SingaporeMotherhood | Baby & Toddler

February 2012

Newborn Baby Care Basics

It’s true, babies don’t come with instruction booklets. When you’re still in the hospital, glowing (or groaning) from the aftermath of delivery, baby care is probably the last thing on your mind. The next couple of days remain blissful, with nurses at your beck and call, helping you with baby’s every need. Then you go home with your bundle of joy and you’re alone with your baby. Now what? The thought of having total responsibility for this cute little person is a bit daunting, no? Whether this is your first time as a parent, or you have forgotten how you did it before, don’t worry. Learn these basic baby care techniques to help get you through the day once baby makes her grand entrance. Always remember: wash or sanitise your hands before touching your baby or her things.


1. Giving Baby A Bath

Preparation: Make sure the air-conditioner is turned off, and that windows and doors are closed so that cool drafts do not chill baby when she’s wet. On a flat, even surface, lay open a large absorbent towel, a diaper, nappy cream and baby moisturiser (if necessary), plus one set of fresh clothes for baby.

The water in the bath tub should be between five and seven cm high, and comfortably warm – between 32ºC and 37ºC. Test by dipping your elbow into the water. Squirt in a little soap-free baby wash. Place a piece of muslin cloth by the side of the tub.

Procedure: Cradle baby under her neck, holding her left arm from the back with your left hand. Your left inner arm should be supporting the back of baby’s neck and head. Hold baby’s backside with your right hand when carrying her to the tub. Lower her into the water, legs first. Take the muslin cloth with your right hand and wet it. Maintain your grip on baby with your left hand.

Keeping baby’s face above the water level, use the muslin to gently wipe baby’s face, ears, hair, tummy, legs, genitals, and feet. Turn her over so that she is facing your left forearm. She will be supported by your forearm, which comes under her armpits. Wash her back and buttocks.
Supporting her neck and her bottom, carry baby and place her onto the middle of the towel. Wrap her up and gently pat her dry from top to bottom. Make sure all the creases along the neck, arms, legs and nappy area are dried well. Do not put powder into these folds of skin as the powder will absorb sweat and excessive moisture can lead to skin irritation. Slip in the diaper underneath baby’s bottom, apply diaper cream, fasten the diaper, then dress her.

2. Diaper Changing

Preparation: It is perfectly normal to have to change your newborn’s diaper 10 times or more a day. If the brand of disposable diapers used by the hospital worked well for your baby, you may want to continue using the same. If you are using cloth nappies, always have a stack ready and waiting so that you do not have to fold new ones at the last minute. Choose baby wipes which are sufficiently moist, but not overtly wet. Some parents may prefer to use water and cotton balls.

Procedure: When cleaning a girl’s genital area, wipe from front to back to prevent infection. Make sure you check that every part is clean, including the insides of skin folds. If there is redness, apply nappy rash cream. If possible, leave baby nappy-less for a while. Fifteen minutes of fresh air works wonders to help prevent rashes.

3. Umbilical Cord Stump Care

Preparation: When you leave the hospital, you will be given a small stack of alcohol wipes. These are to clean the umbilical cord area with.

Procedure: After each bath, carefully clean around baby’s umbilical cord area by holding up the cord and gently wiping around its base. Remember not to cover the cord with the diaper as it has to be kept dry. The umbilical cord will fall off by itself in one to two weeks. Never attempt to pull it off. If the baby’s navel becomes swollen, consult your pediatrician.

4. Trimming Baby’s Nails

Preparation: Baby’s nails are very sharp and should be regularly trimmed to prevent her from scratching herself. You can buy baby nail clippers to use. Some even come with a mini-magnifying glass attached so that you do not accidentally clip her delicate skin!

Procedure: Cut baby’s nails right after a bath, when they are softer. Follow the natural line of baby’s finger, depressing the finger pad away from the nail so you can avoid cutting the skin of the finger. You may find it easier to do this while baby is sleeping or nursing.

5. Burping Baby

Preparation: You will need to burp baby after each feed and before putting her back to bed, otherwise she may regurgitate the milk that you have just fed her. Babies who are well burped will also experience less (or no) colic as this is sometimes caused by discomfort in baby’s digestive track.

Procedure: Every parent has his or her own style and this is one area where the dads usually excel! One method is to carry baby upright against your chest, with baby’s head on your shoulder. Gently rub her back with the palm of your hand, in an upward motion, until you hear that welcome belch. Another method is to ‘seat’ baby on you lap, and gently brush her back in the same upwards motion. Some swear that ‘circling’ baby while she is seated on your lap can do the trick too.


1. Use an infant car seat that is properly secured at all times.
2. Do not put the baby to sleep on a soft surface such as a waterbed, couch, or pillow.
3. Never leave the baby alone or with a young sibling or pet.
4. Do not leave her alone in a tub of water or on high places such as changing tables, beds, sofas, or chairs. Always keep one hand on the baby.
5. Do not drink hot liquids or smoke while holding the baby.
6. Avoid overexposure to the sun.
7. Recognise early signs of illness: fever, failure to eat, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, unusual irritability, lethargy, jaundice, skin rash.
8. Do not give the baby honey until after her first birthday to prevent infant botulism.
9. To avoid developing a habit that will harm the baby’s teeth, do not put her to bed with a bottle in her mouth.
10. Continue to provide attention to the other children in the family, appropriately engaging them in the care of the baby.
– from a handout received from Dr Simon Ng, a pediatrician at Mount Alvernia Hospital.

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Newborn Baby Care Basics