Week 1

Skin care and jaundice

Your baby’s skin might be virginal and pure, untouched by the harsh sun and environmental pollutants, but don’t expect it to look so angelic as a newborn:

  • Newborn acne is very common and, just like their future bouts as teenagers, is caused by hormones – your hormones, that is. Don’t worry; this is no indication of future problems to come, and it should clear up in the first few weeks. The best way to treat these clogged oil glands is to do nothing – don’t pick, scrub or treat them.
  • Dry and peeling skin is also common in the first week and is due to the traumatic transition from amniotic fluid to air. If this is the case, the first layer of skin will naturally shed whether you put lotions on or not. If you feel the need to moisturize your baby’s skin, make sure you use an unscented baby lotion.
  • Diaper rash is largely preventable. Change your baby’s diaper as soon as possible after it’s soiled. After wiping the area clean, use a warm wet washcloth to clean the area and apply diaper rash cream. There’s not much more you can do. If disposable diapers are giving your baby bad diaper rash, try switching to cloth and vice-versa.
  • Erythema Toxicum is a scary sounding name for a simple and short-lived skin condition: Blotchy red patches with pale centers. Before you know it, the marks will simply disappear.
  • Birthmarks are another common skin imperfection that comes in all shapes and colors, and even the most alarming looking marks might fade with time. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.
  • Cradle Cap is the reason your baby’s scalp might be shedding what looks like dandruff or even have yellow or brown crusty patches. There’s no reason to freak out – not only is it fairly common in babies’ early months, but it’s completely harmless. While no one really knows what causes it, cradle cap (actually seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp) usually goes away in 6 to 12 months, isn’t contagious, and doesn’t require any treatment. If it bothers you, try gently massaging the scalp with oil (like olive or mineral) and gently combing the flakes out. Then make sure to shampoo so the excess oil doesn’t clog your baby’s pores, only making the problem worse. For more serious cases, talk to your doctor about a prescription seborrhea shampoo or cortisone cream. Sometimes the seborrheic rash will spread onto the face or ears, which can be treated with a topical cream.

Jaundice: Wonder why your baby is looking a little oompa-ish? That yellow glow on your child’s skin might not look normal, but it’s actually quite common in newborn babies. Here’s the deal on jaundice:

  • Your baby’s body has more red blood cells than needed in reserve for the birthing process, and those extra blood cells break down into a chemical called bilirubin.
  • If the liver isn’t completely up and running quite yet, the excess bilirubin is stored in the skin until the liver can break it down – usually within the first week – giving the skin an almost orange hue. If you or your doctor recognizes the onset of jaundice (which occurs in 50 to 60 percent of newborns), the baby’s bilirubin levels have to be carefully monitored.
  • Jaundice is more likely in babies who have diabetic mothers, have a sibling who had jaundice, were induced during labor, or who lose a lot of weight after delivery.
  • In mild to moderate physiologic jaundice, the baby’s jaundice should diminish by the end of this week without any treatment. Premature babies usually have a longer bout of jaundice – lasting up to 2 weeks – because their livers aren’t as developed.
  • In some cases, breastfeeding can cause jaundice in two ways: If the baby isn’t getting enough fluid, it can be hard to get rid of the excess bilirubin, or something in your breast milk can keep your baby’s liver from adequately eliminating the chemical. If the latter is the case, keep in mind that while it’s most likely harmless, your doctor might advise formula-feeding for a couple of days, while you pump to maintain your milk supply.
  • If a baby has high physiological jaundice, he or she will have to stay in the hospital for a few days under fluorescent lights known as bililights, which help the liver get rid of the bilirubin. The baby will wear shades to protect his or her eyes from the light and be given extra fluid because of the water lost through the skin. The baby might be confined to the nursery except for feeding and act more sluggish than normal.
  • If the baby develops a rare case of nonphysiologic jaundice, where the bilirubin levels increase rapidly, a blood transfusion, phototherapy or surgery might be necessary. Untreated, bilirubin could build up in the brain – known as kernicterus – and cause brain damage or death.

« Go back to Baby

12 thoughts on “Caring for Your Newborn: A complete guide to the first week with your new baby

  1. says:

    If you plan on breast feeding, having formula in the house is an invitation to failure. Pleas consider NOT having “back up” formula. Instead have good breast feeding books (like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) & the number of a good lactation consultant.

  2. says:

    I agree entirely on not keeping formula in your house. Breastfeeding can take awhile to get a hang of, and that’s okay for the baby. That first week is such a vulnerable time, it’s easy to give in. If you need formula, your doctor will tell you at your one week appointment, or you can see a lactation consultant, and pick it up on the way home. It’s not that hard to stop by a drug store or get someone to stop for you if it’s needed.

  3. says:

    If you’ve decided to cloth diaper, I’d still use disposables for the first month or so. For one thing, it’s not particularly cost effective over disposables to buy that tiny size in addition to the bigger sizes or one size diapers. Also, figuring out a laundry routine for cloth diapers can take some experimentation and troubleshooting, which I think is better left for a little later on.

  4. says:

    This is a really well thought-out and written piece. Week one is so overwhelming, I’m glad it’s acknowledged and supported.

  5. says:

    I completely agree with the cloth diaper comment – and I’m glad this article pointed that out as well. While I’m a big fan of cloth diapers LATER, trying to use them in the beginning is a set-up for failure and a HUGE waste of what should have been an investment. I’d try them in a few months.

  6. says:

    Give yourself complete permission to do nothing that isn’t crucial to your infant’s (and your) survival in those early weeks. This probably means feeding the baby and yourself, changing the baby, and getting as much rest as possible. I am one of those people who can’t easily fall asleep, no matter how exhausted I am, so napping while my newborn took 30-minute “naps” just was not possible (and the people who cheerfully told me “just sleep when the baby sleeps!” became very irritating). Between that and breastfeeding every 90-120 minutes, exhaustion got me quickly and probably set me up for a few very rough months. So rest if you can, even if you can’t sleep, and ignore the guilt that might come along with seeing the laundry stack up.

  7. says:

    I breastfed my infant for over a year, but those early weeks were tougher than I ever expected. As much as I agree with not “caving in” by giving the baby formula early on, recognize that for some people, this *may* be a much-needed bridge to full-blown breastfeeding. In my case my milk didn’t come in for 6 full days and my lactation consultant from La Leche League didn’t get back to me for almost 36 hours, which is a lifetime when your baby is hungry and crying constantly and no one is sleeping. At day 5 we decided to use some formula and this covered us until my milk arrived. I beat myself up over this repeatedly (as did so-called “friends” who viewed using formula as practically the equivalent of giving the baby red Kool-Aid). Formula isn’t poison; try not to add guilt to everything else you’re probably feeling in those weeks.

  8. says:

    Excellent article Babble – bravo! I am mixed with the formula in the house debate. I only have one can and one bottle that someone gave me – low and behold a month later and I’m being rushed to the ER with a serious intra-uterine infection. My neighbors took our daughter and gave her her first bottle. They kept asking him how much she took and we were like “we have no idea!” we went right back to BFing when I got home from the hospital. but if we hadn’t had that one little can and lone bottle we would have really been up a creek and inconvienced our neighbors.

    I totally agree with the comment of don’t do anything that you don’t HAVE to. I am about as earthy as the come….but the first two weeks solid..we used paper plates and cups. It’s just a “pass” I gave myself. I threw all the laundry into the machine together and went to bed at 7 when the baby went “down for the night”

    DON”T FEEL GUILTY and DON”T LET ANYONE ELSE MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY for doing whatever you need (within reason obviously!!!) to get by! This is even more true with subsequent babies

  9. says:

    I was so relieved at how easy it was to switch back and forth between breastfeeding and formula. I had been told that my baby, given a bottle, would never go back to the breast and that was absolutely not the case. It saved my health and sanity for my husband to be able to feed the baby overnight — and gave him (and my parental visitors) a chance to bond with her as well. If you must use breastmilk only, you can always pump, but I highly recommend getting used to not being the sole feeder early on. You will be grateful for the rest and your partner will be grateful to share such an important role.

  10. says:

    I agree with most of the advice in this article, however breastfeeding mothers should NOT keep formula in the house “just in case”. Breastfeeding can be hard in the beginning and having an easy out right under your nose is counter-productive. If the baby isn’t gaining well and you need to supplement, it can be easy enough to pick some up on the way home from the pediatrician’s office, as someone already pointed out. Also, pumping a little milk from engorged breasts will not make your body produce even more milk. It’s *emptying* the breast that signals the brain to produce more milk. Pumping or hand expressing a little to soften the breasts and allow the baby to latch easier, relieve the mother’s discomfort and prevent a plugged duct is absolutely fine.

  11. Jane says:

    I disagree with many of these comments. You should absolutely have a good formula on hand (organic!) even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding. I had to go to the ER for postpartum hemmorhage when my son was just 10 days old, and I was there for 18 hours (had to have a D&C). I didn’t have time to pump before I went (obviously) and if I hadn’t had formula on hand at home, it would have been a lot more difficult for my sister to deal with at 3am in the middle of the night. And I’d rather have the best formula on hand than have someone run out and buy the crappy stuff, not to mention having a screaming hungry newborn who has to wait for them to go to the store and back and then make a bottle. Anyway, I believe in having formula on hand for other emergency situations (storms, earthquakes, etc). Be prepared! If you really want to breastfeed, you can do it and a bottle of formula in your pantry won’t deter you.

  12. Hi,

    Thanks for your valuable tips about Parenting. I am also a mother of 2 year old daughter and I know how naughty she is. Your tips is really helpful to calm in irritating situations as well

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.