How to care for your baby


How to care for your baby

Your baby will have few wants or needs in the early days and it takes time for you all to learn how you can address these needs. It may not feel like it at first, but you and your partner know your baby best and no two babies are the same. The community midwives and Health visitors are on hand to guide and support you with your decision making and to give you informed advice. The following topics will help you prepare for and meet your babyís needs

Keeping your baby warm

When your baby is born, it is recommended to place baby skin to skin whatever type of delivery you have, unless there is a medical reason not to. Skin to skin (and covered with a blanket/ towel) will regulate your babyís temperature, breathing and heart rate. It keeps baby calm and warm and helps initiate breastfeeding whilst also helping to initiate a close bond. If you feel unable to hold your baby skin to skin immediately after birth, your partner can.

The midwife will monitor your babyís temperature using a thermometer. It is beneficial for you to invest in a thermometer to have at home. A normal temperature for your baby to be is between 36.3c and 37.5c but this can vary from baby to baby. Tips for keeping baby at the right temperature:

  • Typically, babies will need one layer more than you eg. If youíre wearing a t-shirt, jumper and jeans, your baby would need a vest, sleepsuit and cardigan.
  • In hotter weather, it is appropriate for your baby to be dressed in a nappy and vest
  • Remove outerwear such as coats/ snowsuits when coming in from outdoors or travelling in the car or on warm public transport.
  • You can add/remove blankets as required depending on your babyís temperature.

Changing and dressing your baby

Changing a nappy may seem daunting if you have never changed a nappy before, ask for a demonstration or support from your midwife to help you with your technique. Familiarise yourself with the nappies you plan to use, be it disposable or re-useable, before your baby is due and ensure you have a good supply in preparation.

In the first month, it is recommended to use cotton wool and water or a water based/ un-fragranced wipe to clean whilst changing the nappy.

It is not necessary to use a barrier cream at every nappy change unless your baby is showing signs of a nappy rash, your midwife or health visitor will guide you on this.

Newborns usually dislike being dressed and undressed so keep their clothing simple and donít be alarmed if they cry thoughout the procedure.

When handling you baby, it is important to ensure their head, neck, back and shoulders are well supported as the muscles in their neck are not strong enough to support the weight of their own head.

Your baby may do quite startled movements at times, this is nothing to worry about, they are adjusting to the free movement of their limbs, but they may feel comforted by being held, wrapped or swaddled.

Safe Sleeping

The following tips are approved by UNICEF for safe sleeping


  • Put baby down on their back to sleep, never on their front or side.
  • Position the cot next to your bed, not near a radiator or window.
  • Use a new mattress which is firm and flat.
  • Keep your baby in the same room as you for at least the first 6 months.
  • Ensure your room is at the appropriate temperature, between 16- 20c.
  • Ensure the bedding cannot cover your babyís head - lie you babyís feet to the foot of the cot and make sure the bedding isnít loose.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or moses basket by the side of your bed. This enables you to hear your baby and respond to their needs before they cry or become distressed. However, if you decide to share a bed with your baby it is important to consider the following points:

  • Keep your baby away from the pillows and duvets
  • Make sure your baby cannot fall out of bed or become trapped between the mattress and wall
  • Make sure the bedclothes cannot cover your babyís face or head
  • Donít leave your baby alone in the bed, as even very young babies can wriggle into a dangerous position
  • It is not safe to bed-share in the early months if your baby was born very small or pre-term.
  • Donít  sleep with your baby when you have consumed  alcohol or taking drugs that may cause drowsiness (legal or illegal) 
  • Do not sleep with your baby if you or anyone else is a smoker
  • Do not put yourself in the position where you could doze off with your baby on a sofa or armchair.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot or moses basket by the side of your bed. This enables you to hear your baby and respond to their needs before they cry or become distressed.

What are the pro's and con's for re-usable versus disposable nappies?

A disposable nappy takes 200 years to naturally degrade. Obviously this has a huge impact on the environment. But the option of reusable nappies is highly dependent on the way they are washed and laundered.

The Environment Agency (2008) published a report stating that if all nappies were washed in full loads, hung on the line to dry and reused for subsequent children then it would be significantly lower than disposable nappies. BUT if you wash your reusable nappies at 90.c, tumble dry them, and then they are more likely to have a greater negative impact than disposable nappies