Key practice: Newborn care
Keeping your baby warm and safe
Newborns need to be carefully cared for around the clock, loved, kept clean and warm, and fed. Therefore, it is important to:
- Keep the newborn warm.
- Keep the umbilical cord and skin clean and dry.
- Recognize low weight (small), sick babies and those at risk of HIV infection and seek appropriate care.
Why is it important to keep the newborn baby warm?
Care must be taken to maintain the body temperature of the new born, especially soon after delivery when babies tend to get cold and later to prevent excessive cooling or heating of the body, both of which can be dangerous for the baby.
To maintain the temperature of the new born at birth:
- Place the new born on the mother’s abdomen.
- Dry the baby with a clean cloth, then discard the wet linen.
- Place the baby in skin-to-skin contact on the mother’s chest and encourage early breastfeeding. Cover the baby over the mother with a fresh, clean, and dry cloth.
- After feeding, wrap the baby, including the head, with a clean, dry cloth and place him/her beside the mother or keep in skin-to skin contact with the mother.
- Wait at least 24 hours before giving the baby his/her first bath.
- If the baby’s hands and feet are too cold, wrap him/her with an additional cloth or blanket, or place him/her in skin-to-skin contact covering the baby over the mother’s chest.
- If the baby is too hot, remove some of the clothes or covers.
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Why is it important to keep the newborn baby's umbilical cord clean and dry?
The umbilical cord has connections to organs inside the tummy. It can get infected easily and infections can spread readily to the rest of the body causing serious complications that can endanger the life of the baby. Therefore: do not apply harmful substances like ash, clay, mud, etc to the umbilical cord; apply an antiseptic only if recommended by the health worker and keep the cord uncovered by the nappy/diaper.
If there is bleeding from the cord, take the baby immediately to the nearest health facility.
Caring for a low birth weight (lbw) infant
Babies born early or with low birthweight or babies with other special needs require special care, love and attention to ensure their survival and optimal growth and development.
A low birth weight new born is very delicate. It is important to take good care of him/her to promote good health. It is important to wash hands with clean water and soap every time before touching a low birth weight baby, to protect him/her from infections.
To keep the baby warm, sometimes the mother and another family member will be asked to practice continuous skin-to-skin contact, also known as Kangaroo Mother Care. The Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) method is an effective way of maintaining the body temperature in low birth weight babies, at birth for all babies, or during transport of sick babies.
What are the benefits of the Kangaroo Mother Care?
- Skin to skin contact protects the new born from becoming too cold.
- The baby is near the breast, which makes breastfeeding on demand easier.
- The breathing movements of the mother stimulate the breathing of the preterm infant.
- The kangaroo method does not stop the mother from carrying out most of her daily chores if she desires.
- The method can be used by any other members of the family.
All in all, caring for a newborn brings joy to the mother and father as well as anxiety and fatigue as they adjust to having full-time care of the new baby in their lives. Since newborns are generally dependent on their parents to provide for their every need, mothers and fathers need to take good care of themselves. Breastfeeding mothers especially need to eat more nutritious food, and all mothers should get more rest.