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Newborn Skin Care (Normal): Brief Version

Caring for the belly button cord

  • Try to keep the cord dry.
  • Clean around the belly button cord. Use a wet cotton swab or damp cloth. Then dry carefully. Don’t use any rubbing alcohol.
  • Keep diapers folded down under the cord. This helps the cord stay dry and helps it fall off. Most often, it will fall off after about 7 to 10 days.

Giving your baby a bath

  • For the first few days, just wash your baby with a clean, wet sponge. After the belly button cord falls off, you can give your baby a bath.
  • When you bathe your baby, make sure the water is lukewarm, not too hot or too cold. Keep the water below your baby's belly button.
  • Use a wet, soft cloth or sponge. Use tap water without soap or use a gentle soap such as Dove.
  • Gently wash the baby's face. Be careful not to get soapy water in your baby's eyes.
  • Wash between your baby's legs. Do not use soap in this area. Rinse the area with plain water, and wipe from the front to back. This helps stop redness or soreness.
  • Bathe your baby every day in hot weather. In cool weather, bathe your baby 1 to 2 times a week.

Cutting your baby's fingernails and toenails

  • Use clippers or special baby scissors. Trim your baby's nails once a week after a bath. Then the nails are soft and easy to cut.

Changing your baby's diaper

  • Change your baby often. Rinse your baby's bottom with a wet washcloth or diaper wipes.
  • If you have a boy, gently clean his scrotum (the round pouch of skin between his legs). If you have a girl, gently clean between her legs and between the creases of skin around her vagina.

Washing your baby's hair

  • Wash your baby's hair 1 to 2 times a week. Use a baby shampoo that doesn't sting the eyes. Don't worry about hurting the soft spot on the head. It is well protected.

Lotions, creams, or powder

  • Most of the time, new babies do not need lotions, creams, or powders. You may use hand lotion or cream if your baby's skin gets dry or cracked. Put it on your baby's skin right after a bath to trap the moisture inside the skin.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2013-08-02
Last reviewed: 2017-06-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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