Baby care, for the most part, is routine and is best approached in an organized way. The key to this organization is to correctly equip and arrange the baby’s room. Bathing, changing, and feeding the baby also should follow an organized routine whenever possible. Common sense is also essential, especially concerning the safety of the child. Members of the family with illnesses should be kept out of the baby’s room, as should any type of pet.
The Proper Environment
The baby’s Room.
A newborn infant may share the parent’s bedroom for the first few months, but even if this is the case, a separate room should be planned and equipped so that everything is conveniently at hand for the main activities in the baby’s life: nursing, body hygiene, and diaper changing.
The room itself should be warm and well ventilated. A constant temperature of 68 to 72 Fahrenheit degrees (20 to 22 Celsius degrees) is advisable for any baby who weighs less than 8 pounds (3.6 Kg), but as the baby grows and puts on weight, the nighttime temperature may be allowed to drop slightly. It is important that the air in the room is not dry. If possible, place a humidifier in the room to keep the air warm and moist.
Every baby needs fresh air but should be protected from drafts, so make sure that the crib is not next to an open window when the baby is asleep. In cold weather, the room should be aired when the baby is not occupying it.
For the convenience of the parents, the room should be well lighted, but newborn infants are unable to adjust their eyes to a bright light. A ceiling light therefore should have a low-power bulb or a dimmer attachment on the light switch. A small table lamp is useful, particularly when placed on the dresser to illuminate the contents of the drawers.
Even a small baby becomes quickly bored by having nothing to look at. A mobile above the bassinet or crib may hold the infant’s attention, as will brightly colored pictures fixed within the baby’s field of vision.
Furniture and Equipment.
The most important piece of furniture in the baby’s room is the bed. The most suitable first bed for a newborn infant is a bassinet, straw basket, or portable crib because a tiny baby feels more secure in a fairly small space. If the baby is going to sleep in a crib, put bumper pads around the edge and wrap the baby firmly so that he or she feels secure.
The mattress must be firm and smooth and should fit the bed snugly. Never use a pillow instead of a mattress-use a foam pad at least one inch (25mm) thick, and make sure that the waterproof cover fits tightly over the mattress. If you are using a straw or cane bassinet, line the inside with material to prevent the baby from catching or scratching the fingers or face on rough edge. This also helps to prevent drafts. A baby under the age of one year should never be given a pillow for the head.
A low, comfortable chair with armrests and a straight back is another important item in the baby’s room. The chair can be used for feeding with the bottle or nursing at the breast; or the parent can sit in the chair and change the baby’s diaper on the lap instead of on a changer.
All the equipment needed during a diaper change should be within reach so that the parent does not have to leave an infant unattended on the changing surface. A shelf attached to the side of the changing table is useful for storing cream, powder, cotton, and diapers. If this is not possible, make sure that there is a working surface at the correct height next to the changing area. Overhead shelves are convenient, but can be dangerous since a jar or bottle could fall on the baby.
Place two buckets with lids for dirty diapers and clothes by the side of the changing area. A wastebasket also should be beside the changing area for used pieces of cotton.
There should be a plastic bathtub on a sturdy stand in the room and a rack on which to hang towels and a facecloth. It is more suitable to bathe a small baby in his or her room because the temperature is more easily maintained than in an adult bathroom. Even if the room is centrally heated, it may be necessary to boost the room temperature with a heater before bath time. The heater can be either of the radiator type or an electrical heater placed high on the wall.
If parents intend always to feed the baby in his or her own room, a separate low table or cart should be set aside for nursing and feeding articles.
A dresser is useful for storing sheets, blankets, towels, diapers, and clean clothing. As the baby grows out of clothes, they should be stored elsewhere to ensure that the dresser does not become overfull.
When planning and equipping a baby’s room, safety factors should always be kept in mind. Babies quickly become mobile; it is often not until a near-accident occurs that the parents realize how active the baby is.
All the furniture in the room should be strong and stable so that a crawling infant is not able to overturn it. The windows should have safety stops on them so that they cannot be opened wide enough for the child to crawl out of. As an alternative, parents can fix bars (vertical ones) over the window. If there are electrical outlets at ground level, cover them with outlet covers (which are available at hardware or department stores) or place a piece of heavy furniture in front of them because the crawling child will soon try poking something into the plug.
Cribs should be selected carefully. Bars should be less than 2.5 inches (6.25cm) apart, so that the child cannot get stuck or choke. There must be no peeling paint. Once the crib is set up, do not tie to the bars anything in which the child might become entangled.
Never use an unguarded space heater in a baby’s room. Liquid fuel heaters are also dangerous and should not be used.