Baby Care - Body Care
Most parents are nervous at first about handling tiny and apparently fragile newborn babies. As a mother or father becomes more confident, routine baby care is easier. To maintain the health of a newborn baby, a basic rule is to keep the baby clean, safe, and well groomed. In the early weeks this means daily attention to the following areas.
Care of the Genitals. Hospitals and visiting nurses are sometimes reluctant to explain how to clean a baby's genitals and often recommend not touching them. But such inaction can lead to infections that might otherwise have been prevented.
The genitals of a baby girl must be kept clean. It is not necessary to wash inside the lips of the vulva during the first week after birth, but the parent should thereafter from time to time wipe the genitals from the front toward the anus with a cotton swab dipped in warm water or baby oil. It is important to do this. Any stool or vaginal discharge left on the skin, which can even happen after a bath, can cause a vaginal infection or urinary tract infection if it is not cleaned away.
With a baby boy, never attempt to pull back the foreskin of the penis. The foreskin and the tip of the penis are united at birth and only gradually separate. It is unnecessary to pull back the foreskin in order to wash the penis until the child is about four years old.
Circumcision. Medical opinion is divided about the value of circumcision. If for social or religious reasons a baby is to be circumcised, the operation should be performed before the tenth day after birth. There are two common methods: (1) cutting the foreskin after a mechanical device called a Gomco has severed the tissues to prevent bleeding (the traditional method); or (2) applying a plastic cone to the penis inside the foreskin, stitching round it, and then cutting. There foreskin and the cone fall off together within two or three days.
After a baby is circumcised, a gauze bandage is usually applied, which should be carefully soaked off in the bath after 24 hours or when the physician advises. The gauze bandage must not be pulled or bleeding may start. After the bandage has been soaked free, dry the area with a soft towel. Apply a sterile piece of gauze impregnated with petroleum jelly to prevent diapers from sticking to the skin. Similar dressings should be used for at least two more days. After that time, the skin should have healed.
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