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|How to look after a newborn baby in those first few days (0 to 12 weeks).|
Some babies sleep much more than others. Some sleep for long periods, others in short bursts. Some soon sleep through the night, while some don't for a long time.
Your baby will have their own pattern of waking and sleeping, and it's unlikely to be the same as other babies you know.
It's also unlikely to fit in with your need for sleep. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
If you're breastfeeding, in the early weeks your baby is likely to doze off for short periods during a feed. Carry on feeding until you think your baby has finished or until they're fully asleep. This is a good opportunity to try to get a bit of rest yourself.
If you're not sleeping at the same time as your baby, don't worry about keeping the house silent while they sleep. It's good to get your baby used to sleeping through a certain amount of noise.
How can I get my baby used to night and day?
It's a good idea to teach your baby that night-time is different from daytime from the start. During the day, open curtains, play games and don't worry too much about everyday noises when they sleep.
At night, you might find it helpful to:
- keep the lights down low
- not talk much and keep your voice quiet
- put your baby down as soon as they've been fed and changed
- not change your baby unless they need it
- not play with your baby
Your baby will gradually learn that night-time is for sleeping.
Where should my baby sleep?
For the first 6 months your baby should be in the same room as you when they're asleep, both day and night. This can reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Particularly in the early weeks, you may find your baby only falls asleep in your or your partner's arms, or when you're standing by the cot.
You can start getting your baby used to going to sleep without you comforting them by putting them down before they fall asleep or when they've just finished a feed. It may be easier to do this once your baby starts to stay alert more frequently or for longer.
If you use a baby sling to carry your baby, make sure you use it safely. The Lullaby Trust has information about swaddling your baby and using slings safely.
Establishing a baby bedtime routine
You may feel ready to introduce a bedtime routine when your baby is around 3 months old. Getting them into a simple, soothing bedtime routine can be a great opportunity to have 1-to-1 time with your baby.
The routine could consist of:
- having a bath
- changing into night clothes and a fresh nappy
- putting them to bed
- reading a bedtime story (see more in Baby and toddler play ideas)
- dimming the lights in the room to create a calm atmosphere
- giving a goodnight kiss and cuddle
- singing a lullaby or having a wind-up musical mobile you can turn on when you've put your baby to bed
- brushing their teeth (if they have any)
As your child gets older, it can be helpful to keep to a similar bedtime routine. Too much excitement and stimulation just before bedtime can wake your child up again. Spend some time winding down and doing some calmer activities, like reading.
How much sleep does your baby need?
Just as with adults, babies' and children's sleep patterns vary. From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than others. The list below shows the average amount of sleep babies and children need during a 24-hour period, including daytime naps.
Newborn sleep needs
Most newborn babies are asleep more than they are awake. Their total daily sleep varies, but can be from 8 hours up to 16 or 18 hours. Babies will wake during the night because they need to be fed. Being too hot or too cold can also disturb their sleep.
Sleep requirements at 3 to 6 months old
As your baby grows, they'll need fewer night feeds and will be able to sleep for longer. Some babies will sleep for 8 hours or longer at night, but not all. By 4 months, they may be spending around twice as long sleeping at night as they do during the day.
Baby sleep at 6 to 12 months
For babies aged 6 months to a year, night feeds may no longer be necessary and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at night. Teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night.
Sleep requirements from 12 months
Babies will sleep for around 12 to 15 hours in total after their first birthday.
2-year-old sleep needs
Most 2 year olds will sleep for 11 to 12 hours at night, with 1 or 2 naps in the daytime.
Sleep requirements for 3 to 4 year olds
Most children aged 3 or 4 will need about 12 hours sleep, but this can range from 8 hours up to 14. Some young children will still need a nap during the day.
Coping with disturbed nights
Newborn babies invariably wake up repeatedly in the night for the first few months, and disturbed nights can be very hard to cope with.
If you have a partner, ask them to help. If you're formula feeding, encourage your partner to share the feeds. If you're breastfeeding, ask your partner to take over the early morning changing and dressing so you can go back to sleep.
Once you're into a good breastfeeding routine, your partner could occasionally give a bottle of expressed breast milk during the night. If you're on your own, you could ask a friend or relative to stay for a few days so you can get some sleep.
Dealing with baby sleep pattern changes
All babies change their sleep patterns. Just when you think you have it sorted and you've all had a good night's sleep, the next night you might be up every 2 hours.
Be prepared to change routines as your baby grows and enters different stages. And remember, growth spurts, teething and illnesses can all affect how your baby sleeps.
If your baby is having problems sleeping or you need more advice about getting into a routine, speak to your health visitor.
Video: How much sleep should my newborn baby have?
In this video, a midwife talks about how much sleep a newborn needs and how every baby is different.
When to change a nappy
Babies need frequent nappy changes.
Babies have very delicate skin so their nappy needs to be changed as soon as they wet or poo themselves, otherwise their skin becomes sore and red.
Changing your baby’s nappy as soon as possible after they’ve done a wee or poo will help prevent nappy rash.
Young babies may need changing as many as 10 or 12 times a day, while older babies need to be changed around 6 to 8 times.
What you need for nappy changing
Before you change your baby's nappy, wash your hands and get everything you need in 1 place, including:
- a changing mat or towel
- cotton wool and a bowl of warm water, or fragrance and alcohol-free baby wipes
- a plastic bag or bucket for the dirty nappy and dirty cotton wool or wipes
- barrier cream to protect your baby's skin
- a clean nappy (and liner and cover if you're using cloth nappies)
- clean clothes
Where to change a nappy
The best place to change a nappy is on a changing mat or towel on the floor, particularly if you have more than one baby.
That way, if you need to see to another child for a moment, your baby can't fall. It's best done sitting down so you don't hurt your back.
If you're using a changing table, keep an eye on your baby at all times. You shouldn't rely on the straps to keep your baby secure. Never walk away or turn your back.
Older babies may try to wriggle away when you're changing them. You could give them a toy or use a mobile to distract them.
How to change a nappy
It's just as important to clean your baby fully whether they have wet themselves or done a poo.
If your baby's nappy is dirty, use the nappy to clean off most of the poo from their bottom.
Then use the cotton wool and plain warm water (or baby wipes) to remove the rest and get your baby really clean.
Clean the whole nappy area gently but thoroughly and make sure you clean inside the folds of skin.
Girls should be cleaned from front to back to avoid getting germs into their vagina.
Boys should be cleaned around the testicles (balls) and penis, but there's no need to pull back their foreskin.
If it's warm enough, let your baby lie on the changing mat without a nappy on for a while. Wearing a nappy all the time makes nappy rash more likely.
If you're using disposable nappies, take care not to get water or cream on the sticky tabs as they won't stick if you do.
If you're using cloth nappies, put in a nappy liner and then fasten the nappy. Adjust it to fit snugly round the waist and legs.
Chat to your baby while you're changing them. Pulling faces, smiling and laughing with your baby will help you bond and help their development.
Try not to show any disgust at what's in their nappy. You don't want your baby to learn that doing a poo is something unpleasant or negative.
Disposable nappies can be rolled up and resealed using the tabs. Put them in a plastic bag kept only for nappies, then tie it up and put it in an outside bin.
Washable cloth nappies don't have to be soaked before they're washed, but you may choose to soak them to help get the stains off. Check the washing instructions first.
Cloth nappies can be machine washed at 60C, or you could use a local nappy laundry service.
There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.
Wash nappies that are dirty with poo separately from your other washing.
To avoid infection, wash your hands after changing a nappy before you do anything else.
If your baby's old enough, they can wash their hands with you as it's a good habit to get into.
What baby poo looks like
Your baby's first poo is called meconium. This is sticky and greenish-black.
Some babies may do this kind of poo during or after birth, or some time in the first 48 hours.
After a few days the poo will change to a yellow or mustard colour. Breastfed babies' poo is runny and doesn't smell. Formula-fed babies' poo is firmer, darker brown and more smelly.
Some infant formulas can also make your baby's poo dark green. If you change from breast to formula feeding, you'll find your baby's poos become darker and more paste-like.
If you have a girl, you may see a white discharge on her nappy for a few days after birth.
It's caused by hormones that have crossed the placenta to your baby, but these will soon disappear from her system.
These hormones can occasionally cause slight bleeding like a mini period, but in both cases it's nothing to worry about.
How often should my baby do a poo?
Babies do an average of 4 poos a day in the first week of life. This goes down to an average of 2 a day by the time they're 1 year old.
Newborn babies who are breastfed may poo at each feed in the early weeks, then, after about 6 weeks, not have a poo for several days.
Formula-fed babies may poo up to 5 times a day when newborn, but after a few months this can go down to once a day.
It's also normal for babies to strain or even cry when doing a poo.
Your baby isn't constipated as long as their poos are soft, even if they haven't done one for a few days.
Is it normal for my baby's poos to change?
From day to day or week to week, your baby's poos will probably vary.
If you notice a definite change of any kind, such as the poos becoming very smelly, very watery or harder (particularly if there's blood in them), you should talk to your doctor or health visitor.
If your baby's poos look pale, this can be a sign of liver disease.
Speak to your health visitor or GP if you notice this.
Disposable and washable cloth (reusable) nappies
Disposable and cloth nappies come in a range of shapes and sizes. The choice might be confusing at first, but with trial and error you'll be able to work out which nappies suit your baby best as they grow.
Disposable and cloth nappies have different pros and cons, so you'll need to consider things like cost, convenience and the impact on the environment when you choose what to buy.
For example, disposable nappies are very handy, but washable cloth nappies work out cheaper if you add up the costs over the years your baby's in nappies.
Some cloth nappy brands and local councils offer free samples for you to try out.
If you use cloth nappies, you may want to sign up to a nappy laundry service that'll take away the dirty nappies and deliver a fresh batch each week.
Video: how do I change a dirty nappy?
In this video, a midwife explains the best way to change a newborn’s dirty nappy.
Nappy rash is common in babies and can usually be treated at home.
Check if your baby has nappy rash
Symptoms of nappy rash can include:
- red or raw patches on your baby’s bottom or the whole nappy area
- skin that looks sore and feels hot to touch
- scaly and dry skin
- an itchy or painful bottom
- your baby seeming uncomfortable or distressed
- spots, pimples, or blisters on bottom (spots can appear red or brown, but may be less noticeable on brown and black skin)
HOUIN / BSIP / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY: https://www.sciencephoto.com/media/615341/view
Things you can do to help with nappy rash
Nappy rash can be treated and prevented by following some simple advice.
change wet or dirty nappies as soon as possible
keep the skin clean and dry – pat or rub the skin gently to dry it
leave nappies off when possible
use extra absorbent nappies
make sure your baby's nappies fit properly
clean your baby’s skin with water or fragrance-free and alcohol-free baby wipes
bath your baby daily (but not more than twice a day, as washing too much can make the skin dry out)
use olive oil to remove nappy rash ointment rather than water
do not use soaps, baby lotion or bubble bath as they can irritate the skin
do not use talcum powder or antiseptics on nappy rash
do not put nappies on too tightly as it can irritate the skin
A pharmacist can help with nappy rash
If the rash is causing your baby discomfort, a pharmacist can recommend a nappy rash cream or medicine to treat it at home.
They may suggest using a thin layer of a barrier cream to protect the skin or giving your baby child's paracetamol for pain relief (only suitable for babies over 2 months old).
Non-urgent advice:See a health visitor or GP if:
- your baby's nappy rash does not go away, gets worse or spreads to other areas
- your baby has a high temperature
- your baby seems very uncomfortable
Treatment for nappy rash
A GP may prescribe treatment if your baby is in a lot of discomfort or they think your baby might have an infection.
They may prescribe:
- a steroid cream or ointment to help with redness and soreness
- an antifungal cream, if they think your baby has a thrush infection
- antibiotics, if they think your baby has a bacterial infection
Causes of nappy rash
It's normal for babies to sometimes get nappy rash.
It can be caused by:
- your baby's skin being in contact with pee or poo for a long time
- not cleaning the nappy area or changing the nappy often enough
- the nappy rubbing against your baby's skin
- an allergic reaction to soap, detergent or bubble bath
- irritation from fragranced baby wipes or wipes containing alcohol
- some types of medicines, such as antibiotics or laxatives (used to make a baby poo more often)
- thrush (a fungal infection)
It's not known why some babies die suddenly and for no apparent reason from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or cot death.
Experts do know placing a baby to sleep on their back reduces the risk, and exposing a baby to cigarette smoke or allowing them to overheat increases the risk.
It's also known there's an association between sleeping with your baby on a sofa or chair and SIDS.
Follow the advice on this page to reduce the risks as much as possible.
How to reduce the risk of SIDS
To reduce the risk of SIDS:
- place your baby on their back to sleep, in the same room as you, for the first 6 months
- keep your baby's head uncovered – their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
- if wearing your baby in a sling or carrier, do not cover their head with the sling material or with a muslin
- place your baby in the "feet to foot" position, with their feet at the end of the cot or Moses basket
- do not let your baby get too hot or cold
- never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair
- do not smoke when you're pregnant or around your baby after they're born, and do not let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
Place your baby on their back to sleep
Place your baby on their back to sleep from the very beginning for both day and night sleeps. This will reduce the risk of cot death.
Do not put your baby to sleep on their side or tummy.
Once your baby is old enough to roll over, there's no need to worry if they turn onto their tummy or side while sleeping.
Do not let your baby's head become covered
Babies whose heads are covered with bedding are at an increased risk of SIDS.
To prevent your baby wriggling down under the covers, place them in the "feet to foot" position. This means their feet are at the end of the crib, cot or Moses basket.
To put your baby in the feet to foot position:
- tuck the covers in securely under your baby's arms so they cannot slip over their head – use 1 or more layers of lightweight blankets
- use a baby mattress that's firm, flat, well-fitting, clean and waterproof on the outside – cover the mattress with a single sheet
- do not use duvets, quilts, baby nests, wedges, bedding rolls or pillows
If you use a sling or carrier, make sure you use it safely.
Do not let your baby get too hot or too cold
Overheating can increase the risk of SIDS. Babies can overheat because of too much bedding or clothing, or because the room is too hot.
- When you check your baby, make sure they're not too hot. If your baby is sweating or their tummy feels hot to the touch, take off some of the bedding. Do not worry if their hands or feet feel cool – this is normal.
- It's easier to adjust for the temperature by using layers of lightweight blankets. Remember, a folded blanket counts as 2 blankets. Lightweight, well-fitting baby sleeping bags are a good choice, too.
- Babies do not need hot rooms. All-night heating is rarely necessary. Keep the room at a temperature that's comfortable – about 16 to 20C is ideal.
- If it's very warm, your baby may not need any bedclothes other than a sheet.
- Even in winter, most babies who are unwell or feverish do not need extra clothes.
- Babies should never sleep with a hot water bottle or electric blanket, next to a radiator, heater or fire, or in direct sunshine.
- Babies lose excess heat through their heads, so make sure their heads cannot be covered by bedclothes, slings or carriers while they're asleep.
- Remove hats and extra clothing as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm car, bus or train, even if it means waking your baby.
Be safe if you share a bed with your baby
If you share a bed with your baby (co-sleeping), you should:
- make sure they sleep on a firm, flat mattress lying on their back
- not have any pillows or duvets near them
- not have other children or pets in the bed at the same time
It's important not to share a bed with your baby if they had a low birthweight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lb) or if you or your partner:
- smoke (no matter where or when you smoke and even if you never smoke in bed)
- have had 2 or more units of alcohol
- have taken recreational drugs
- have taken medicine that causes drowsiness
Never sleep with a baby on a sofa or armchair
It's lovely to have your baby with you for a cuddle or a feed, but sleeping with your baby on a sofa or armchair is linked to a higher risk of SIDS.
It's safest to put your baby back in their cot before you go to sleep.
Do not let anyone smoke near your baby
Babies exposed to cigarette smoke before and after birth are at an increased risk of SIDS. Do not let anyone smoke in the house, including visitors.
Ask anyone who needs to smoke to go outside. Do not take your baby into smoky places.
If you smoke, sharing a bed with your baby increases the risk of cot death.
Feeding, dummies and SIDS
Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS.
It's possible using a dummy at the start of a sleep also reduces the risk of SIDS. But the evidence is not strong and not all experts agree that dummies should be promoted.
If you do use a dummy, do not start until breastfeeding is well established. This is usually when your baby is around 1 month old.
Stop giving them the dummy when they're between 6 and 12 months old.
Get medical help quickly if your baby is unwell
Babies often have minor illnesses that you do not need to worry about.
Give your baby plenty of fluids to drink and do not let them get too hot. If your baby sleeps a lot, wake them up regularly for a drink.
It can be difficult to judge whether an illness is more serious and needs urgent medical attention.
See spotting the signs of serious illness for guidance on when to get help.
All babies cry, and some more than others. Crying is your baby's way of telling you they need comfort and care.
Sometimes it's easy to work out what they want, and sometimes it's not.
The most common reasons for crying are:
- a dirty or wet nappy
- wanting a cuddle
- being too hot or too cold
There may be times of the day when your baby tends to cry a lot and cannot be comforted. Early evening is the most common time for this to happen.
This can be hard for you, as it's often the time when you're most tired and least able to cope.
The amount babies cry tends to peak when they're around 4 to 8 weeks old, then gradually tail off.
How to calm a crying baby
Try some of the following ways to comfort your baby. Some may work better than others:
- If you're breastfeeding, let your baby suckle at your breast.
- Having some gentle noise in the background may help distract your baby.
- Some older babies like to use a bit of cloth or a blanket as a comforter.
- Hold your baby or put them in a sling so they're close to you. Move about gently, sway and dance, talk to them and sing.
- Rock your baby backwards and forwards in the pram, or go out for a walk or a drive. But limit how long your baby sleeps in a car seat to up to 30 minutes for newborns and up to 2 hours for babies. Even if they wake up again when you stop, at least you'll have had a break.
- Find something for them to listen to or look at. This could be music on the radio, a CD, a rattle, or a mobile above the cot.
- Try stroking your baby's back firmly and rhythmically, holding them against you or lying face downwards on your lap.
- Undress your baby and massage them gently and firmly. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby's at least a month old. Talk soothingly as you do it and keep the room warm enough. Some health centres and clinics run baby massage courses. For information, ask your midwife or health visitor.
- Try a warm bath. This calms some babies instantly, but makes others cry even more.
- Sometimes too much rocking and singing can keep your baby awake. You might find lying them down after a feed will help.
- Ask your health visitor for advice.
Crying during feeds
Some babies cry and seem unsettled around the time of a feed. If you're breastfeeding, you may find that improving your baby's positioning and attachment helps them settle.
You can go to a breastfeeding drop-in group and ask for help if there's one available in your local area.
You can also ask your health visitor for advice.
Crying during feeds can sometimes be a symptom of reflux, a common condition where babies bring back milk after feeds.
Speak to your health visitor or GP for more information and advice.
If your baby cries constantly
There are several reasons that can cause a baby to cry excessively.
It can be exhausting if you have tried everything and nothing seems to comfort your baby.
Excessive crying could be a sign that your baby has colic. Everyone agrees that colic exists, but nobody knows what causes it.
Some doctors think it's a kind of stomach cramp. The crying sounds miserable and distressed, and stops for a moment or two, then starts up again, which suggests it could be caused by waves of stomach pain.
The crying can go on for some hours. There may be little you can do except try to comfort your baby and wait for the crying to pass.
Crying and illness
If your baby's crying constantly and you cannot console or distract them, or the cry does not sound like their normal cry, it can be a sign they're ill.
Or they may be ill if they're crying and have other symptoms, such as a high temperature. If this is the case, contact your health visitor, GP or call NHS 111.
Call 999 and ask for an ambulance if your baby:
- has a fit (seizure or convulsion)
- has blue, mottled, ashen (grey) or very pale skin
- is unresponsive, floppy or not waking up as easily as usual
- breathes rapidly or makes a throaty noise while breathing, or seems to be working hard to breathe, perhaps sucking in their stomach under their ribcage
- is being violently sick a lot (projectile vomiting)
- has a high temperature, but their hands and feet feel cold
- has a spotty purple-red rash anywhere on the body – this could be a sign of meningitis
Trust your instincts. You know what's different or worrying behaviour in your baby.
Getting help with a crying baby
You can talk to a friend, your health visitor or GP, or contact the Cry-sis helpline free on 0800 448 0737. It is open 9am to 10pm, 7 days a week.
Cry-sis can put you in touch with other parents who have been in the same situation.
If you decide to talk to your health visitor or GP, it can help to keep a record of how often and when your baby cries.
For example, this might be after every feed or during the evening. This can help your health visitor or GP to work out if there's a particular cause for the crying.
Keeping a record can also help you identify the times when you need extra support. You could think about possible changes to your routine.
There may be times when you're so tired and angry you feel like you cannot take any more. This happens to a lot of parents, so do not be ashamed to ask for help.
If you do not have anyone who can take care of your baby for a short time and the crying is making you stressed, put your baby in their cot or pram, make sure they're safe, close the door, go into another room and try to calm yourself down.
Set a time limit – for example, 10 minutes – then go back.
Never shake your baby
No matter how frustrated you feel, you must never shake your baby. Shaking moves their head violently and can cause brain damage.
You don't need to bathe your baby every day. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom instead. This is often called "topping and tailing".
Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm. Get everything ready beforehand. You'll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.
Topping and tailing tips
- Hold your baby on your knee or lay them on a changing mat. Take off all their clothes, apart from their vest and nappy, and wrap them in a towel.
- Dip the cotton wool in the water (make sure it doesn't get too wet) and wipe gently around your baby's eyes from the nose outward, using a fresh piece of cotton wool for each eye. This is so that you don't transfer any stickiness or infection from one eye to another.
- Use a fresh piece of cotton wool to clean around your baby's ears, but not inside them. Never use cotton buds to clean inside your baby's ears. Wash the rest of your baby's face, neck and hands in the same way and dry them gently with the towel.
- Take off the nappy and wash your baby's bottom and genital area with fresh cotton wool and warm water. Dry very carefully, including between the skin folds, and put on a clean nappy.
- It will help your baby to relax if you keep talking while you wash them. The more they hear your voice, the more they'll get used to listening to you and start to understand what you're saying.
Bathing your baby safely
You don't need to bathe your baby every day, but if they really enjoy it, there's no reason why you shouldn't.
It's best not to bathe your baby straight after a feed or when they're hungry or tired. Make sure the room you're bathing them in is warm.
Have everything you need at hand: a baby bath or clean washing-up bowl filled with warm water, 2 towels, a clean nappy, clean clothes and cotton wool.
- The water should be warm, not hot. Check it with your wrist or elbow and mix it well so there are no hot patches.
- Don't add any liquid cleansers to the bath water. Plain water is best for your baby's skin in the first month.
- Hold your baby on your knee and clean their face.
- Next, wash their hair with plain water, supporting them over the bowl.
- Once you've dried their hair gently, you can take off their nappy, wiping away any mess.
- Lower your baby gently into the bowl or bath using one hand to hold their upper arm and support their head and shoulders. Then use the other hand to gently swish the water over your baby without splashing.
- Keep your baby's head clear of the water.
- Never leave your baby alone in the bath, not even for a second.
- Lift your baby out and pat them dry, paying special attention to the creases in their skin.
- This is a good time to massage your baby. Massage can help them relax and sleep. Avoid using any oils or lotions until your baby is at least a month old.
- If your baby seems frightened of bathing and cries, try bathing together. Make sure the water isn't too hot. It's easier if someone else holds your baby while you get in and out of the bath.
Video: how do I bath my baby?
In this video, a midwife shows you how to bath your baby properly.
Cutting your baby's nails
Some babies are born with long nails and it's important to cut them in case they scratch themselves. You can buy special baby nail clippers or small, round-ended safety scissors. Or you could try filing them down with a fine emery board instead
Babies grow very quickly. All you need for the first few weeks are enough clothes to make sure your baby will be warm and clean.
You'll probably need:
- 6 stretch suits (all-in-ones) for both day and night, or 4 stretch suits and 2 nightdresses (nighties) for the night – use socks or bootees with the nightie if it's cold
- 2 cardigans, wool or cotton rather than nylon, and light rather than heavy – several light layers of clothing are best for keeping your baby warm
- 4 vests
- a shawl or blanket to wrap your baby in
- a wool or cotton hat, mittens, and socks or bootees for going out if the weather is cold – it's better to choose close-knitted patterns rather than those with a loose knit, so your baby's fingers and toes will not get caught
- a sun hat for going out if it's hot or the sun is bright
Washing your baby's clothes
There's no evidence that using washing powders with enzymes (bio powders) or fabric conditioners will irritate your baby's skin.
For the first few months, you'll need a crib, carrycot or Moses basket (a light, portable bassinet). Your baby needs to sleep somewhere that's safe, warm and not too far from you.
Baby nests are not suitable for your baby to sleep in when you're not there because of the danger of suffocation.
If you're borrowing a crib or a cot, or using one that's been used by another of your children, you should ideally buy a new mattress.
If you cannot do this, use the cot mattress you have, as long as it's firm (not soft), flat, fits the cot with no gaps, is clean, dry, waterproof and not ripped or torn.
The mattress should be protected by a waterproof cover.
- a firm mattress that fits the cot snugly without leaving spaces round the edges so your baby cannot trap their head and suffocate
- sheets to cover the mattress – you need at least 4 because they need to be changed often; fitted sheets make life easier but can be quite expensive, so you could use pieces of old sheet
- light blankets for warmth
Pillows and duvets
Do not use pillows and duvets – they're not safe for babies less than a year old because of the risk of suffocation. Duvets can also make your baby too hot.
Sheets and layers of blankets tucked in firmly below your baby's shoulder level or a baby sleeping bag are safe for your baby to sleep in.
Your baby will spend many hours in a cot, so make sure it's safe. If you're buying a new cot, look for one that meets British safety standard BS EN 716. The BS number should be in the instructions or marked on the cot itself.
- The mattress must fit snugly, with no space for the baby's head to get stuck.
- The bars must be smooth, securely fixed, and the distance between each bar should not be more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches), so your baby's head cannot get trapped.
- The cot should be sturdy.
- The moving parts should work smoothly and not allow fingers or clothing to get trapped.
- Cot bumpers are not recommended as babies can overheat or get tangled in the fastenings.
- Never leave anything with ties, such as bibs or clothes, in the cot as they might get caught around your baby's neck.
- The safest place for your baby to sleep is on their back in a cot in the same room as you for the first 6 months.
For more information on safe sleeping, see Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
You can also visit the Lullaby Trust website, which has lots of information on safe sleeping.
Out and about with your baby
Spend some time looking at what's available for getting around with your baby. Think about what will suit you best before you make a choice, and ask other mums what they have found useful.
Before buying a pushchair or a pram, check that:
- the brakes are in good working order
- the handles are at the right height for pushing
- the frame is strong enough
Baby carriers – also called slings – are attached with straps and your baby is carried in front of you. Most babies like being carried like this because they're close to you and warm.
The back part of the carrier must be high enough to support your baby's head. Check that buckles and straps are secure.
Older babies who can hold up their heads and whose backs are stronger – at about 4 months old – can be carried in carriers that go on your back.
When using a sling or carrier do not let the material cover your baby’s head.
See the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website for more advice on using baby carriers and slings safely.
There is also information on the Lullaby Trust website about baby sling safety.
The UK Sling Consortium recommends what is known as the ‘T.I.C.K.S. rules for safe babywearing’:
- T – Tight – Slings and carriers should be kept tight enough to hug your baby close to your body
- I – In view – you should be able to see your baby’s face at all times
- C – Close - the sling should keep your baby close enough to kiss their head
- K – Keep – keep your baby’s chin off their chest
- S- Support – support your baby’s back so it is comfortably upright
Pushchairs, also known as strollers and buggies, are only suitable for young babies if they have fully reclining seats so your baby can lie flat.
Wait until your baby can sit by themselves before using another type of pushchair. Choose a light pushchair if you'll be lifting it on to trains or buses.
Prams give your baby a lot of space to sit and lie comfortably, but they take up a lot of space and are hard to use on public transport.
If you have a car, look for a pram that can be dismantled easily. Consider buying a pram harness at the same time, as you may need it to strap your baby securely into the pram.
Carrycot on wheels
A carrycot is a light, portable cot with handles, similar to but smaller than the body of a pram, and often attachable to a wheeled frame.
Your baby can sleep in the carrycot for the first few months, and the cot can be attached to the frame to go out.
3-in-1 travel system
This is a carrycot and transporter (a set of wheels) that can be converted into a pushchair when your baby outgrows the carrycot.
Shopping trays that fit under the pushchair or pram can also be very useful when you're out.
Car seats for babies
If you have a car, you must have a baby car seat. Your baby must always go in their seat, including when you bring them home from the hospital.
It's illegal and also very dangerous to carry your baby in your arms in a vehicle.
The best way for your baby to travel is in a rear-facing infant car seat on the back seat, or the front passenger seat as long as it's not fitted with an airbag. The car seat is held in place by the adult safety belt.
The following advice should help make sure your baby's car seat is as safe as possible:
- Make sure the car seat is fitted correctly.
- It's illegal and extremely dangerous to put a rear-facing infant car seat in the front passenger seat if your car is fitted with an airbag.
- Ideally, buy a new car seat. If you're planning to get a secondhand seat, only accept one from a family member or friend so you can be sure it has not been involved in an accident. Do not buy one from a secondhand shop or through the classified ads.
Look for the United Nations ECE Regulation number R44.03 or R44.04, or the new i-size regulation R129, when you buy a car seat. Look for the E mark label on the car seat.
For more advice on choosing and fitting baby car seats safely, go to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) website on child car seats.