Newborn care and safety
Newborn care and safety are the activities and precautions recommended for new parents or caregivers. It is also an educational goal of many hospitals and birthing centers when it's time to bring their infant home.
Taking a newborn care class during pregnancy can prepare caregivers for the real thing. But feeding and diapering a baby doll isn't quite the same. During the stay in a hospital or birthing center, clinicians and nurses help with basic baby care. These health providers will demonstrate basic infant care. Newborn care basics include:
- Immunization should be provided.
- Handling a newborn, including supporting the baby's neck crack
- Feeding and burping
- Cleaning the umbilical cord
- Using a bulb syringe to clear the baby's nasal passages
- Taking a newborn's temperature
- Tips for soothing the baby
Before leaving the hospital, ask about home visits by a nurse or health care worker. Many new parents appreciate somebody checking in with them and their baby a few days after coming home. If breastfeeding, a mother can ask whether a lactation consultant visit in the home to provide follow-up support, as well as providing other resources in the community, such as peer support groups.
Many first-time parents also welcome the help of a family member or friend who has "been there." Having a support person stay with the newborn for a few days can give the mother the confidence to go at it alone in the weeks ahead. This can be to arranged before delivery.
The baby's first doctor's visit is another good time to ask about any infant care questions. Parents can ask about reasons to call the doctor and about what vaccines baby needs and when. Young children need vaccines because the diseases they protect against can strike at an early age and can be very dangerous in childhood. This includes rare diseases and more common ones, such as the flu.
Caring for a newborn also includes the health screening of the newborn, most of the times this occurs in the hospital or pediatrician's office shortly after birth. Every state screens babies for more than two dozen disorders. Early detection can help treat the disorder.
Handwashing helps to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses to children. Pathogenic microorganisms can be transmitted from other children and their diapers, and from uncooked meat, seafood, eggs, dogs, cats, turtles, snakes, birds, lizards, and soil.
Sudden infant death syndrome
Since 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that infants be placed to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also called crib death. SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby under 1 year of age. Even though there is no way to know which babies might die of SIDS, recommendations include:
- Always place the baby on his or her back to sleep, even for naps. This is the safest sleep position for a healthy baby to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Place the baby on a firm mattress, such as in a safety-approved crib. Research has shown that placing a baby to sleep on soft mattresses, sofas, sofa cushions, waterbeds, sheepskins, or other soft surfaces raises the risk of SIDS.
- Remove soft, fluffy, and loose bedding and stuffed toys from the baby's sleep area. Make sure all pillows, quilts, stuffed toys, and other soft items are kept away from the baby's sleep area.
- Do not use infant sleep positioners. Using a positioner to hold an infant on his or her back or side for sleep is dangerous and not needed.
- Do use infant sleep sacks that are designed to be used with zippers, snaps, or velcro for infants to wear during sleep in place of loose bedding and swaddle blankets which pose a greater risk.
- Make sure everyone who cares for the baby knows to place the baby on his or her back to sleep and about the dangers of soft bedding. Talk to child care providers, grandparents, babysitters, and all caregivers about SIDS risk. Remember, every sleep time counts.
- Make sure the baby's face and head stay uncovered during sleep. Keep blankets and other coverings away from the baby's mouth and nose. The best way to do this is to dress the baby in sleep clothing so there will not have to use any other covering over the baby. If using a blanket or another covering, make sure that the baby's feet are at the bottom of the crib, the blanket is no higher than the baby's chest, and the blanket is tucked in around the bottom of the crib mattress.
- Do not allow smoking around the baby. Don't smoke before or after the birth of the baby and make sure no one smokes around the baby.
- Don't let the baby get too warm during sleep. Keep the baby warm during sleep, but not too warm. The baby's room should be at a temperature that is comfortable for an adult. Too many layers of clothing or blankets can overheat the baby.
Some parents worry if the baby rolls over during the night. However, by the time the baby is able to roll over by herself, the risk for SIDS is much lower. During the time of greatest risk, 2 to 4 months of age, most babies are not able to turn over from their backs to their stomachs.
Newborns and older infants are to use rear-facing car seats. These are required until age 2 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of that seat. After this, a forward-facing car seat is used. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children in the US. Buckling up is the best way to save lives and reduce injuries. Child passenger restraint laws result in more children being buckled up. Only 2 out of every 100 children live in states that require car seat or booster seat use for newborns and infants. A third of children who died in crashes in 2011 were not buckled up. Caregivers promote the safety their newborns by: Knowing how to use car seats, booster seats, and seat belts and using them on every trip, no matter how short.
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