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June 13, 2024

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Brush Up for Your First Baby

With your first little one on the way, know several key points about bringing a child into the world.

Life with an infant can be wonderful — there’s nothing like having a first baby in the house — but it can also be exhausting and, well, terrifying. How do you care for this tiny, needy creature and why isn’t there a manual? There will be moments when you are beside yourself for lack of sleep and for just trying to understand your baby’s needs and desires. Newborns — any baby under 28 days old — require management of an extraordinary level. Thankfully, through painstaking research over time and experience, several aspects of caring for a newborn are clear cut — and you need to know them well. 


All newborns should sleep on their backs. Place Baby’s head in alternating directions in the crib every night to prevent flat spots. Memorize the ABC’s of safe sleep as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): A =  ALONE; B = BACK; C = CRIB.
    The AAP says babies should always sleep alone, and that the safest place for Baby to sleep is in the same room as you, in a crib that meets current safety standards, next to your bed. Provide a firm sleep surface free from anything except Baby in a sleep sack.
    Keep where Baby sleeps smoke- and pollutant-free. Further, keep the room cool to prevent over-heating.


It may seem obvious, but communication is any message sent from one party to another through sounds, words and physical hints. Become an expert of observation. Though your baby won’t say any meaningful words until about 1 year, they will still be communicating to you with cries, coos, facial expressions and body language.
    You can encourage their communication by using a high-pitched voice, using facial expressions and gestures, reading to your baby and describing your actions as you do them.
    Since communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships, realize that it is critical for you to communicate regularly with your infant.


Newborns will nurse or take a bottle every two – three hours on average. Formula-fed babies lose five percent of their weight during the first few days and breastfed babies lose about seven to 10 percent of their weight. Most babies will be back to their birth weight by their two week well-baby visit.


One of your little one’s first exercises is Tummy Time, a period during the day when your child spends time awake on his tummy. It helps with motor, visual and sensory development and can begin in the newborn stage. Aim to achieve at least an hour of Tummy Time per day by 3 months of age. For newborns, start with a few minutes at a time, building up to longer sessions.



• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least six months.
• Sponge bathe your infant daily where they need it — typically around the mouth, neck and diaper area. Newborns only need bathing once or twice a week as it
leads to dry skin.
• Bond with your baby through skin-to-skin contact and experiment with techniques to calm any fussiness.
• Call your pediatrician if your baby develops a rectal temperature over 100.4, if they stop eating or if they cry incessantly, or if the whites of their eyes turn yellow.

Source: Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality (American Academy of Pediatrics; 2020) by Laura Jana M.D. and Jennifer Shu, M.D.

 Read “The Top Questions All New Parents Ponder”

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day

Susan Day is the editor in chief for this award-winning publication and all-things Nashville Parent digital creative. She's also an Equity actress, screenwriter and a mom of four amazing kids.