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Caring for Your Newborn

Bringing a new baby home can be a time of joy and excitement. It’s normal to feel nervous. Be patient with yourself as it takes time to get to know your baby and understand their needs. As you learn to care for your baby, your confidence will grow.
What to expect
Here is what you can expect in the first few weeks and information on when to seek help.

Your baby will want to feed a lot, both during the day and at night. Feeding your baby often will help satisfy your baby and help you increase your milk supply.

Cues that your baby wants to feed include:

  • moving their head from side to side;
  • smacking their lips;
  • putting their hand to their mouth; and
  • crying.

Babies tend to feed 8 or more times in 24 hours (day and night). At night, let your baby wake up on their own to feed. If your baby sleeps longer than 3 to 4 hours, put your baby skin-to-skin to encourage your baby to feed.

Signs your baby is feeding well include:

  • you can see and hear swallowing as your baby feeds;
  • your breasts are full before feedings and soft after feedings; and
  • your nipples are not cracked or bleeding.

Visit Breastfeeding your baby  for more information.

Breastmilk is all the food or drink your baby needs for the first six months. Your breastfed baby does need a vitamin D supplement to help grow strong bones and teeth. 


For babies who do need a vitamin D supplement, this comes in liquid form and is given daily with a dropper. Your baby needs 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D every day.
Talk to your community nurse or health care provider if you have questions about breastfeeding or vitamin D supplements.

For more information visit: Breastfeeding your baby.

If your baby is crying, start with the basics: feed your baby, change their diaper, change their position, or give them an extra cuddle to help them settle. If you have met all your baby’s needs and your baby still won’t stop crying, you are not failing your baby. Sometimes babies just need to cry.

Many babies go through a period of "purple crying" – a time where they regularly cry and can’t be soothed. This is a normal part of your baby’s development and often peaks between six to eight weeks of age. 

For information about purple crying:

Some ways to cope with purple crying:

  • Ask for help. Let a family member or trusted friend take over for a bit. (Never ask anyone to help if you know or suspect they have a problem controlling their anger).
  • Take turns, if you have a partner who is available, to give each other breaks. Leave home during your break if you can.
  • Work out your frustrations with short bursts of intense exercise like running in place or hitting a pillow.

If you feel like shaking or hitting your baby, take a time-out. 

  • put your baby down in a safe place (like a crib) 
  • let your baby cry while you take a few minutes for yourself in another room
  • plug your ears or play loud music if needed
  • call another trusted adult for help
  • don’t pick up your baby again until you are calm

Call your care provider if you are having trouble managing your emotions or dealing with your baby's crying. Remember, this stage will not last forever.

Newborns sleep on average 16 out of 24 hours but may only sleep a few hours at a time. It is normal for a newborn to wake often at night to feed.  Creating a safe sleep space for your baby will lower the risk of injury and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS happens when a seemingly healthy baby under one year of age dies unexpectedly or accidentally while sleeping. Ensuring your baby has safe sleeping arrangements will give your baby the safest sleep possible.

Learn more about safer sleep

A newborn's sleep schedule is erratic for the first few months – try and rest when your baby sleeps, particularly in the early weeks. By about three to four months, most babies sleep about five hours a night. You can help your baby become a good sleeper by:
  • calmly bathing, cuddling, and/or singing in a dimly lit room may help your baby settle to sleep;
  • avoid falling asleep with your baby in a chair or on the couch as this can be unsafe for the baby;
  • having your baby sleep on a separate sleep surface in the same room as you for the first six months helps keep your baby safe.
Talk with your care provider or public health nurse if you have concerns about your baby’s sleep.

‘Tummy time’ is when your baby spends time on their stomach (tummy) while awake and supervised. Daily tummy time is important for your baby’s healthy physical development. Tummy time builds neck and shoulder muscles, prevents flat spots on your baby’s head, and helps your baby learn to crawl and roll. 

Your baby needs supervised tummy time two to three times a day. Babies born at full term without any health problems can start tummy time as soon as they come home from hospital. If your baby was not born at full term, ask your health care provider about when to start tummy time. 

you can start by putting your baby on your chest, on your lap, on the floor, or on another safe firm surface for about five minutes. You can engage in tummy time more often or for longer periods as your baby gets used to it. 

You may have to help your baby learn to enjoy it. Get down on the floor and smile and talk with your baby. Your attention can make tummy time enjoyable and help you bond with each other. It is important to only do tummy time with your baby when they are awake. 
Your baby’s umbilical cord is cut after birth and a clamp is placed on it. A small piece remains attached at the belly button. This piece dries up, turns black and usually falls off in 5 to 15 days. It is normal to see a small amount of bleeding (a few drops of blood) as the cord separates. Your baby won’t feel any pain when the cord comes off.

Tips for caring for the cord: 

  • Keep the cord clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Use water on a cotton-tipped swab or washcloth to clean gently around the base of the cord. Wipe away any cord discharge.
  • Clean around the base of the cord after bathing and at diaper changes.

When to seek help
When to seek help about your newborn’s care

Knowing what is normal and what is not can be challenging when you have a new baby. Talk to your health care provider or public health nurse if you have questions or concerns.

Get medical attention if you notice any of the following:

  • your baby is not interested in feeding or is too sleepy to feed at least 8 times per day;
  • your baby is not wetting their diaper at least 3 or more times per day by day 3 or 5;
  • your baby does not have at least one greenish brown stool (poop) during the first 3 days or at least 2 dirty diapers after four days of age with loose yellow or greenish stool. (Babies who drink formula will have brown dirty diapers and the stool is more formed. This is normal.) 
  • your baby forcefully vomits (throws up) several times in one day;
  • your baby’s eyes (the white part) start to look yellow;
  • your baby’s breathing is faster (more than 60 breaths in a minute) or irregular or your baby is having trouble breathing at rest or during feeding;
  • your baby is making moaning or wheezing sounds;
  • your baby has a fever of 38 C (100 F) or more. If they do, call your health care provider immediately or go to the emergency department.

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SOURCE: Caring for Your Newborn ( )
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