Looking after your babyView all services
|Following discussion with you in hospital, your midwife will arrange transfer of your care to the community midwifery team and you can go home. If you have had an uncomplicated birth, the midwives will discuss with you when you can go home. For some women this could be as soon as two or three hours after the baby is born. Before you are discharged we will run through the discharge procedure and give you information and a leaflet about how you can access support and sources of help. If you are travelling home in a car, you will need to bring a baby car seat or have carry-cot restraints fitted to your vehicle.|
You will receive all the necessary support from Liverpool Women's Hospital midwifery team following the first few weeks of your baby’s life - both in hospital and in the home. They will guide you on how to feed, bath, dress and soothe your baby and are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have. The ‘Birth to Five’ NHS book will be given to you after you have had your baby by your health visitor together with the Child Health Record or ‘Red Book’ as many people call. Both contain lots of additional helpful tips and advice about how to care for your baby.
Shortly after birth, the midwife will clamp the umbilical cord close to your baby’s navel with a plastic clip. The midwife or your partner then cuts the cord with the clamp attached. The cord takes about a week to dry out and drop off. Keep the navel clean and dry until this happens. If you notice any bleeding or discharge from the navel tell your midwife, health visitor or doctor.
After your baby is born, your midwife will ask for your permission to give vitamin K to the infant via an injection. This vitamin is essential to prevent a serious bleeding condition called Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn which, although rare, can be life-threatening.
A normal temperature in babies and children is about 36.4C, but this can vary slightly. A high temperature or fever is usually considered to be a temperature of 38C or above.
Your baby may have a high temperature if they:
- feel hotter than usual to touch on their forehead, back or stomach
- feel sweaty or clammy
- have flushed cheeks
If you think your baby has a high temperature, it's best to check their temperature with a thermometer. This can help you work out whether you need to get medical advice.
How do I take my child's temperature?
Ideally, you need a digital thermometer to get a fast, accurate reading.
You can buy these online or from pharmacies and most large supermarkets.
To take your child's temperature:
- Hold them comfortably on your knee and put the thermometer in their armpit – always use the thermometer in the armpit with children under 5 years.
- Gently, but firmly, hold their arm against their body to keep the thermometer in place for however long it says in the manufacturer's instructions – usually about 15 seconds. Some digital thermometers beep when they're ready.
- The display on the thermometer will then show your child's temperature.
How can I make sure the reading is accurate?
If you use a digital thermometer in your child's armpit and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, you should get an accurate reading.
There are a few things that can slightly alter the reading – for example, if your child has been:
- wrapped up tightly in a blanket
- in a very warm room
- very active
- cuddling a hot water bottle
- wearing a lot of clothes
- having a bath
If this is the case, allow them to cool down for a few minutes, but do not let them get cold or shivery, then take their temperature again to see if there's any change.
Other types of thermometer
You can buy other types of thermometer, but they may not be as accurate as a digital thermometer for taking a baby or young child's temperature:
- ear (tympanic) thermometers – these allow you to take a temperature reading from the ear and are quick but expensive; they can give misleading readings if you do not put them in the ear correctly, which is more likely to happen with babies because their ear holes are so small
- strip-type thermometers – these are held against the forehead and are not an accurate way of taking a temperature. They show the temperature of the skin, rather than the body
You should never use an old-fashioned glass thermometer containing mercury. These can break, releasing small splinters of glass and highly poisonous mercury. They're no longer used in hospitals and you cannot buy them in shops.
If your child is exposed to mercury, get medical advice immediately.
What causes a high temperature in children?
A high temperature is usually a sign that your child's body is trying to fight an infection.
What should I do if my baby has a high temperature?
You can usually look after your baby or child at home when they have a high temperature. Make sure you give them plenty of drinks, to avoid dehydration. If you're breastfeeding, offer your baby plenty of feeds.
Always contact a GP or call 111 if:
- your child has other signs of illness, such as a rash, as well as a high temperature
- your baby's temperature is 38C or higher if they're under 3 months old
- your baby's temperature is 39C or higher if they're 3 to 6 months old
If you need to speak to someone outside normal surgery hours, you can call your GP surgery's out-of-hours service (if they have one) or NHS 111.
Read more about what to do if your child has a high temperature.
Trust your instincts
It can be difficult to tell when a baby or toddler is seriously ill, but the main thing is to trust your instincts.
You know better than anyone else what your child is usually like, so you'll know when something is seriously wrong.
Signs of serious illness in a baby or toddler
Here's a checklist of warning signs that might indicate your baby or toddler is seriously ill.
- a high temperature, but cold feet and hands
- a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give paracetamol to a baby under 2 months and do not give ibuprofen to a baby under 3 months or under 5kg, unless prescribed by a doctor)
- a very high or low temperature
- your child feels hot or cold to touch, or is shivering
- your child is quiet and listless, even when their temperature is not high
- a high temperature in a baby less than 8 weeks old
- rapid breathing or panting
- a throaty noise while breathing
- your child is finding it hard to get their breath and is sucking their stomach in under their ribs
- blue, pale, blotchy, or ashen (grey) skin
- your child is hard to wake up, or appears disoriented or confused
- your child is crying constantly and you cannot console or distract them, or the cry does not sound like their normal cry
- yellow-green or green vomit
- your child has a febrile seizure (fit) for the first time
- your child is under 8 weeks old and does not want to feed
- nappies that are drier than usual – this is a sign of dehydration
If your child has any of these signs, get medical help as soon as possible:
- during the day from Monday to Friday – it's best to call your GP surgery
- evenings and weekends – call NHS 111
- if your baby is under 6 months old it's hard for a doctor or nurse to assess them over the phone – you can go to an urgent treatment centre or, if you're very worried, take them to A&E
When to call an ambulance
Call 999 for an ambulance if your child:
- stops breathing
- will not wake up
- has a spotty, purple or red rash anywhere on their body that does not fade when you press a glass against it – this could be a sign of sepsis
- is under 8 weeks old and you're very worried about them
- has a febrile seizure (fit) for the first time, even if they seem to recover
- has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- if you think someone may have seriously injured your baby
Trust your instincts. You know what's different or worrying behaviour in your child.
Spot the signs of childhood conditions
Learn the signs of serious illnesses that can affect children, including:
The fontanelle is a diamond-shaped area on the top of your baby’s head where the skull bones haven’t yet fused together. The fontanelle may take about a year before the bones close over.
It is quite common for a newborn to have some swelling and bruises on their head, or to have bloodshot eyes. This is usually due to the pushing and squeezing of childbirth and they will disappear in time. If you are worried about any bumps or bruises talk to the midwives looking after you.
Most babies have little marks and spots, mainly around the head and face. Most common are the little pink ‘stork marks’ on the forehead and upper eyelids or marks on the nape of the neck. Most of them will go away eventually. Strawberry marks, with their dark red and slightly raised appearance, can appear a few days after the birth. They may take a while to disappear but are generally nothing to worry about. Spots and rashes are not unusual but you should tell your midwife or doctor if there is marked change in your baby’s behaviour, such as an unwillingness to feed, sleeplessness or irritability. If you are concerned about a birthmark, please consult your midwife, health visitor or GP.
The top layer of a newborn’s skin is very thin and easily damaged but over the first month, as it matures, it will develop its own natural protective barrier. We would advise against the use of moisturisers or other products initially which can be quite harsh for a newborn’s sensitive skin.
At three days old, many babies develop mild jaundice with their skin and whites of their eyes taking on a yellow tinge. This usually fades within 10 days, though more serious jaundice may need treatment. If this is the case your midwife will discuss it with you.
You can start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they start to come through. Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.
Don't worry if you don't manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to brushing their teeth as part of their daily routine. You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.
Tooth brushing tips for babies
- Use a tiny smear of toothpaste for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, and a pea-sized amount for children aged 3 to 6 years.
- Gradually start brushing your child's teeth more thoroughly, covering all the surfaces of the teeth. Do it at least twice a day: just before bed and at another time that fits in with your routine.
- Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to keep trying. Make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.
- The easiest way to brush a baby's teeth is to sit them on your knee, with their head resting against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head backwards.
- Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all the surfaces, and encourage your child to spit the toothpaste out afterwards. There's no need to rinse with water, as this will wash away the fluoride.
- Check to make sure your child gets the right amount of toothpaste and they're not eating or licking toothpaste from the tube.
- Carry on helping your child brush their teeth until you're sure they can do it well enough themselves. This will normally be until they're at least 7.
Taking your baby to the dentist
Take your child with you when you go for your own dental appointments so they get used to the idea.
NHS dental treatment for children is free, but not all dentists will take on new NHS patients.
Sugar and tooth decay
Sugar causes tooth decay. It's not just about the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks, but how long and how often the teeth are in contact with sugar.
Lollipops and sweet drinks in a formula bottle are particularly damaging, because they bathe the teeth in sugar for long periods of time. The acid in drinks like fruit juice and squash can harm teeth as well.
The sugars found naturally in whole fruit and milk are less likely to cause tooth decay.
Sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose, fructose and hydrolysed starch are all sugars. Invert sugar or syrup, honey, raw sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, muscovado sugar and concentrated fruit juices are also sugars.
How to cut down sugar in your child's diet
These tips will help you reduce the amount of sugar in your child's diet and prevent tooth decay:
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks – the best drinks for young children are plain milk and water.
- It's OK to use bottles for expressed breast milk, formula milk, or cooled boiled water. But using them for juices or sugary drinks can increase tooth decay.
- From 6 months old, you can offer babies drinks in a non-valved free-flowing cup.
- When your baby starts eating solid foods, encourage them to eat savoury food and drinks with no sugar. Check if there's sugar in pre-prepared baby foods (including the savoury ones), rusks and baby drinks. Read more about food labels.
- If you choose to give your child sweet foods or fruit juice, only give them at mealtimes. Remember to dilute 1 part juice to 10 parts water. Your child should have no more than 1 drink of fruit juice (150ml) in any 1 day as part of their 5 A Day.
- Don't give your child biscuits or sweets – ask family and friends to do the same. Offer things like stickers, hair slides, crayons, colouring books and bubbles instead. They may be more expensive than sweets, but they last longer.
- At bedtime or during the night, only give your child breast milk, formula or cooled boiled water.
- If your child needs medicine, ask a pharmacist or GP if there's a sugar-free option.
- Check your whole family's sugar intake – see how to cut down on sugar in your diet.
It is easy to get confused about what you really need for your baby in those early days and weeks, but here are some of the essentials you will need:
- Disposable or cloth nappies (for non-disposable you will also need nappy pins, nappy liners, a bucket with a lid and nappy sterilising powder or liquid for sterilising nappies, four pairs of plastic pants that are either tie-on or elasticated).
- For nappy changing: cotton wool, a plastic changing mat, , barrier cream to prevent nappy rash and a bag to carry everything in when you are out and about.
- For bathing: a baby bath or large clean bowl, unperfumed soap and two soft towels.
- For sleeping: a crib, carry cot or mosses basket, a firm mattress, sheets and light blankets (pillows and duvets are unsuitable for babies under the age of one-year-old because of the risk of suffocation).
- For feeding: front-opening nursing bras, breast pads (if breastfeeding) or 6 bottles with caps, sterilising equipment, a bottle brush and infant formula milk (if formula feeding).
- Baby clothes: six stretch suits, two cardigans, four vests, a shawl or blanket to wrap your baby in, a wool hat, mittens, socks or bootees and a sunhat.
- Out and about: a pushchair or baby carrier and a car seat if you drive.
Your newborn's eyes will be checked shortly after birth as part of their newborn physical examination. New babies can see, but their vision is not very focused. Their eyesight develops gradually over the first few months.
By the time your baby is 2 weeks old, you'll probably notice their eyes following your face. If they do not seem to be doing this, mention it to your health visitor or GP.
Your newborn's eyes may roll away from each other occasionally. This is called a squint and is normal in a newborn. It should go away by 3 months. Talk to your health visitor or GP if it does not.
Babies are born knowing how to suck. During the first few days they learn to co-ordinate their sucking with their breathing during feeding.
Newborn babies also automatically turn towards a nipple or teat if it's brushed against their cheek, and they'll open their mouths if their upper lip is stroked.
Health Visitors are Specialist Community Public Health Nurses who have expertise in child health and development, and family and public health.
You can ask them qurestions about:
- Breastfeeding support and advice
- Emotional and mental wellbeing support
- Healthy eating, weaning and dietary advice
- Support with sleep routines
- Child developmental advice and support
- Advice regarding child behaviour
- Support and signposting advice for children with any additional needs
- Support in safeguarding children
- Pre-school immunisations and school readiness advice
- Referrals to child specialist services.
You can find out more in our Health Visiting Service category.
Visit Mersey Care’s website to find details of your local team: https://www.merseycare.nhs.uk/our-services/liverpool/health-visiting
It's fine to give your baby a dummy but avoid using them after 12 months of age. If you are breastfeeding, however, dummies should be used with caution. Giving your baby a dummy can lower your milk supply and can also negatively impact feeding cues, which can make breastfeeding harder.
Using dummies after 12 months of age can encourage an open bite, which is when teeth move to make space for the dummy. They may also affect your child's speech development. This is why they are not encouraged after 12 months.
Discourage your child from talking or making sounds with a dummy or their thumb in their mouth, and don't dip dummies in anything sweet, such as sugar or jam.
Babies and young children can become ill during very hot weather. Their health can be seriously affected by:
Try these tips for keeping your child happy and healthy in the heat.
Keep your baby cool and protect them from the sun.
- Babies less than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour, and provides some protection from the sun.
- Older babies should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly in the summer and between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. If you go out when it's hot, attach a parasol or sunshade to your baby's pushchair to keep them out of direct sunlight.
- Apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to your baby's skin. Make sure the product also protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Many brands produce sunscreen specifically for babies and young children, as these products are less likely to contain additives that might irritate the skin. Apply the suncream regularly, particularly if your child is in and out of the sea or paddling pool.
- Make sure your child wears a sunhat with a wide brim or a long flap at the back to protect their head and neck from the sun.
Like adults, babies and young children need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
From 0 to 6 months
- Fully breastfed babies do not need any water until they've started eating solid foods. During hot weather they may want to breastfeed more than usual.
- If you're bottle feeding, as well as their usual milk feeds, you can give your baby a little cooled boiled water. If your baby wakes at night, they'll probably want milk. If they have had their usual milk feeds, try cooled boiled water as well.
- Remember you can ask your health visitor or another health professional for advice about any baby care issue, advice will then be tailored to meet your baby's needs.
From around 6 months
- Once you have started to introduce solid foods, you should offer your baby sips of water from a cup or beaker with meals. Remember that breastmilk or infant formula should be their main drinks during the first year. In hot weather, you may need to offer some additional water outside of mealtimes.
From 12 months
- Water, breast milk or whole cows' milk should be your baby's main drinks. In hot weather, you can try giving them frozen lollies made from plain water or from very diluted fruit juice to help keep them hydrated. Lollies made from diluted fruit juice should only be given at mealtimes because they can cause tooth decay.
- For older children, give them plenty of fruit and salad to help keep their fluid levels up. Remember that undiluted fruit juice or smoothies should not be given to children until they are 5 years old, as these can also cause tooth decay.
Read more about drinks and cups for babies and young children.
Follow these tips to help keep your children cool and safe during hot weather.
- Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool. Keep the pool in the shade during very hot weather and supervise the children carefully at all times.
- Run them a cool bath before bedtime.
- Keep your child's bedroom cool during the day by closing blinds or curtains. You can also use a fan to circulate the air in the room.
- Keep nightwear and bedclothes to a minimum. If your baby kicks or pushes off the covers during the night, consider putting them in just a nappy with a single well-secured sheet that will not work loose and cover their face or get entangled during the night.
- A nursery thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of your baby's room. Your baby will sleep most comfortably when their room is between 16C and 20C.
Secondhand smoke is dangerous, especially for children. The best way to protect loved ones is to quit smoking. At the very least, make sure you have a smokefree home and car.
When you smoke a cigarette (or roll-up, pipe or cigar), most of the smoke doesn't go into your lungs, it goes into the air around you where anyone nearby can breathe it in.
Secondhand smoke is the smoke that you exhale plus the "sidestream" smoke created by the lit end of your cigarette.
When friends and family breathe in your secondhand smoke – what we call passive smoking – it isn't just unpleasant for them, it can damage their health too.
Pregnant women exposed to passive smoke are more prone to premature birth and their baby is more at risk of low birthweight and sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).
Children and passive smoking
Passive smoking is especially harmful for children as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.
Children who live in a household where at least 1 person smokes are more likely to develop:
Children are particularly vulnerable in the family car where secondhand smoke can reach hazardous levels even with the windows open.
To protect children, smoking in cars and other vehicles carrying children was banned in 2015. It is against the law to smoke in a private vehicle if there's a young person under 18 present.
Read about the law on smoking in private vehicles on GOV.UK.
How safe is e-cig vapour?
Smoking e-cigarettes, also known as vaping, doesn't produce tobacco smoke so the risks of passive smoking with conventional cigarettes don't apply to e-cigs.
Research into this area is ongoing, but it seems that e-cigs release negligible amounts of nicotine into the atmosphere and the limited evidence available suggests that any risk from passive vaping to bystanders is small relative to tobacco cigarettes. But some health professionals have recommended avoiding vaping around pregnant women, babies and children.
Your baby’s first tooth will probably arrive between the ages of 6-9 months, though all babies develop at different times. The first teeth to come through are usually the bottom front teeth followed by the front top teeth. It takes until your baby is two to two and a half years old for all their milk teeth to come through.
There are some symptoms to look out for that may show your baby is teething. These include:
• your baby’s gum is sore and red where the tooth is coming through
• one cheek is flushed
• they are rubbing their ear
• your baby is dribbling more than usual
• they are gnawing and chewing on things a lot
• they are more fretful than usual
Sometimes teething can cause no pain or discomfort at all, but if your baby has any of these symptoms there are some things that you can do to help.
Babies should be introduced to solid foods from six months of age. Once they are six months old, you can also use solid foods as tasty ways to help teething pains. Things like plain yogurt or blended fruit that has been in the fridge can soothe sore gums.
If your baby is teething you may notice them wanting to chew on things to ease the discomfort. Often this can be your finger. Teething rings are also great for this and some of them can be put in the fridge to make them cool, which can soothe your baby’s sore gums. Remember never to put them in the freezer though, as this could harm their gums.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen
If your baby is really suffering from teething pain then you can give sugar-free pain killing medicine to babies that are 3 months or older. Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine and seek advice from a healthcare professional, such as a pharmacist, if you’re unsure.
Comforting your baby
If your baby is uncomfortable, they may want more comfort or cuddles than normal and this will help them feel better. It can also help if you can distract them with games and tickles.