- Normally has regular bowel movements but suddenly stops.
- Is passing less urine or has dark yellow urine.
- Vomits more than twice in one day.
- Has diarrhea.
- Has black or bloody stool that is not meconium.
- Has grey or chalk-coloured stool.
- Has a cough that won’t go away.
- Is hard to wake or seems very weak.
- Has lips or ear lobes that are blue or grey.
- Has difficulty breathing or breathes very quickly.
- Is shaking and not responding to you (having a seizure).
- Shows any other signs that he may be sick.
For more information:
Every baby and child is different when it comes to how much sleep they need, however newborns (from about birth until 2 months of age) spend about 18 hours a day sleeping, waking to feed every few hours. Throughout their first year of life, babies will sleep about 14 hours a day. It is common for newborns to have days and nights mixed up for the first little bit.
Babies will wake up during the night to feed for many months. This has been found to be important in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Feeding through the night also helps to make sure mom maintains good milk supply.
The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that for the first year of life, the safest place for babies to sleep is in their own crib (which meets current Canadian Safety Standards), on their back, and in the parent’s room for the first six months, then in their own room.
Provide a safe sleep environment to reduce the risk of SIDS and injury or death from suffocation or strangulation.
To create a safe sleep environment for the baby and lower the risk of SIDS:
- Provide a smoke-free environment, before and after your baby is born.
- Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, at naptime and night time on a separate sleep surface in an age-appropriate crib, cradle, or bassinet that meets current Canadian safety regulations.
- Provide your baby with a safe sleep environment that has a firm surface and no pillows, comforters, quilts or bumper pads.
- Place your baby to sleep in a crib, cradle or bassinet next to your bed.
Baby seats, swings, car safety seats, bouncers, strollers, slings, playpens, and infant sleep devices placed into or attached to the side of an adult bed are items that are NOT approved for unsupervised sleep.
Baby’s crib must be free of all items other than a flat sheet to cover the mattress and a light blanket (if necessary). There should be no pillows, comforters, duvets, quilts, stuffed animals, bumper pads, positioning supports or other loose or soft bedding material that could suffocate or smother a baby.
Change your baby’s position to prevent your baby from developing a flat head.
Your baby spends a lot of time on his back between sleeping and playing. To prevent your baby’s head from forming a flat spot, you can:
- Switch the end of the crib where you place your baby’s head each day. Your baby will naturally look towards the door.
- Alternate the location of a mobile for your baby to look at when in the crib.
- Avoid having your baby in a car safety seat or stroller for long periods of time when possible.
- Do supervised tummy time when your baby is awake for 10-15 minutes at least 3 times a day. It helps if you get on the floor face-to-face with your baby and use this as play time.
For more information:
When a baby is crying, they are trying to tell you something. It is their way of communicating with you. Responding right away, every time, helps a baby to develop trust and attachment. The early days of taking care of a new baby can be difficult and a baby’s crying can be very stressful. The most important thing to know is that it’s not your fault - sometimes a baby cannot be soothed, but it will get better. Never shake a baby in a moment of anger- it can lead to a lifetime of effects such as brain damage, blindness, paralysis or death.
Healthy babies cry as a way to express their needs.
There are many reasons a baby may be crying, such as:
- Hungry or thirsty
- Too cold or too hot
- In pain or discomfort
- Needing to suck
- Needing to be held, cuddled, rocked
- Over stimulated
- Needing a change in activity
- Not feeling well
- Crying for unknown reasons
To make your baby feel better try:
- Place your baby skin-to-skin
- Hold your baby, or give someone else a turn to hold your baby
- Walk with your baby in a sling or in a stroller
- Rock or sway with your baby in a rhythmic, gentle motion
- Try a baby swing or rocking cradle
- Gently pat or stroke the back or chest
- Go for a ride in the car
- Turn on some white noise (such as a washing machine or vacuum cleaner)
- Give your baby a warm bath
- Have your baby listen to and watch running water
- Lay your baby tummy-down across your lap and gently pat their back
- Give your baby something new to look at or hold
- Take your baby outside or for a walk in fresh air
- Reduce stimulation – turn down the lights, go to a quieter area, etc.
Be aware that some soothing methods help some of the time, but no soothing methods help all of the time. There may be times when nothing works. This does not mean you’re a bad parent.
Never shake or hit your baby. If you feel unable to cope or are afraid that you may hurt your baby, place your baby in a safe spot. Then call someone for help.
Learn about the “Period of Purple Crying” to better understand infant crying.
For more information:
- Children See Children Learn
- Healthy Babies Healthy Brains
- Circle of Security
- 24 Hr Cribside Assistance: A Manual for New Dads
- Caring for Kids (Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Dad Central
- Fatherhood Institute
- LBGTQ Parenting Network
- National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse
- Tips for New Parents (Government of Ontario)