In just a few short weeks, you and your baby have grown accustomed to each other. He recognizes your voice and touch, and has let you know how he likes to be handled. During your baby's first six months, his basic care still revolves around cleaning, diapering, and dressing. The difference now is that you have both acquired the necessary confidence to enjoy a little more physical interaction. Use the time you spend washing and grooming your baby to communicate with and socialize your baby through games. Every baby loves Peekaboo and This Little Piggy. You'll also make up your own games as you go along.
For many babies, bathtime is a party -- they love to stretch and splash in the warm water, often soaking the attending parent in the process! If you are fortunate to have a water-baby, try to time the daily bath before the evening feed; he will be thoroughly exercised and relaxed and ready for a long nursing session and sleep. Babies who are timid at bathtime will probably do better with a morning bath, when they are feeling relaxed and refreshed after a good sleep. Don't try to bathe a terrified baby -- continue sponge bathing until he is feeling a little more secure.
When washing your baby, don't try to pull back your son's foreskin or wash inside your daughter's labia. You risk tearing the tender membranes and causing serious infections. Be aware that it may take some time before the foreskin of your son's penis fully retracts.
Although you can bathe a newborn in a bathroom or kitchen sink, you will quickly need to move on to a baby tub. Put the tub at hip height on a level, non-skid surface. And be wary of the day when your little one suddenly decides to roll over, right out of your hands and face first into the water. Keep the water level shallow enough that he can easily lift his head above the water. Infants can drown in as little as 4 cm (1.5 in.) of water. Never leave your baby unattended in the bath.
When baby has outgrown the baby tub or leaves more water outside it than inside, he's ready to move into the family bathtub. You might begin by placing the baby tub in the unfilled big tub, so he can adjust gradually to the big walls and echoing noises. When filling the big tub, always turn off the hot water first to prevent any scalding hot water from dribbling out of the faucet and on to baby. You might like to get in with the baby at first, or let a trusted older sibling join him in the bath, but be warned -- many babies relax their bowels the minute they hit the warm water.
Diaper rash can be a stubborn problem for some babies and their parents. It ranges from a minor red rash to a raging inflammation complete with open sores and pustules. Diaper rash is caused by the organisms that break down the urea in the babys urine. Many things contribute to diaper rash: inadequately sterilized diapers, insufficiently rinsed diapers, excessively wet diapers, and inadequate cleaning of babys bottom.
Babies who are prone to diaper rash will do better in sun-dried cloth diapers than in highly-absorbent disposables, which combine moisture and warmth to create an ideal breeding ground for the organisms that cause diaper rash. If you apply a barrier cream, you will have to clean off and reapply the cream at every change. But diaper rash will heal itself if you leave baby's bottom bare and open to the air. Unfortunately, this is not always the most practical solution. If you must keep baby in diapers, make sure you meticulously clean and dry his bottom every time you change him, and don't use powders.
Teething and Dental Health
At around six weeks of age, babies' salivary glands increase their volume of secretions and they starting spitting and blowing raspberries. At about three months, they start drooling, sucking on their hands, and chewing on convenient shoulders. Teething proper begins in the next few months. If you suspect your young baby is teething, run your finger along the front edges of her gums. Swollen ridges are the tip-off of imminent teeth.
When your baby's first teeth erupt, sometime after the sixth month, you can wipe the teeth with a clean cloth or a soft baby toothbrush. Toothpaste is not necessary, and in fact is not recommended until children have learned to rinse away the excess toothpaste instead of swallowing it. When a child swallows toothpaste, she may ingest too much fluoride, which can adversely affect her teeth.
It's uncommon, but not unheard of, for a baby's teeth to come through in the very early months of life. Indeed, some babies are born with one or two teeth already in place. If these teeth aren't well anchored in the gums, doctors may recommend having them pulled to avoid the risk of choking if they come loose. These early teeth may be pre-teeth; having pre-teeth does not mean that primary teeth won't start to arrive at the usual time of six months. But more often they are primary teeth and, when the child is older, dentists can fashion temporary dentures as stand-ins until their permanent successors begin to take over starting about age six.
Nursing bottle caries
One risk to your child's teeth is a condition known as "nursing bottle caries," caused by putting your baby to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or any other liquid besides water. The sugars in these drinks cause decay, and new teeth, which take time to harden completely, can decay rapidly. If you see dull white spots or lines in your baby's teeth, especially along the gum margin, your child is at risk and you should see your dentist immediately. Never dip your baby's soother in honey; increasing the risk of caries is less serious than the risk to children under 12 months from honey's possible contamination with clostridium botulinum spores.
Excerpted from Growing with Your Child: Pre-Birth to age 5 by
Christine Langlois. Copyright 1998 by Telemedia Communications Inc.
Excerpted, with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part
of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing
from the publisher.