Teensy, miniature, fragile. The pure smallness of my first baby is what I remember being most unprepared for. I was shocked by how tiny he was, even at 8 pounds, 11 ounces. (The “-3 month” baby garments I’d brought to the hospital were useless.) For most first-time parents, that tiny new baby is a fascinating mystery, from the way he stares into your face to the softness of his skin. And while each infant is different, there are some universals, which can help you unravel why your baby does the things he does.
They lose and gain weight.
Your baby will likely lose between 5 percent and 10 percent of his weight in the first week, even if he’s eating around the clock. The weight loss is due to loss of fluid and meconium. By the second week of life, however, most babies have regained the lost weight or even surpassed their birth weight.
They dont’t need daily baths.
A newborn only needs a complete bath two or three times a week; any more than that can dry out sensitive new skin. He does, however, need a daily cleansing of the diaper area with a mild baby soap and plenty of clean water (not wipes).
Until the umbilical cord stump falls off (sometime during the first two weeks), sponge baths are fine. And speaking of the bellybutton-to-be, it should be kept clean until it’s completely healed.
Baby-soft skin may take a while.
Some parents may be concerned about the tiny white spots, called milia, that often appear on a newborn baby’s face. More than half of all babies are born with them on the nose or cheeks, but this harmless condition usually disappears in the first weeks of life.
Other common skin conditions include cradle cap, a crusty scalp condition that usually can be alleviated by using a mild baby shampoo or, if necessary, a medicated lotion; peeling, dry skin on the hands and feet (try fragrance-free baby lotion); and, of course, diaper rash.
Besides the usual ointments, one way to discourage irritation on little bottoms is to forgo packaged wipes, which contain chemicals that can worsen a rash. The best way to clean a tender tushie? Plain old water on cotton balls or a washcloth that’s been double-rinsed to remove detergent.