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Baby care 101

  • Always put your baby to sleep on her back.
  • Give your baby some tummy time when she's awake.
  • Respond quickly to your crying baby, but don't shake her.
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Changing your baby's diaper

Changing your baby’s diaper can be a tricky part of newborn care. But with practice, you can be a pro.

How do you prepare for diapering?

Collect your supplies:

  • A sturdy flat surface, like a changing table
  • A clean diaper
  • Baby wipes or a soft washcloth
  • Diaper rash ointment

How do you change your baby’s diaper?

Here’s how to change your baby’s diaper:

  1. Place your baby on a changing table and unfasten her diaper.
  2. Hold your baby’s ankles with one hand. Lift her legs and bottom and remove her dirty diaper with your other hand.
  3. If there’s a big mess, use the front, clean part of the diaper to wipe her bottom from front to back.
  4. Use diaper wipes or plain water on a soft cloth to gently clean your baby’s genitals and bottom. Take extra care with creases and folds in your baby’s skin. For baby girls, always wipe from front to back to avoid infection.
  5. Pat dry. Apply diaper rash ointment if your baby has a diaper rash. Don’t use talcum powder because it can irritate your baby’s lungs.
  6. Slide a clean diaper under your baby. If you’re using a disposable diaper, be sure the sticky tabs to fasten the diaper are behind the baby.
  7. Fasten the diaper on both sides of your baby. For a disposable diaper, press the sticky tabs to the front of the diaper.
  8. Tuck the new diaper under your baby’s umbilical cord until it heals. Make sure the diaper doesn’t bunch up between her legs.
  9. To prevent accidents, make sure there aren’t any diaper openings around her hips.

How do you diaper your baby boy after a circumcision?

The diapering steps above are good for all babies. But if your baby boy is circumcised:

  • For the first few days, put a new bandage on the penis each time you change your baby’s diaper.
  • Use petroleum jelly on the penis or on the part of the diaper or bandage that touches the penis. This helps prevent the diaper or bandage from sticking to or rubbing against the penis.

Last reviewed June 2012

See also: Breastfeeding, Caring for the umbilical cord stump, Giving your baby a bath, Putting your baby to sleep, Soothing your baby when she cries

Why baby cries

  • She's hungry.
  • He has a dirty diaper.
  • She needs to be calmed.
  • He doesn’t feel well.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.


How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

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