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Newborns and New Parents: What You Need to Know 

Writer / Dr. Shannon James, Pediatrician at IU Health West Hospital
Photography Provided

For many parents, the first few days at home with newborns can be overwhelming. Establishing a close relationship with a pediatrician can help address the specific questions and concerns that parents have, but there are a few basic tips that can be helpful.

Newborns are fragile, so handle with care.

Caregivers should wash their hands before handling a newborn. Limit exposure to large groups of people, as even mild infections in older children or adults can be more serious if passed to an infant. A baby’s neck and head should be well-supported when held. Rough play such as jiggling on the knee or being thrown in the air is not safe at this age. Never shake a newborn while playing or out of frustration. Shaking can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. When babies are fussy, it can be very frustrating for caregivers. Check to see if your baby is hungry or needs a diaper change. Check to make sure hair has not wrapped around the fingers, toes, or genitals that would cause pain. If a baby has prolonged fussiness, call your pediatrician. When traveling even short distances, babies should be securely fastened in their car seats and taken out once you arrive at your destination.

Newborns eat frequently.

Newborns need to eat every two to four hours. Babies communicate their hunger by crying, putting their hands in their mouths, or rooting. If breastfeeding, parents should give the baby the chance to nurse for about 10 to 15 minutes at each breast. If formula feeding, the baby will usually take one to two ounces at each feeding for the first few weeks. Newborns do not need extra water or baby foods at this stage of life.

Newborns sleep most of the day.

Newborns will sleep in short intervals throughout the day, and will wake to eat or when their diaper needs to be changed. Don’t expect a newborn to sleep through the night. In the first couple of months, babies will wake every two to four hours to eat. A safe sleep environment for a baby includes a bassinet without loose blankets, pillows or toys. Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (commonly knows as SIDS). Bed-sharing with parents can be dangerous for babies. Positioning a bassinet next to the bed allows babies to have a safe sleep environment while still giving parents easy access for nighttime feeds and caregiving.

Pediatricians can support parents through every stage of a child’s development and help them navigate any concerns or questions.

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