Caring for the Fingernails and Toenails
Umbilical Stump Care
Changing Diapers
General tips
Tips for changing boys
Tips for girls
Bathing Tips
General Skin Care Tips

Caring for the Fingernails and Toenails

Infants’ nails are soft and flexible but when kept long, the infant becomes prone to scratches. Hence, all nails must be regularly trimmed and well cared for. Below are tips on how to…

  • When bathing your infant, don’t miss out on cleaning his hands, feet and nails as well
  • The best time to trim or cut his nails is immediately after a bath because they are softened after their contact with soapy water
  • Cut or trim all nails once a week or before they extend beyond the finger tip
  • For cutting his nails, use a baby nail cutter or a baby scissors that has a rounded cutting surface
  • Cut his nails in a room that has sufficient lighting in order to avoid accidents
  • To avoid ingrown nails, cut toenails straight and to avoid scratches, round off the corners of fingernails
  • If your infant is awake, two people may be needed to successfully and safely cut his nails
  • Before applying pressure to the scissors or nail cutter, ensure the blade is under the nail
  • To calm a fussy infant during a nail cut, distract him with a song, toy or some other activity

Umbilical Stump Care

The umbilical cord is what supplied nutrients and oxygen to your baby during pregnancy. After birth it is no longer needed and is therefore clamped away, leaving behind a stump. Before finally drying out and falling away, it will switch colour from yellowish green to black and brown. Know that despite how it looks, it causes no pain to your baby because it has no pain sensitive nerves. Here are some facts and tips you should know about its care…

  • It should fall off about 2 weeks after birth
  • Yanking it off too soon could cause bleeding. Hence, don’t attempt yanking it off even if it is hanging by just one thread
  • If kept dry, it will fall off faster
  • Don’t let your child’s diaper lie over it and avoid pee or poo getting in contact with it. Always fold the diaper below the stump area
  • Always wash your hands before handling it
  • Once a day, clean off dried secretion around the stump base using a clean, damp cloth or cotton wool and then, air dry or dry carefully with a clean cloth or towel
  • It is okay if water gets on the stump during baths. However ensure that, immediately after baths, it is patted dry with a towel
  • Some medical practitioners say that to prevent infection, the stump should be dabbed with methylated spirit after every diaper change but research has formed a new school of thought that says it will come off quicker if left alone
  • It may be necessary to keep a premature baby’s stump clean with antiseptic since he would not be having regular baths for a while
  • Signs that the stump is infected include fever, red, swollen, tender appearance, bleeding, yellow pus, foul smell, painful appearance and loss of appetite. If any of the listed is noted, report to the doctor
  • A stump that doesn’t fall off, as at when due, may indicate a bigger underlying problem. So, see a doctor
  • Know that some stumps don’t dry up normally. They form a pink scar tissue that releases a yellowish fluid. This should dry up in a week. If it doesn’t, see a doctor

Changing Diapers

Changing a diaper may seem simple to figure out. However here are tips which every new mom should know…

General tips

  • To avoid spreading germs round the house, restrict diaper changes to the same spot every time
  • Before beginning the change, ensure you have everything you need
  • If your baby is a squirmer, find suitable distractions such as songs or toys to keep him occupied
  • Always clean your baby’s bum gently to avoid injury
  • Roll up and reseal dirty diapers immediately they are removed and throw them into a dedicated diaper pail
  • It’s not uncommon for babies’ hands to wander into dirty diapers or unto their poop-stained bum.  So, whether or not you see such an incidence occur, sanitize the hands of your baby after every diaper change
  • If toys were used to distract your baby, wash the toys after the diaper change
  • Wash your hands after every diaper change
  • Regularly disinfect the changing areas, changing mats, diaper pails and diaper bags (especially if you temporarily keep used diapers in them when out)

Tips for changing boys

  • Always rinse the bum area thoroughly because poo could hide under the scrotum
  • Be on the alert for sudden pee sprays
  • While cleaning, don’t pull the foreskin back
  • Ensure all creases are wiped
  • See the doctor in case of any fluid filled sores or swelling on the penis tips

Tips for changing girls

  • Be careful to clean the creases of the vaginal lips
  • The vagina folds shouldn’t be pulled back when cleaning
  • To prevent infections, cleaning must always be done from front to back

Bathing Tips

  • Bathing your baby too many times with soap leaves his skin vulnerable to irritations because natural oils which protect the skin are removed. Hence it is recommended that in the first few months, babies should be given a full body baths not more than 2 or 3 times a week since any way, babies never really get dirty. However, babies with eczema should be bathed daily
  • On days when full body baths are not given, simply use warm water to clean your baby’s hands and face whenever they become dirty
  • To prevent infections, stick to sponge baths until the umbilical cord comes off, the stump heals (and in addition for baby boys, circumcision is healed)
  • For baby girls, don’t wash inside the genital area with soap. Simply wipe from the front to the back while rinsing with water. This prevents infections and irritations
  • Babies’ skins are more sensitive than adults’. So keep the water temperature between 90-100F
  • Ensure you rinse your baby’s body thoroughly in order to remove all soap residues which could cause irritations
  • Babies’ skins are especially slippery during and after baths. So while bathing your baby, never take your hands off him and ensure to always support his neck and head
  • Clean your baby’s eyes (eye corner inclusive) with moist, clean cotton balls. Ensure soap does not get into his eyes
  • Use a moist face towel to wipe your baby’s face and the external folds of his ears
  • In the first few months, use a minimally soapy face towel to gently massage (not scrub) your baby from the neck down. Later on you can switch to a soft baby sponge
  • Wipe soap off your baby’s body with a face towel or alternatively, rinse it off by pouring water over his body with a cup
  • Use little, tear free shampoo to wash your baby’s hair. While doing so, ensure water or shampoo doesn’t plunge into his face. This should be done once or twice a week.
  • Don’t let your baby stay in soapy water for too long in order to  prevent irritations on his soft, sensitive skin
  • When you are through bathing your baby, wrap him in a dry towel and cuddle him close
  • Lotions or moisturizers should be applied on your baby’s wet skin and drying should be done with a pat (and not a rub), using a dry towel

General Skin Care Tips

  • Stick to baby formulated products when caring for your baby’s skin because adult products contain perfumes and chemicals which could cause skin irritations
  • In the early months, baby skin care products should be limited in use, especially if your family has a history of allergies and skin problems. In reality, newborns’ skins don’t need ointment or cream
  • For dry, cracked skin, apply baby lotion immediately after bath in order to trap moisture in the skin
  • The skin of a baby is sensitive to the sun (and even more so in the first 6 months). So, limit your baby’s exposure to the sun
  • Stick to only soft clothing for your baby’s sensitive skin
  • Wash all your baby’s clothes before wearing; the new ones inclusive
  • Don’t do your baby’s laundry with the general family laundry
  • Use fragrance and dye free detergents for your baby’s clothes and rinse thoroughly

 Other Skin Facts

  • Babies are born with body hair and slimy coating which protects them when passing through the birth canal. This hair and coating disappear a few days after birth
  • Babies are often born a shade or two lighter than their eventual complexion
  • With a newborn’s skin being 5 times thinner than an adult’s, it is very delicate and sensitive
  • Many newborns are prone to skin irritations which cause rashes, spots and bumps in the first few months
  • Most rashes are harmless and will disappear on their own
  • Diaper rash can be prevented by keeping the bum area dry and changing soiled diapers as soon as possible
  • Birthmarks (areas of skin discoloration) don’t always show up immediately. Some show up months later
  • Birthmarks are not inherited and there is no reason to worry about them
  • Pimples and whiteheads could appear on the nose and cheeks. However, without any treatment they will clear on their own
  • Babies who are born late have a higher tendency of coming out with peeling, dry skin. However under this peeling skin is healthy skin which will come out later
  • Cradle cap usually occurs sometime in the first two months. They are caused by excess oil and appear as scaly, red rash on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelids, side of the nose and behind the ears
  • Cradle cap usually dissappears within the first year
  • Heat rashes are likely to occur on body areas prone to sweat such as the neck, armpit, diaper area and skin folds
  • To prevent and treat heat rash, dress your baby in loose clothing and keep him in a cool dry environment
  • Babies don’t need powdering. Infact, powder should be altogether avoided because inhaling the fine grains of talcum powder or larger particles of cornstarch could be dangerous to your baby’s health
  • Milia are the little white bumps on the skin which usually appear on the nose and face. 1 in 2 babies will have milia
  • Milia occurs when skin flakes block the oil glands. It disappears when the oil glands open up, which is usually weeks or months after birth. Hence, there is no need to use soap on them or attempt squeezing them. Only wash with water
  • Baby yeast infection often shows up after an antibiotic round
  • Baby yeast infection takes up different appearances depending on what body part it appears on; thrush is on the tongue and mouth, it looks like dried milk and treatment is with anti yeast liquid medicine while yeast diaper rash is bright red, is often accompanied with small red pimples at the rash edges and treatment is with an anti fungal cream
  • Gentle detergents must be used in washing everything (your clothes inclusive) which come in contact with your baby’s body. This will help prevent skin irritations
  • If unhealthy skin conditions make your baby irritable, gentle stroking and massaging of his skin would encourage relaxation, reduce crying and encourage better sleep patterns
  • For dry, cracked skin, apply baby lotion immediately after bath. This will help to trap the desired moisture in  your baby’s skin
  • Except signs of infections (such as fever, colored spots, fluid filled bumps) occur, most skin problems are nothing to worry about

Source: University of Maryland Medical Centre , Children’s hospital of Philadelphia, Children’s health network, Medline plus, Webmd; Picture Courtesy:, whattoexpect, Gettyimages,