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Newborn Care: What You Need for Baby

What do you need for good newborn care when baby comes home? Moms, dads, and pediatricians offer their quick tips.

Newborn Care: In the Medicine Cabinet

When babies are young, “You really don’t need a lot” in the way of medicines or products, says Shu. 

Recommendations include:

  • Digital rectal thermometer (with KY Jelly, Vaseline, or pro covers)
  • Diaper rash cream
  • Nasal bulb
  • Saline nose drops
  • Fever reducers (Acetaminophen may be used at any age, but be careful to use the correct dose. Ibupforen can be used starting when your baby is 6 months old.)
  • Baby lotion, wash, and ointment
  • Safety manicure scissors
  • Small bandages for when baby scratches himself or herself

Three things you don’t want in your newborn’s medicine cabinet include products containing aspirin, cough or cold medicine, and ipecac.

Aspirin in children has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening disease. Especially do not use aspirin in children and teenagers who have or who are recovering from flu symptoms or chickenpox. Studies also suggest that cold and cough medicines aren’t effective for young children and may have potentially dangerous side-effects.

The take-home message from Shu: “Don’t self-treat children when they’re newborn -- now is when you really need the help of a knowledgeable pediatrician.”

Newborn Care: Feeding

The best time to make the decision on breastfeeding or bottle feeding is before your baby is born, say the experts. But no matter which you choose, you’re going to need baby bottles -- to store pumped breast milk or formula. Recommended:

  • 12 bottles and nipples
  • 1 brush for cleaning bottles and nipples
  • 12 burp clothes and bibs (some parents use receiving blankets)
  • Plastic covers for bottles (great for traveling)
  • Comfortable clothes if you’re breastfeeding
  • Breast pump

And to make feeding time even easier, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding parents rave about nursing pillows, which can also cradle baby while sleeping.

Newborn Care: The Nursery

Babies need sleep. Lots of sleep. Whether you choose a crib with all the bells and whistles or place baby in a simple cradle near your bed, experts are unanimous on one thing: To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), always place your baby on his or her back when putting them down to sleep.

When stocking baby’s nursery, pediatricians and new parents on WebMD suggest:

  • Crib (with slats no more than 2-3/8 inches apart)
  • A tight-fitting, firm mattress
  • Well-fitting sheets

What about pillows? For safety reasons, pediatrician and American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson Laura Jana, MD, suggests keeping all pillows (including crib bumpers) out of your newborn’s bed -- and cautions parents about the risk of pillows in the "family bed" as well. When in doubt, keep it out.

Newborn Care: Around the House

To help new parents get things done around the house, or around town, “must-haves” for some moms and dads include:

  • Booster seats: These often come with attached toys to keep baby entertained when mom and dad need a little time to get things done. 
  • Baby sling: Pediatrician Jana, co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn, is a big fan of these adjustable pouches that let you carry baby hands-free. They’re “great for close contact,” she tells WebMD "and practical for everything from taking a walk, to traveling through airports." Before you buy, be sure to check the manufacturer's lower weight limits, Jana suggests.
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