The baby – Care

Babies thrive on good care – of all kinds. A varied, balanced diet and careful hygiene contribute to health and happiness, but just as important is a.warm emotional environment. A baby who is well cared for physically but not loved will not thrive. Babies need physical affection: people who received few cuddles and caresses as babies are often unable, as adults, to give their own children this kind of love. Babies also need mental stimulation in order to encourage their intellectual progress. The youngest baby is aware of his surroundings. He is interested in watching other people and being talked to. For this reason, even the busiest parents should find, and if necessary make, time to play with and talk to their baby.

Keeping a baby clean

Keeping a young baby clean is not difficult. Many babies enjoy a bath, provided the bath water and the room are warm. The addition of a bath toy can also make getting clean more fun. At first, it is easier to bath the baby in a small baby-bath. (A large, well-cleaned, polythene washing-up bowl makes a very good substitute.) The temperature of the water should be tested with the elbow or the inside of the wrist. If it feels comfortably warm, it is right for the baby. Wash a young baby’s face with clean water before putting him into the bath. Lower him in carefully, and support his head while washing him. As the baby gets older, and is able to sit up, he doen not need to be held all the time he is in the bath; but he should not be left alone, in case he slips and his head goes under the water. Wash him with either baby soap or a special baby-bath solution that is added to the water beforehand. His hair should be washed with a gentle baby shampoo. After his bath, dry the baby with a soft towel, ensuring no moisture is left in the skin creases. Babypowder may be used, but it is no substitute for thorough drying.

A baby’s nose, ears and eyes usually keep themselves clean; too much enthusiastic probing and washing may do more harm than good. A young baby’s eyes can be gently wiped from the inner corners outwards, with cotton wool moistened in clean water; a fresh swab should be used for each eye. If he develops an eye infection, common in babies of this age, use boiled water and sterile swabs. Do not attempt to clean inside a baby’s nose or ears. A runny nose can be gently wiped with damp cotton wool or a soft tissue. The outside of the ears should also be washed, giving particular attention to the creases behind them, which may become sore if left damp and neglected. Opinion is divided about whether a baby’s first few teeth should be cleaned. There is probably no harm in giving him a small toothbrush to chew so he becomes used to the idea. The most important care for a baby’s teeth, however, is to ensure that once he has started solid food he is not given too much sweetened food. Some babies are born with long fingernails and these . have to be cut to prevent the baby from scratching himself accidentally. Sooner or later, all babies need to have their nails cut. Use blunt-ended scissors, so that if the baby moves suddenly he will not be hurt. It is often easier to cut the nails while he is asleep, and after a bath, when they are softer. Cut the nails straight across, level with the ends of the fingers.

Crying

The only way for babies to make their presence felt or to communicate their needs is by crying, and consequently most babies cry a great deal. The baby who is content to gurgle quietly in his cot for long periods of time is a rare, if welcome, exception. Generally, a crying baby is one who has been startled or who is uncomfortable because he is hungry, too hot or cold, or has soiled his nappy – all of which are easely remedied. Sometimes a baby cries simply because he wants some attention and wants to be cuddled. Occasionally, however, crying may point to a more serious cause, the most common being wind and colic. Some schools of thought still suggest that a baby will be somehow ‘spoilt’ if he is picked up every time he cries. In fact, a young baby cannot have too much reassurance and if left to ‘cry it out’ is likely to swallow air and develop wind, making the problem worse.