Caring for a newborn baby is a challenging task, but also incredibly rewarding. Even if you are nervous around other people's children, it's entirely different once you have your own. While there is much to be said about caring for a newborn baby, here are the basic things you need to do as a new parent...
Newborns need to eat frequently, roughly every 2-3 hours.
Breastfeeding is generally considered the healthiest method of feeding a newborn baby. In this case, most advocate feeding the baby on demand, whenever he/she cries.
Formula may also be given to a newborn if mother's milk is not an option. Use clean, sterilized bottles, and cooled previously boiled water. Follow the instructions on the container, and be sure to use exact measurements. Typically, in the first two weeks a newborn should have 6 bottles per day, with each bottle including at least 3 ounces of formula. Between 3 and 4 weeks, the baby will need at least 5 bottles per day, with each bottle including at least 4 ounces of formula. From around 1 month old, a baby will need 5 bottles a day, with each bottle including at least 5 ounces of formula.
NEVER give a newborn baby regular cows milk or soy milk. These are not an appropriate food source for a newborn, since they lack the nutrition needed for human growth.
Newborns poo - A LOT. Expect a dirty diaper after every feeding in the first few weeks. It's important to keep the baby clean to prevent diaper rash.
Formula fed babies make greenish poo, while Babies who are breastfed tend to make loose, yellow poos. This is normal.
In the first few days, the stool is mostly meconium, which is a thick sticky poo that's difficult to clean. Here's a tip - apply some petroleum jelly to the baby's bottom after a change, and it will make the baby easier to clean next time.
Be sure to clean the umbilical cord with every change. You can use a bit of surgical spirits on a cotton ball, and rub this on the cord. Never pull or press it, and contact the doctor if it becomes red or bleeds. It will fall off in anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks.
In the first two weeks, newborn babies should typically wear one layer more than an adult would wear in the same temperature. This is because their temperature control is not as good.
After that, you should dress the newborn the same as you would dress an adult for the temperature. Overheating increases the risk for SIDS, so don't overdo it.
Keep clothing restricted to basic cotton. Simple is good - ribbons and buttons and lace can be uncomfortable, and also dangerous.
Newborns sleep quite a lot. Unfortunately, this sleep isn't sequential. Rarely will a newborn sleep more than 3-4 hours at a time. It's very important to allow the baby to sleep.
To reduce the risk of SIDS, babies should be placed to sleep on their backs. Use a new, firm mattress that fits snugly in the crib, with no blankets or pillows. Nothing should be in the crib except the baby. If it's winter, you can buy a sleep sack for baby which will keep him/her warm.
Make sure the crib is safe. The bar slats should be no wider than a soda can apart.
In the early days, you don't need to fully bathe the baby. You can give the baby a sponge bath with a warm washcloth. It is a good idea to use cotton balls with warm water to wipe the baby's eyes and clean under the neck and around the face.
Don't forget the love. Newborn babies love to be held, especially with the baby's head laying on an adult's chest.
Be sure to always support baby's head and neck, as they don't have the neck muscles to keep their own heads supported.
That's the basics of newborn baby care!