This is the third chapter of our guide for new parents and how to take care of your precious newborn baby. This instalment focuses on your baby’s body and includes topics such as your baby’s fontanelle, their eyes, spots & blemishes on babies, newborn ears, how to spot and deal with tongue tie and more.
All you need to know about your newborn baby’s body
From those very first few days, your newborn baby’s body is delicate and will require regular care and attention. Here is a head-to-toe guide on all you need to know about your newborn baby’s body.
What is my baby’s fontanelle?
The fontanelle is the soft spot at the top of your newborn baby’s head where the cranium has not yet fused, offering the flexibility needed for birthing. There is also a smaller, less noticeable posterior fontanelle which closes within the first two months.
The fontanelle on top of your newborn baby’s head will gradually begin to fuse at 6 months, fully closing at around 12-18 months. Sometimes the fontanelle can appear sunken, which can be a sign of dehydration. In the event of any significant changes to the fontanelle, for instances if it is sunken or bulging, seek medical advice.
Looking after your baby’s eyes
How to clean your baby’s eyes
During a daily face wash, give each eye a gentle warm water wipe from nose outwards, ensuring that you use a fresh pad or different piece of cotton cloth for each eye.
Sticky eyes in babies
Many babies get sticky eyes. Often there will be just a pale, yellow discharge, while the eye itself is quite clear (i.e. no redness around or in the white of the eye) and the baby appears perfectly well. Your maternity nurse or midwife will be able to advise on how to cleanse your baby’s eyes regularly and provide guidance on observing further symptoms which may require medical evaluation.
Spots and blemishes on baby skin
Babies sometimes develop facial spots in the early weeks.
Milk spots are small, white facial spots that can appear in the first few weeks of a newborn baby’s life. These will cause no problems if they are not associated with any other symptoms.
Hormone rashes can appear on breastfed babies, as maternal hormones are transferred to the baby via breastmilk. A hormone rash will generally first appear quite pronounced on the face, fading as it moves across to the baby’s chest area. This should not cause any problems, so if you or your baby develops any additional symptoms, seek medical advice immediately.
Seek immediate medical advice if:
- Your baby has a fever, or is in any way unwell
- The spots become inflamed
- The baby is not feeding well
However, if your baby is alert, feeding well, has a normal temperature and there are no other symptoms present, you can refer to the NHS websites for guidance, or contact the NHS helpline on 111 for further guidance on whether a medical examination is needed.
Caring for your baby’s ears
Ear wax is your baby’s natural ear cleanser and should not be interfered with! As a rule of thumb, never go near your baby’s ears with a cotton bud. If there is wax present in the outer ear, you can gently wipe it away with a corner of a damp cotton cleansing pad.
Tongue tie in babies
Tongue tie, otherwise known as ankyloglossia, is where the strip of skin between the baby’s tongue and the bottom of their mouth is shorter than usual.
Most newborn babies are checked for tongue tie if there are issues around breastfeeding or latching. However, a posterior tongue tie is not obvious and may require further examination. If your baby is having difficulty latching or you are getting sore nipples, consult your maternity nurse, midwife or lactation specialist.
Newborn baby skin, spots and blemishes
Many newborns have dry skin. Babies love gentle massage, so a regular application of a baby moisture product can help.
Babies can get hot and sticky, sometimes resulting in skin creases getting red and sore. Key areas to watch out for are those that can be reached by dribble or baby vomit, such as under the chin, behind ears and around the sides of the neck. Once a day gently cleanse these areas with warm water and cotton pad, thoroughly patting them dry afterwards. If it appears sore, a light application of sudocrem or similar cream can help.
The same can occur under a baby’s arms and groin. Again, gently cleansing with water and thoroughly drying is sufficient, adding cream if the area appears sore. If the area begins to smell, develops a sticky texture or turns slightly yellow, it is likely the area has become infected. If this is the case, seek GP advice.
Cleaning your newborn baby during and after a nappy change
The areas around genitalia and anal area need special care due to the effect of wee and poo on the skin. Regular nappy changes and thorough cleansing is important. Gentle but thorough wiping with warm water or a wipe is needed here.
Cold and unexpected, wet wipes are very startling for babies! To reduce the ‘shock factor’, warm up the wet wipe in your hand for a few seconds before gently touching your baby’s leg with it. Then move on to the nappy area.
Pay particular attention to the scrotal area, moving the wipe gently to enable thorough cleansing under and around it. For girls, outer labia cleansing is sufficient for wee, and be very gentle when you do need to part it to get any poo removed. Always wipe from the front to back. Be sure to keep an eye on the area running from the base of the spine down towards the buttocks crease, as these areas are prone to getting soiled.
A simple barrier cream can be used at nappy changes to protect delicate skin. If any of the nappy becomes sore, seek advice from your maternity nurse, midwife or any other healthcare professional.
Taking care of your baby’s hands
As babies often clench their fists, their hands can get moist and sticky. They also manage to gather bits of fluff! A daily wash and dry is a good idea.
How to trim your newborn baby’s nails
Fingernails grow much faster than toenails. The main ways of clipping baby nails are:
- Using round ended ‘baby’ scissors
- Baby clippers
- A battery operated file
While you build up confidence clipping your baby’s nails, make it a two person job, one to gently cradle your baby’s hand whilst the other does the cutting. Gently pushing the pad of the finger downwards with the thumb or finger of your ‘spare’ hand can reduce the risk of nicking the skin by your baby’s nails.
Treating thrush in a newborn baby
Thrush is a yeast infection from bacteria that naturally occurs in the gut. In babies, it can proliferate and present as white or yellow irregular raised patches anywhere in the mouth. If left untreated it can pass through the gut and cause a sore bottom.
Thrush can be easily treated with a prescription medication. It is useful to be aware that breastfeeding mums can also contract it from the baby if there are any small cracks on the nipple’s surface. Contact your GP if you observe any of the following:
- Pain deep into the nipple
- Itching or burning sensations around the area
- A red or shiny appearance to the nipple
Minding your newborn baby’s umbilical cord
The umbilical cord clamp will usually come off within a week to ten day, during which time it requires no special attention and is best left dry. As the skin around the area can get sticky, use a damp cotton pad to wipe around the cord clamp, but not directly onto the healing stump. If the area produces a persistent yellow discharge, the area becomes inflamed or starts to smell, seek medical advice.
You may find that when the clamp has come off, that there is a bright red centre to the umbilicus. This is likely to be a granuloma and it may produce an odourless discharge. Gentle daily cleaning with a damp cotton pad is sufficient and unless it becomes infected, will resolve within a few weeks. If still present during the GP 8 week check, your doctor will evaluate and advise next steps.
Bathing your newborn baby
Once the cord stump is off, you can start bathing your baby. How often you do this is personal preference. Followed by a massage, this can become a soothing end of day routine.
Ensure that you have everything that you need in the bathroom. Water should be between 37 and 38 degrees Celsius, so always use a bath thermometer to check the bathwater temperature before bathing your baby. Ensure that you have no ‘hot spots’ from filling the bath.
As this is a new experience for your baby, being placed in the bath can be a bit of a shock! To reduce the shock factor, gently hold your baby under their arms and gently swish their feet in the water for a few moments, lower the legs and place them fully into the bath. Then keep your hand lightly on their tummy and chest to reassure them until they settle.
Looking for newborn support or a night nanny to help you through the first few weeks after birth? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up today to find the best postnatal support for you.
This blog is the third in our ‘A New Parents' Guide to Baby Sleep and Routine’ series.
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A new parents' guide to spotting and managing wind, colic and reflux in babiesRead post