Newborn care: the first few days at home

Bringing home a new baby is an exciting time for everyone in the family, and often a time with many questions.

Jade Elliott talked down with Dr. Kaitlin Carpenter a pediatrician from Intermountain Healthcare, to help guide new parents through those first few days when you may feel excited, yet overwhelmed about caring for this tiny, new, helpless human.

You probably have a lot of expectations about motherhood, but the most important thing is to be flexible. Babies are unpredictable, and in the beginning it may feel like everything revolves around what the baby needs. Give yourself time to adapt to your new life and eventually, you’ll settle into a new routine.

Sleep Strategies

Grandma’s suggestion of “sleep when the baby sleeps” really is true. As much as you can, take advantage of these breaks by taking a nap yourself. Babies often have “day/night reversal” and will spend the first few weeks up all night and sleeping more during the day.

Babies are safest when they sleep on their backs in their own bassinet or crib. Avoid co-sleeping or falling asleep with a baby under six months old in your bed. Do not smoke, drink alcohol, use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs. Studies show these practices help lower the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome or sudden unexpected post-natal collapse.

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Visitors

There can be a lot of pressure to have visitors, but it’s okay to set boundaries or say “no” or ask visitors if they’ve been ill, or ask them to wear a mask, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, or flu and respiratory virus season.

On the other hand, having a newborn is a time to ask for help. Think who in your life you can rely on to safely give you a break when you need it. Having someone come hold the baby while you nap can be a lifesaver!

How Often to Feed Your Baby

One of the most common questions I get asked is if a newborn is eating too often. It is normal for newborns to “cluster feed,” especially at night for the first few days and then again during growth spurts. During these times, the baby may want to eat every 30-45 minutes for several hours in a row and that is normal! Go with it. The baby is the boss. Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. The more frequently you feed the baby, the more breastmilk you will produce.

Grandmothers know a lot and are a great resource for all sorts of things. Some ask if the newborn can have water, which we do not recommend anymore.

Newborns can be very loud. Grunting, tooting, sneezing, and hiccupping are all normal baby sounds.

Diaper Duty

Be sure to keep baby clean and dry by changing wet and soiled diapers. This will help prevent diaper rash. Baby’s first few bowel movements are called meconium and are dark black and sticky. Then as they begin breastfeeding or drinking formula, bowel movements become more yellow and runny. When cleaning baby’s bottom, wipe down away from reproductive organs to keep germs from getting into those openings. If your baby is not producing frequent wet or dirty diapers, call your provider.

Keeping Baby Safe

Remember that newborns cannot hold up their own head, so you’ll need to support their neck carefully when you’re holding your baby or handing your baby to someone else or placing your baby in an infant car seat, swing or stroller.

It is safe to take your baby on walks when you feel up to it. Getting outside for some fresh air and walking have positive physical and mental health benefits for the whole family. Make sure to secure your baby safely in a front pack or stroller. Try and keep your little one protected from the sun by keeping them in the shade. They are too young for sunscreen, so floppy hats and lightweight clothing can help.

Bath Time Bonding

Bath time is a great way for your partner to participate in baby’s care. You can use a baby bathtub to help make bathing easier and safer. Baby bath products and shampoo are designed for baby’s sensitive skin and to not irritate baby’s eyes. Be gentle and careful when bathing your baby. Babies are slippery when wet! Never leave your baby unattended in bathwater.

Some grandparents ask if alcohol swabs should be used to clean the belly button. We do not recommend that anymore. Just clean the area with soap and water. The remains of the umbilical cord will fall off naturally.

Newborn Skin Care

Most newborn skin peels a lot for the first few weeks. This is normal and nothing to worry about. You can apply baby lotion after their bath or put a little baby oil in their bathwater to help moisturize their skin.

Newborns get a lot of different kinds of rashes. Baby acne is common. Most rashes are not a big deal, but a few types may need treatment, such as herpes. If you are concerned about a rash, call your provider, ask about it at the baby’s well check-up or schedule a TeleHealth visit through Intermountain Connect Care.

Mom Self-Care

The newborn period is not as glamorous as many movies make it out to be. Embrace it! Your body has just gone through a huge transformation and will continue to change over the next months to years.

Remember to eat. Sometimes it’s hard to get in three meals every day. For breastfeeding moms, you are burning the same amount of calories breastfeeding as running a 5K every day, so don’t skimp on the calories!

Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Watch out for the baby blues. It’s normal for emotions to quickly go from up to down after having a baby, especially because of all of the hormonal changes and sleep deprivation. This should get better in a few weeks.

Post-partum depression or anxiety is something more serious and if these feelings persist, it’s important to talk to your doctor about them. If you find yourself spending more time being sad or anxious than being happy, or having a hard time feeling able to take care of yourself, or if you feel your emotions are keeping you from bonding with your baby, please reach out to your pediatrician or OB. We want to help, but it’s hard to know who is struggling unless you speak up.

Well Baby Check-Ups

Be sure to go to your baby’s well check-ups at your pediatrician’s office. These are normally recommended beginning at two weeks of age and then also at two months, four months, six months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months and 24 months. Annual check-ups are recommended after age three. These check-ups help you know if your baby is gaining weight and growing and developing normally. This is also when your baby will receive important vaccines to prevent common childhood illnesses and important screenings are done for hearing and vision, etc.

Sibling Strategies

  • Older siblings can take some time to adjust to their new role. Make it a positive thing, saying “You get to be a big sister!” instead of “You aren’t the baby anymore.”
  • Expect some jealousy and maybe a developmental regression, especially if you have been working on potty training
  • As much as you can, let the older sibling help bring diapers or snacks to mom or have them “feed” their own baby doll during breastfeeding or bottle feeding.
  • A little one on one time with mom or dad goes a long way. Try to carve out time during the day to snuggle and give some undivided attention to your older child.

For more information visit:

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.