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Fingernails, Cord and Skin Care


Use manicure scissors with rounded tips or an emory board to trim your baby’s fingernails. Do not bite the nails as this may lead to infection. Trimming should be done when the baby is sleeping or in a quiet state.

Umbilical cord care

Your baby’s cord and the skin around it have been painted with a purple solution that will help dry out the cord. It’s important to follow these steps so that the cord will dry and fall off, revealing your baby’s new belly button.

Keep the cord dry

  • Roll the edge of the diaper away from the cord to expose it to air.
  • Do not place your baby in a tub of water until the cord falls off and the belly button area is completely dry and healed.

Cleaning the cord

As the cord prepares to fall off, the area attached to the body will appear moist and may begin to have an odor. Remember to clean the area where the cord is attached. Your healthcare provider can give you tips on how to do this.

The cord usually falls off in 10 to 21 days. After this happens, it’s not unusual to notice a small amount of blood on the baby’s undershirt for several days. If the following occur, call your healthcare provider:

  • The cord attachment site bleeds heavily
  • The area has a foul-smelling odor
  • The skin around the belly button becomes red or swollen

Skin care

Newborn skin is thin and sensitive so your baby may develop minor rashes or peeling; this is normal and does not need treatment. Your baby does not need to be bathed daily; every other day is fine.

Sponge baths

You will need to give your baby sponge baths until the cord falls off and the belly button area is completely dry and healed.

Supplies you will need:

  • Baby soap
  • Clean diaper
  • Two wash cloths
  • Two or more towels
  • Warm water
  • Clothing

Step-by-step bath time instructions:

  • Place baby on his or her back on a towel on a flat surface.
  • Do not turn your back on or take your hands off your baby even for a second; falls can happen very quickly.
  • Wash baby’s face with plain water and a mild soap.
  • Wipe from the inside of the eye to the outside to remove crust; use a clean area on the washcloth to clean the other eye.
  • Wash only the outside of the ears.
  • Undress baby; if it is cool, undress baby as you wash each part or undress and cover exposed areas with a towel.
  • Wash baby with warm water and mild soap or baby bath.
  • Start with clean areas and move to soiled areas cleaning the genitals last.
  • Pay special attention to creases and skin folds; be sure to extend arms and legs and to wash the neck area carefully.
  • Rinse each area and pat dry; do not rub baby’s delicate skin.
  • Powders, lotions, and oils are not recommended.
  • Diaper the baby and wrap him or her in a dry towel.
  • Hold the baby securely in the “football hold.”
  • Wet the baby’s hair by cupping your hand under warm running water and pouring it over the baby’s hair.
  • Apply small amount of baby shampoo to the baby’s hair.
  • Shampoo baby’s hair using slight pressure and circular motion with a baby brush or your fingertips; don’t be afraid to massage over the fontanel (soft spot).
  • Thoroughly rinse baby’s hair using a plastic cup or by cupping your hand under warm running water. Daily care of the scalp is important in preventing crustiness, or “cradle cap,” from forming on the scalp. Wash the baby’s hair with baby shampoo two or three times weekly; rinse with plain water on the other days.

Tub baths

  • Line the tub with a cloth or fitted sponge and fill it 1/3 full with warm water.
  • Undress baby completely and slip him or her into the tub gradually; at first, your baby will probably startle.
  • Support your baby’s head and neck at all times when bathing.
  • Clean baby in the same order as the sponge bath.
  • Wash your baby’s back by sitting him or her forward while supporting the chest and head.
  • Pat your baby dry and shampoo as above, then diaper and dress.
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