Raising Healthy Infants, Children and Teens


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Treatment - Newborn Care


Give your baby a sponge bath every one to two days until the umbilical cord falls off. Choose a place that is safe, warm and free from drafts. Before starting, make sure you have the following supplies at hand:

  • Soft washcloths
  • Two towels
  • Mild soap
  • Baby shampoo
  • Diaper
  • Clean clothes
  • Cotton balls

Always hold or support your baby while bathing. Have your fingers under your baby’s armpit, with your thumb around baby’s shoulder. Your other hand should support your baby’s bottom and legs.

Place baby on a towel.

Use a soft cloth or a cotton ball dipped in warm water. Gently wipe the eyes from the inner eye (near the tear duct) outward. Use one cotton ball or one edge of the cloth for each eye. Don’t rub baby’s eyes.

Wipe the outside of baby’s nose and ears with a soft cloth and water only (no soap).

Wipe baby’s face with plain, warm water and a soft cloth.

Wash the rest of baby’s body with mild soap, saving the diaper area for last. Clean creases, skin folds and the diaper area well. Use a soap with a moisturizer that does not have perfume. Rinse the soap off well with water.

Wash baby’s scalp and hair two or three times a week with baby shampoo. Gently loosen any oily buildup on the scalp. To rinse, squeeze water over baby’s head with a washcloth. Do not use oil or lotion on the baby’s scalp. Pat baby’s skin dry with a towel.

Unless advised by your health care provider, do not use lotions, oils or powders, as they can cause irritation.

After baby’s umbilical cord falls off and the navel has healed, you can bathe baby in a tub filled with 3 inches of comfortably warm water. Always test the water with your elbow to make sure it’s not too hot. Use a liner in the tub for newborns to prevent baby from slipping.

Ear care

Clean only the outer part of baby’s ears. Do not put cotton swabs or anything else into baby’s ears -- you can damage your baby’s eardrum.

Cord care

Keep umbilical area dry. Do not use alcohol to clean the cord. Keep the diaper folded below the umbilical cord at all times. Do not try to pull on the cord. Notify doctor if foul smelling drainage is noted, if there is redness around the cord, or if the cord does not fall off after three weeks.


Clean the diaper area with every diaper change. Wash it well with soap and water after each bowel movement. Baby wipes may be used if baby’s skin is not sensitive to them. (To care for diaper rash, see Skin Care section below). Do not use powder or cornstarch on diaper area, as these breed bacteria.


During diaper changes, gently separate the labia and wash the area with water. Always wipe your baby girl from the front to the back with a clean washcloth. This helps prevent bacteria that may be present near the rectum from entering the vagina.


Circumcision Care: Cleanse the area with warm water 3 times a day or whenever the baby wets or soils the diaper. Do not touch the circumcised area. To wash the area, simply squeeze clean, warm water from a washcloth over the area and let it run off. To help the penis heal, apply some petroleum jelly on the area where the diaper will cover the penis. This will protect the circumcised area from urine and prevent the diaper from sticking to the penis. The penis will heal within 7 to 10 days, and any scabs should be healed by this time.

If your baby was not circumcised, don’t pull back the foreskin of the penis to clean it.

Dressing baby

Keep your baby’s clothes loose. Look for snaps or zippers on the legs to make diaper changing easier. Be cautious of strings or buttons on clothing; make sure they are not in danger of choking your baby. Do not use clothes that tie around the neck because they can choke your baby. Do not put your baby to sleep with a bib on. Dress the baby as you would feel comfortable dressing for the weather. To prevent heat loss through the head, put a hat on your baby. Keep baby’s hands and feet covered when the temperature is cool.

Washing baby’s laundry

It is a good idea to wash all clothing and bedding in a detergent safe for baby’s laundry. Some popular brands are Dreft and Ivory Snow. These products have been tested for their safe use for all skin types, especially infants.

To remove tough stains (such as spit-up), spot-treat the item with one of these detergents or soak prior to washing.

Always rinse fecal soils from cloth diapers or clothing in cold water immediately.

Wash cloth diapers separately from other clothing. Use hot water, and limit load to no more than three dozen diapers. Use soap or detergent and chlorine bleach for diapers.

Skin care

When outdoors, keep baby’s skin covered or keep baby out of direct sunlight. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months.

Unless advised by your health care provider, do not use lotions, oils or powders, as they can cause irritation.

For other skin care tips, please see the section above, "Bathing."

Here are some common skin conditions that may affect your newborn, and tips on how to treat them:
  • Blotchy red areas with white or yellow bumps in the center (called erthema toxicum) may occur on any part of your baby’s body. The spots may look like insect bites. They will come and go for 1-2 weeks. No treatment is needed other than routine cleaning of the area.
  • Pinhead sized white bumps (called milia) are common and are most often seen on or around the nose and on the chin. No treatment is needed other than routine cleaning of the area. The rash will go away in a few weeks.
  • Heat rash (miliaria) appears as white, red or clear bumps on the skin that are larger than milia. They occur most often on the forehead and neck and are caused by over-warming. The rash disappears on its own when baby is unbundled.
  • Infant acne may occur at 2-4 weeks of age. Small bumps appear on the face and body that look as if they have pus in them. No treatment is needed other than routine cleaning of the area. The acne will go away in 1-2 weeks.
  • Cradle cap (called seborrhea) is a crust that forms on baby’s scalp. It appears gray and is greasy. It’s caused by a build-up of normal oil made by the scalp. Shampoo the baby’s scalp more frequently and remove the crust gently with your nails or a fine tooth comb. In severe cases your baby’s doctor may recommend a special shampoo.
  • Diaper rash is most often caused by irritation from urine and bowel movements. The skin may become red and raw, and baby may cry when wet. Dry baby’s skin before applying a diaper rash ointment, such as zinc oxide, to red areas. Do not use hydrocortisone cream on diaper rash, as the rash will get worse. Exposing the diaper area to the air is often helpful. To prevent diaper rash, change baby’s diaper often and wash the diaper area with clean water, being sure to clean and dry baby’s skin and the folds of skin.
  • Monilia is a bright red, bumpy rash that is caused by a yeast infection. It is found in the diaper area and sometimes in skin creases. If your baby’s rash does not improve with routine care, check with your health care provider. A prescription medication may be needed.

Taking baby’s temperature

If your baby’s skin feels warm, you should take baby’s temperature to check if he or she has a fever.

The safest and most comfortable method of taking your baby’s temperature is by placing a thermometer under baby’s arm. It is not safe to put a thermometer in your baby’s mouth, and a thermometer placed in the rectum can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

To take baby’s temperature under the arm, place the thermometer high up in the baby’s armpit. Be sure that there is good skin contact and that no clothes are in the way.

Types of thermometers:
  • Digital thermometer
  • Ear thermometer

The temperature reading will be different based on the type of thermometer you used. When reporting your baby’s temperature, tell your health care provider what type of thermometer you used.

When using a digital thermometer, read the temperature when the thermometer beeps or flashes.

After reading the temperature, clean the thermometer with cold, soapy water.

Taking baby’s temperature using a special ear thermometer may be an easier method when your baby gets a little older, such as 3 months. Ear thermometers are not recommended for infants under age 3 months, because the temperature readings are not as accurate.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/5/2010...#9689.

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