Caring for your newborn baby

PHOTO: Caring for your newborn baby

SINGAPORE - Taking care of a newborn baby can sometimes be a terrifying experience for some mothers.

Ms Pauline Wee, the assistant director at the division of nursing at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, gives some basic tips.

Bathing baby

Bathe the newborn baby at least once a day. Pay attention to the skin folds or creases, such as those at the armpits, groin and behind the knee, as these are places where dirt tends to gather.

Do not overuse bath gel as the soapy water may cause the baby to slip from the hands.

The umbilical cord usually drops off in seven to 10 days.

Before it drops off, you can clean the umbilical cord with cotton balls dipped in cooled boiled water. You can lift the clamp gently and clean around the base of the cord and from the base upwards.

Look out for pus-containing discharge, a foul smell or redness around the base. These could be signs of infection.

Monitoring urine and stool

It is important for parents to pay attention to the frequency of their baby's passing of urine and stool.

Breastfed babies tend to pass urine at least one to three times within the first two days. Subsequently, the frequency of their urination increases. The amount depends on the newborn baby's intake of breast milk and ranges from two to 10 times a day.

Breastfed babies also tend to pass motion more often in the first week. But as their digestive system stabilises, they may pass motion about twice a day.

An amount that is less frequent than normal may mean the baby has not received sufficient intake of breast milk or formula.

The first stool is a sticky, greenish-black substance called meconium, which is present in the intestine before birth. It will be passed out within the first two days.

Regular stool will be seen as the baby starts to drink more milk, usually after the second or third day.

Some common conditions

Rashes: Nappy rash could be due to frequent motion, sensitive skin or if the diaper is left unchanged for too long. It is advisable to change a diaper with stool in it immediately.

Otherwise, you may change it once every three to four hours, the interval at which the babies tend to urinate, to prevent nappy rash.

You should also apply nappy rash cream during each diaper change. Crying: Babies cry for many reasons, including hunger, soiled diapers, excessive heat or cold, fatigue, abdominal pain or discomfort.

However, if you have tried all means and are still not able to resolve loud excessive crying, it may be due to abdominal colic.

An indication of this is when the baby's tummy is bloated and hard.

Abdominal colic tends to happen in infants aged one to three months old, for unknown reasons.

The affected infant usually cries at a certain time every day, usually in the evening. Older babies may draw their legs up to the abdomen.

The problem usually resolves on its own by the time the baby is three months old.

To help comfort the child, you can play soothing music, rock the baby gently, burp him or apply anti-wind medication on his abdomen.

If he is still inconsolable, you may wish to consult the doctor to rule out other causes.

Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to for more stories.