Caring for Your Newborn

Development and Milestones

Your Saint Francis provider will ask questions about your newborn, and he or she will observe the baby to get an idea of the infant’s development. By this visit, your newborn is likely doing some of the following:

  • Blinking at a bright light
  • Trying to lift his or her head
  • Wiggling and squirming (each arm and leg should move about the same amount; if the baby favors one side, tell your provider)
  • Becoming startled upon hearing a loud noise

Feeding Tips

It’s normal for a newborn to lose up to 10% of his or her birth weight during the first week. This is usually gained back by about two weeks of age. If you’re concerned about your newborn’s weight, tell your provider. To help your baby eat well:

  • Feed your newborn on a consistent schedule.
  • Feed your newborn breast milk and/or formula. Discuss your choice with your provider.
  • During the day, feed at least every 2-3 hours. You may need to wake the baby for daytime feedings.
  • At night, feed every 3-4 hours. At first, wake the baby for feedings if needed. Once your newborn is back to his or her birth weight, you may choose to let the baby sleep until he or she is hungry. Discuss this with your baby’s healthcare provider.

If You Breastfeed

  • Once your milk comes in, your breasts should feel full before a feeding and soft and deflated afterward. This likely means that your baby is getting enough to eat.  
  • Breastfeeding sessions usually take around 15-20 minutes. If you feed the baby breast milk from a bottle, give 1-3 ounces at each feeding. 
  • Breastfed babies may want to eat more often than every 2-3 hours. It’s okay to feed your baby more often if he or she seems hungry. Talk to your provider if you’re concerned about your baby’s breastfeeding habits or weight gain.
  • It can take some time to get the hang of breastfeeding. It may be uncomfortable at first. If you have questions or need help, a Saint Francis lactation consultant can give you tips.
  • Ask your provider if your baby should take vitamin D.

If You Use Formula

  • Use a milk-based formula. If you need help choosing, ask your provider for a recommendation.
  • Feed around 1-3 ounces of formula at each feeding.

Hygiene Tips

  • Some newborns stool (poop) after every feeding. Others stool less often. Both are normal. Change the diaper whenever it’s wet or dirty.
  • It’s normal for a newborn’s stool (poop) to be yellow, watery, and look like it contains little seeds. The color may range from mustard yellow to pale yellow to green. If it’s another color, tell the healthcare provider.
  • A boy should have a strong stream when he urinates. If your son doesn’t, tell the healthcare provider.
  • Give your baby sponge baths until the umbilical cord falls off. If you have questions about caring for the umbilical cord, ask your baby’s healthcare provider.
  • After the cord falls off, bathe your newborn a few times per week. You may give baths more often if the baby seems to like it. But because you’re cleaning the baby during diaper changes, a daily bath often isn’t needed.
  • It’s okay to use mild (hypoallergenic) creams or lotions on the baby’s skin. Avoid putting lotion on the baby’s hands.

Sleeping Tips

Newborns usually sleep around 18-20 hours each day. To help your newborn sleep safely and soundly:

  • Always put the baby down to sleep on his or her back. This helps prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
  • Don’t put a pillow, heavy blankets, or stuffed animals in the crib. These could suffocate the baby.
  • Swaddling (wrapping the baby tightly in a blanket) can help your newborn feel safe and fall asleep.

Safety Tips

  • To avoid burns, don’t carry or drink hot liquids, such as coffee, near the baby. Turn the water heater down to a temperature of 120°F (49°C) or below.
  • Don’t smoke or allow others to smoke near the baby. If you or other family members smoke, do so outdoors and never around the baby.
  • It’s usually fine to take a newborn out of the house, but avoid confined, crowded places where germs can spread. You may invite visitors to your home to see the baby as long as they’re not sick.
  • When you do take the baby outside, avoid staying too long in direct sunlight. Keep the baby covered, or seek out the shade.
  • In the car, always put the baby in a rear-facing car seat. This should be secured in the back seat according to the car seat’s directions. Never leave the baby alone in the car.
  • Do not leave the baby on a high surface such as a table, bed, or couch. He or she could fall and get hurt.
  • Older siblings will likely want to hold, play with, and get to know the baby. This is fine as long as an adult supervises.
  • Call the doctor right away if the baby has a rectal temperature over 100.4 F.

Parental Fatigue: A Tiring Problem

Taking care of a newborn can be physically and emotionally draining. It may seem like you have time for nothing else, but taking good care of yourself will help you care for your baby, too. Here are some tips:

  • Take a break. When your baby’s sleeping, take a little time for yourself. Lie down for a nap or put up your feet and rest. Know when to say “no” to visitors. Until you feel rested, ignore household clutter and put off nonessential tasks. Give yourself time to settle into your new role as a parent.
  • Eat healthy. Good nutrition gives you energy. And if you’ve just given birth, healthy eating helps your body recover. Try to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and sources of protein. Avoid processed “junk” foods. And limit caffeine, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Accept help. Caring for a new baby can be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Allow family and friends to help with the housework, meals, and laundry, so you and your partner have time to bond with your new baby. If you need more help, talk to the healthcare provider about other options.

(Information taken from


To learn more about Saint Francis’ Family BirthPlace, breastfeeding support services, and newborn screenings offered in Cape Girardeau, call 877-231-BABY (2229).