Mar 1, 2006 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Caring for Your New Baby

Am Fam Physician. 2006 Mar 1;73(5):857-858.

See related article on discharge procedures for healthy newborns.

How many wet diapers should my baby have?

Most babies have six to eight wet diapers per day.

How often should my baby have a bowel movement?

Most breastfed babies have more than three bowel movements per day. Bottle-fed babies usually have fewer bowel movements than breastfed babies.

Why should I give my baby vitamin D?

All children need vitamin D to help keep them from getting rickets (an illness that softens their bones). How much vitamin D your baby needs depends on what he or she is being fed. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D your baby needs.

What is jaundice?

If your baby has jaundice (say: JAWN-dis), the baby’s skin and eyes may look yellow. Jaundice is caused by too much bile (a liquid found in the liver) in your baby’s blood. Many children are not harmed by jaundice, but some babies who aren’t treated get brain damage. This is why it is important for your doctor to check your baby carefully for jaundice.

How should I care for my baby’s umbilical cord?

After delivery, the doctor will cut your baby’s umbilical cord. This is the cord that connects the baby to the mother before it is born. Some of the cord may be left over. When you change your baby’s diaper, carefully clean the cord by gently wiping it with a clean cotton-tipped swab. Don’t put rubbing alcohol on your baby’s cord. It should dry up and fall off on its own within two weeks.

How should I clean my son’s penis?

If your son is circumcised (say: SIR-cum-sized), the loose skin around the end of his penis, called foreskin, was removed after birth. Put petroleum jelly (one brand: Vaseline) in the front of your son’s diaper to prevent his penis from sticking to it. You can stop doing this after about five days when the redness from the circumcision goes away.

If your son is uncircumcised, gently clean his penis with warm water at bath time. Never try to force down the foreskin of the penis.

Can I give a bottle of water to my baby?

No. Giving your baby water can cause a serious problem that lowers the amount of salt in your baby’s blood. Only feed your baby breast milk or formula.

How should I put my baby to sleep?

Put your baby on his or her back to sleep. Your baby should sleep on a firm mattress. Don’t keep any loose covers or pillows in the crib with your baby.

What is the safest place for my baby in the car?

Put your baby in a car seat in the back seat of the car. Your baby’s car seat should face the back of the car until he or she is older than one year or weighs more than 20 pounds. For more information about car seats, go to http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/

When should I take my baby to the doctor?

Most babies should go to the doctor within two to five days of leaving the hospital. You should make an appointment with your baby’s doctor before the baby leaves the hospital.

When should I call my doctor?

Call your doctor right away if:

  • Your baby has a rectal temperature of 100.5°F or higher (ask you doctor what a rectal thermometer is and how to use it)

  • You can’t wake up your baby easily.

  • You are having trouble feeding your baby.

Call 9-1-1 if your baby is having trouble breathing or is turning blue.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Article Tools

  • Print page
  • Share this page
  • AFP CME Quiz

Information From Industry

Navigate this Article