Pregnancy and baby

Tips for new parents

As a new parent you're bound to have questions on everything from getting breastfeeding started, to washing and bathing your baby and changing their nappy.

Here's a quick guide to everything you need to know about caring for your new baby during those exhausting but wonderful early weeks.

Getting to know your newborn

Breastfeeding your new baby

Washing and bathing your baby

How to change your baby's nappy

Soothing a crying baby

Helping your baby to sleep

How to tell if your baby is seriously ill

Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Getting to know your new baby

How do we look after our baby's umbilical cord? How much can our baby see? Why are their genitals swollen?

Newborn babies don't come with an instruction manual and you're bound to have lots of questions about their behaviour and appearance to begin with.

You can find some of the answers you need in Getting to know your newborn.

Breastfeeding your new baby

In the beginning it can seem like you're doing nothing but feeding, but gradually you and your baby will get into a pattern and the amount of milk you produce will settle.

Feed your baby as often as they want. This is called baby-led feeding. Let your baby decide when they've had enough. 

Find out more about:

Breastfeeding: the first few days

Soothing sore or cracked nipples

How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk

Washing and bathing your new baby

You don't need to bathe your baby in the first few days. You may prefer to wash their face, neck, hands and bottom carefully instead. This is sometimes called "topping and tailing".

Choose a time when your baby is awake and content. Make sure the room is warm and get everything ready beforehand. You'll need a bowl of warm water, a towel, cotton wool, a fresh nappy and, if necessary, clean clothes.

See how to 'top and tail' or bathe your new baby.

How to change your baby's nappy

Babies need frequent nappy changes, but how often they need changing depends on how sensitive their skin is. 

Some babies have very delicate skin and need changing as soon as they wet themselves, otherwise their skin becomes sore and red. Other babies can wait to be changed until before or after every feed.

All babies need changing as soon as possible when they've done a poo (stool) to prevent nappy rash.

Find out more about:

Changing your baby's nappy 

How to prevent nappy rash

Soothing a crying baby

Crying is your baby's way of telling you they need comfort and care. But it's not always easy to work out what they want.

Find out why your baby may be crying and how to soothe them

Helping your baby to sleep

It's normal for new babies to only sleep for two to three hours at a time through the night as well as during the day.

One reason is that newborn babies aren't tuned into day and night yet.

Babies also grow quickly in the early months and they have very small stomachs. This means they need to feed little and often.

As your baby grows, they'll gradually start to need fewer night feeds and will sleep for longer at night.

See how to get your baby into healthy sleep habits.

How to tell if your baby is seriously ill

It can be difficult to tell when a baby is seriously ill. Above all, it's important to trust your instincts.

You know your baby better than anyone else, so you'll know if their appearance or behaviour is worrying.

For a checklist of "red alert" symptoms that should always be treated as serious, see Does your child have a serious illness?

Reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

SIDS is rare, so don't let worrying about it stop you enjoying your baby's first few months.

Putting your baby on their back to sleep, in a cot in the same room as you, for the first six months is one way to reduce your baby's risk even further. 

Not smoking during pregnancy or breastfeeding, and not letting anyone else smoke in the same room as your baby, will also help to protect them.

See some more tips on reducing the risk of SIDS.

How can I cope with a lack of sleep?

Media last reviewed: 20/03/2014

Next review due: 20/03/2017

Page last reviewed: 14/04/2016

Next review due: 14/04/2018

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Services and support for parents

Find out what's available for new parents through the NHS, local authority, helplines and local parent groups