Screen_Shot_2024-05-01_at_9.jpegThe arrival of a newborn baby ushers in a whirlwind of emotions for experienced and first-time parents alike, blending joy and excitement with an overwhelming sense of responsibility. The first few weeks are critical as both the baby and parents adjust to their new roles, but understanding your baby's unique needs and behaviors during this period can significantly ease this transition.

Newborns communicate in their own ways, through cries, coos, and subtle body movements, and develop rapidly. Capital Area Pediatrics is here to offer specialized support to guide you through these early stages. From  newborn care to  lactation counseling, our team can help you with expert insights and practical advice tailored to your family's needs, ensuring you and your baby have the healthiest start possible.

Take this essential step in your parenting journey with Capital Area Pediatrics—because understanding your newborn's needs isn't just about getting through the night; it's about laying the foundation for a lifetime of love and growth.

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Watching for Milestones

Every baby is unique, and no two babies develop at the same pace. However, most infants follow a relatively predictable pattern of development, with developmental milestones that allow you to track your newborn's growth and progress. By the end of the first month, some milestones you can expect to see include:

  • Moving their head from side to side when on their stomach.
  • Bringing their hands within range of their eyes and mouth.
  • Focusing on faces and objects up to 12 inches away (about the distance to your face when holding them).
  • Letting their eyes wander or occasionally cross.
  • Recognizing the scent of their mother's breast milk.

Not meeting all of these milestones does not necessarily mean there is a problem. However, if your newborn appears to be significantly behind in multiple areas of development, it's always best to consult with your pediatrician.

Understanding Feeding

Feeding your baby is about more than just providing nutrition; it's also an opportunity to bond and connect deeply with your little one. For mothers who breastfeed, breast milk offers a perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat, and is easily digested by newborns. Formula feeding, on the other hand, can be a great alternative for mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to for various reasons.

Whether you choose to breastfeed, formula feed, or use a combination of both, what matters most is that your baby is getting the necessary nourishment to grow healthy and strong. One way to ensure this is by learning how to recognize your baby's hunger cues, which is key to a successful feeding routine.

These cues can include stirring, stretching, sucking motions with their mouth, and becoming more alert. Crying is a late indicator of hunger, so it's beneficial to feed your baby before this point. In the early weeks, newborns typically need to be fed every 2-3 hours, including overnight.

For mothers who are breastfeeding,lactation counseling can be incredibly helpful. From helping with latch issues to ensuring adequate milk supply, lactation consultants provide invaluable support and guidance. Additionally, we also offer a  virtual breastfeeding workshop for expecting, new, and experienced parents to learn how to prepare and set themselves up for success.

Don't hesitate to reach out for support—it takes a village to raise a child, and there's plenty of help available for those who need it.

Deciphering Sleeping Patterns

Newborns sleep a lot, typically between 16 to 18 hours a day, but in short spurts of two to four hours at a time. During the night, you might find that your baby sleeps in similarly brief sessions, as their small stomachs require frequent feedings around the clock. Moreover, they have yet to develop their own internal clock (and won't until they are about three months old), so trying to set a regular sleep schedule is unlikely to work.

As a new parent, sleep deprivation can be one of the most challenging aspects of caring for a newborn. It's essential to find ways to rest and recharge whenever possible, whether it's during naps or by enlisting the help of a partner, family member, or friend. Remember that taking care of yourself is just as crucial as taking care of your baby, and a well-rested parent is better equipped to handle the demands of caring for an infant.

To promote safe sleep and minimize the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), it's recommended that families follow  the ABCs of Safe Sleep:

  • Alone: Though room-sharing is allowed, babies should have their own place to sleep in. In other words, no bed-sharing with other people. Additionally, their space should be clear of all pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, and other toys. Binkies are fine, so long as they aren’t attached to the baby, their clothes, or the crib. 
  • Back: Babies should sleep on their back. They will eventually learn how to roll over on their own, typically around 5 months. Once they can do so confidently, it’s okay to leave them on their tummy, but they should always be laid down on their back to start.
  • Crib: Only use a crib, bassinet, or portable play yard as their sleep space. Though it’s okay to let them sleep in their car seat (at least while traveling), it’s best to avoid letting them sleep anywhere else, like a couch, armchair, swing, or bouncer.

Ensuring your baby's room is comfortable—neither too hot nor too cold—is also important. A good rule of thumb to keep your baby warm is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than you would wear to be comfortable in the same environment. Checking your baby's body temperature by touching the tummy or back of the neck can also give you an idea if they are too hot or cold.

Adapting to your newborn's sleep schedule requires patience and a bit of trial and error to discover what works best for your baby and your family. Rest assured, with time and guidance, you and your baby will find a rhythm that suits you both.

Navigating Doctor’s Appointments

Navigating your baby's health involves a series of doctor's appointments that are essential for monitoring their development and addressing any concerns early. The  American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a new baby have their first pediatric visit within 3-5 days after birth, and then once again before the end of the first month. These visits are crucial for ensuring that your baby is feeding well, gaining weight, and developing as expected.

During these appointments, parents can expect a comprehensive check-up that includes measuring weight, length, and head circumference to track growth. The pediatrician will also perform a physical examination of the baby from head to toe. Additionally, if it wasn't already administered at the hospital, the Hepatitis B vaccine may be given.

These well-child visits are also an excellent opportunity for parents to ask any questions they have and address any concerns about their child's health, growth, or development. Remember that your pediatrician is here to support you and your baby, so don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or worries you may have. It's always better to seek guidance from a medical professional rather than relying on self-diagnosis or online sources.

If you haven’t selected a pediatrician for your baby yet, our Capital Area Pediatrics team invites you to  register for one of our prenatal sessions, meet with one of our providers, and discover how we can partner with you to give your child a healthy start in life. We look forward to meeting you!

Other Newborn Care Essentials

Caring for a newborn is a beautiful journey that involves a steep learning curve. Many babies thrive on routine, and as you get to know your baby, you'll become more confident in the daily care essentials like diapering, bathing, and nail care.


Diapering is an activity you'll become very familiar with.  On average, newborns need to be changed 8-12 times a day, so make sure you have plenty of diapers and wipes on hand. When changing your baby's diaper, make sure to clean the genital area with gentle wipes or a warm washcloth, wiping from front to back for girls. Applying a barrier cream, like petroleum jelly or zinc oxide-based ointments, can also help prevent diaper rash.


Newborns don't require daily baths, and in fact, bathing them too frequently can dry out a baby's skin. So long as the diaper area is cleaned well during diaper changes, your new baby will only need a bath two to three times a week.

Sponge bathing is recommended until your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, which usually happens within the first few weeks. To give your newborn a sponge bath, first, ensure you have all the necessary supplies within reach: a warm, safe place to lay your baby, a basin of lukewarm water, a soft washcloth, gentle baby soap, a towel (preferably one with a hood to keep your baby's head warm), and a clean diaper and clothes.

1. Washing Their Face and Hair: Wet the washcloth with water (no soap), and gently wipe your baby’s face. Pay special attention to the areas under the eyes and behind the ears. For the hair, you can apply a tiny amount of baby soap to the cloth or your hand, lather gently, and then rinse by wiping with a damp cloth.

2. Washing Their Body: Dip the washcloth in the basin with lukewarm water mixed with a small amount of baby soap. Wring out excess water and gently wash your baby’s body, one part at a time. Start with the chest and move downwards. Pay attention to folds under the arms, behind the ears, around the neck, and in the diaper area.

3. Rinsing and Drying: After washing each section of your baby’s body, rinse the soap off with a clean, wet washcloth (without soap). Following the bath, wrap your baby in a soft towel, making sure their head is covered, and pat them dry without rubbing their delicate skin.

4. Finishing Up: Once your baby is dry, you may choose to apply Vaseline or another simple emollient. Dress your baby in clean clothes and ensure they are warm and comfortable.

Nail Care

Taking care of your baby's nails is another essential aspect to prevent accidental scratches on their face or yours. Baby nails grow fast, and while it might seem daunting, trimming them with a proper baby nail clipper or file can keep your baby's hands safe.

The best time to trim your baby's nails is when they are sleeping or calm and relaxed. Avoid doing it when they are wiggly, as this could lead to accidental cuts. Gently press each fingertip to extend the nail and trim straight across to prevent ingrown nails. Babies have tiny fingers, so make sure you don't cut too close to their skin. If you accidentally nick your baby's finger, use a clean cloth to apply light pressure to stop the bleeding.

Sponge baths should be a gentle, bonding experience for both of you. Take your time and use it as an opportunity to soothe and communicate with your newborn through gentle touches and calm, loving talk.

Signs that Require Medical Attention

Beyond daily care, it's vital to be observant of any changes in your baby’s behavior or physical health. Some signs that warrant a call or a visit to the pediatrician include:

  • Fever (rectal temperature of 100.4°F or higher)
  • Dehydration (dry mouth, no tears when crying, and less than six wet diapers in 24 hours)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting after every feed
  • Inconsolable
  • Lethargic or unarousable

Trust your instincts as a parent. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s always better to seek support. Every parent goes through moments of doubt, but remember, you are not alone in this journey. Your pediatrician is here to provide guidance and support to ensure your newborn's health and well-being.

Support for Parents

Becoming new parents is a profoundly beautiful experience, yet it's undeniable that it also introduces emotional and physical challenges. The seismic shift in daily routines, coupled with the constant concern for your newborn's care, can be overwhelming. It's crucial to remember the importance of self-care in this new chapter. Ensuring you're physically and emotionally healthy enables you to provide the best care for your baby.

Don't underestimate the value of building a strong support system among family, friends, and healthcare providers. This network of trust and support can be a tremendous source of strength and encouragement as you navigate the challenges of new parenthood.

Family members and friends who have gone through similar experiences can offer practical advice, lend a sympathetic ear, and provide much-needed emotional support. Engaging with community resources such as local parent-and-baby groups can also offer the chance to connect with others sharing similar experiences.

Meanwhile, your healthcare providers are crucial allies in ensuring your baby's health, offering professional guidance, and addressing any concerns you may have. From your CAP pediatrician to a mental health counselor, don't hesitate to reach out and ask for support when you need it. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

At Capital Area Pediatrics, we understand the joys and challenges of parenthood. Our compassionate team is here to support you and your baby through every stage of their development. From preventive care to guidance on common issues, our pediatricians are committed to providing the best possible care for your child. Together, let's give your baby the healthiest start in life.

From well-child visits to specialty care, the team at  Capital Area Pediatrics is here to help your family stay healthy.  Request an appointment online, or find a  location near you today.

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