The Ultimate Guide to Natural Baby Care
Welcoming a newborn into your life can be daunting. Our team of mamas has put together a ultimate guide to baby care to help you ease into those first few weeks of life with a little one.
Welcoming a newborn baby into your family is a magical event, but it’s also a lot of work. Typically, the most stressful part is your fear of the unknown. Fear not, because when you stay ahead of the learning curve, caring for a new baby goes a lot more smoothly. Confidence in yourself is crucial to your success as a new parent, because you’ll need to think on your toes and trust your gut instincts to respond to your baby’s needs. However, parents are bombarded with information about how to care for their babies from marketers, their next-door neighbor and everyone else. This results in confusion and fuels the fear of uncertainty instead of quelling it. Plus, you’re already exhausted from the 3 a.m. feedings and diaper changes.
Hopefully, this simple guide for natural baby care can take out some of the guesswork for you. Here you’ll find natural solutions and the healthiest ways to feed, bathe and bond with your baby. You’ll also learn about baby skincare, soothing a crying newborn and getting your baby down to sleep.
Feeding Your Newborn Baby
Feeding your newest family member is an around-the-clock commitment. It helps to have both parents or other family members involved in your baby’s feeding schedule, because it’s a lot for one parent to take on alone.
Here’s an overview of what you need to know about feeding your new baby:
- Newborns only need to drink milk. They’re not ready for water, juice or baby food yet.
- Newborns require about 12 feedings a day, or once every 2 to 3 hours.
- Babies let you know when they’re hungry by crying, but try to feed them before they get to that point.
- When your baby won’t take the bottle, she isn’t hungry yet and you can offer it again soon.
- Your newborn may not be getting enough milk if she has less than 5 wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
Burping your baby during and after feedings is important for preventing a buildup of gas. Babies easily swallow air when drinking, whether they’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Getting the gas out as soon as possible is the best way to prevent gas pains and fussiness in your baby after meals, which often interferes with sleep. Babies won’t always burp after a feeding, but it’s important to burp them after each one.
How to Burp Your Baby
When your baby releases the nipple, try burping her right away. For proper burping, it’s important you get your baby in an upright position that will let the gas to release from the stomach. There are a couple of different ways to hold your baby for burping:
Over-the-Shoulder Burping Hold
One way to burp your newborn baby is to put her at your shoulder. Place her head over your shoulder so that her chin sits just at the top of your shoulder where it can rest. Holding her bottom and back with one hand, gently pat her back with the other.
Lap Burping Hold
Sit your baby upright on your lap as you sit in a chair. Lean her torso forward and support her chin with one hand, gripping her head gently around the jaws. Use your other hand to gently pat her on the back.
After a burp, you can offer more milk and your baby will take it if she’s still hungry.
“My Baby is Always Crying!” Acid Reflux in Infants
If you’ve been desperately asking, “why is my baby always crying?” then acid reflux is definitely a possibility. In the first few months of life, your baby’s trachea (the windpipe) is still developing, and it doesn’t yet close as tightly to stop stomach acid from resurfacing up through the esophagus. This can result in painful acid reflux, causing babies to fuss and cry excessively.
Signs Your Baby May Have Acid Reflux
If your baby is crying after meals and seems to have digestive discomfort, she could be experiencing acid reflux. Here are some clues you should look for:
- Fussiness and crying
- Excessive spitting up after meals
- Drinking extra milk or refusing to eat
- Gaining extra weight or failure to gain weight
- Wet burps
- Frequent hiccups
- Squirming and arching at the back
- Crying is worst when laying on back
- Crying is soothed when baby is held at a 30-degree with their stomach facing down and head tilting upwards just 30 degrees.
- Frequently waking up in the night
How to Soothe a Baby with Acid Reflux
If your baby is crying a lot and you think she may have acid reflux, you should schedule a pediatric appointment. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help soothe your baby and reduce their acid reflux:
- Keep your baby positioned upright for 30 minutes after each meal
- Give her infant probiotic drops to help aid with digestion and reduce acidity
- Hold her at a 30-degree with her stomach facing down and body tilting up 30 degrees
- Try a homeopathic antacid remedy safe for newborns
Tummy Troubles: Gas Pains in Infants
It’s normal for newborn babies to spit up a little after eating, because their digestive tract is still maturing. It’s also normal for babies to be gassy simply from swallowing air. They swallow air when they drink milk and when they cry, so it’s happening on a pretty normal basis. Typically, gas pains occur in infants from about the age of 2 weeks to 3 months old. Because their intestinal microbiome is in its infancy, it’s harder for them to break down certain molecules in food.
Gas in Bottle-Feeding Babies
If you’re bottle-feeding your baby, switch from a soy-based or cow’s milk-based formula to a goat milk-based formula, because it’s easier on the digestive system. Also, using vented bottles helps reduce the air your baby swallows while eating. Non-vented bottles can cause air to build up in the bottle, which your baby could swallow. See our guide to the best organic infant formula.
Gas in Breastfed Babies
If you’re breastfeeding, keep in mind that virtually whatever food you eat passes into your breastmilk and goes into your baby’s system. Dairy and gluten are the most common triggers of gas in breastfed infants. In their first couple of months, babies lack the enzymes and beneficial gut bacteria required to break down the molecules in these foods. Some babies are more sensitive than others, so breastfeeding moms may have to eliminate other foods from their diet, whether beans, cruciferous vegetables or otherwise, based on comparing their diet to their baby’s gas symptoms.
Bathing Your Newborn Baby
When your baby is brand new, you don’t need to bathe her every day. Once you’ve brought her home, there’s no rush to give her that first bath, especially if she’s had one at the hospital. You want to start with sponge baths, and only move to water baths when the umbilical cord has fallen off and the belly button has fully healed.
You only need to give your baby a sponge bath once every 2 or 3 days. Make sure the room you bathe her in is slightly warmer than normal room temperature. You want to wash inside the folds of her skin, such as in her neck and armpit area, where dead skin can build up and where milk sometimes dribbles down. Use a bathing sponge or a washcloth to gently clean her skin. Dry her with a soft towel and apply some natural baby lotion to keep her skin moisturized.
Once your baby’s belly button is fully healed, you can start giving her baths inside an infant bathing sling, which goes right into your bathtub. This is the safest way to give your baby a bath, since it doesn’t involve water submersion. With an infant bathing sling, the water you pour onto them goes through the mesh fabric and down the bathtub drain. You can gently wash her body with a sponge or washcloth.
Infant Skin Care
Your baby’s skin is brand new to the world, and it typically requires more care. Newborn skin can easily get irritated and dry, and of course, it needs extra protection from the sun.
You might notice dry, peeling skin in the first few days of life, and it may persist through their first several weeks, too. If this is happening, use a humidifier in their nursery, and moisturize her skin with a natural lotion product or simply with coconut oil.
Eczema is like an allergic reaction on the skin, more common in infants than in older children and adults. It results in patches of irritated skin, often on the cheeks, scalp, torsos, hands or feet. Coconut oil has been found to help skin by combatting inflammation and strengthening the skin barrier. Apply a thin amount of organic cold-pressed coconut oil directly on to the eczema site before bed and once or twice throughout the day or during naps.
There’s almost no baby who doesn’t get diaper rash at some point, and it’s likely to turn up within your baby’s first few weeks. Your newborn’s sensitive new skin gets easily irritated by the trapped moisture in a dirty diaper. Here are some natural remedies to treat diaper rash that work effectively and safely:
- Baking soda bath – Soothe your baby’s bottom in a bowl of lukewarm water mixed with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. This quickly kills bacteria and dries out the rash, but requires you to rinse with water and moisturize well afterward to avoid drying out the skin. To help hydrate and heal your baby’s irritated bum, use a natural diaper rash cream product such as Erbaviva’s diaper cream.
- Breastmilk – This method only works if you’re breastfeeding. Use some of your stored breastmilk or express a tiny amount from your breast, and apply the milk to the site of your baby’s diaper rash. Do this after every diaper change and after her bath. The milk contains the exact antibodies needed to fight the bacteria in the skin infection, and breastmilk has a soothing, moisturizing effect on skin.
See more on treating diaper rashes with our guide to natural diaper rash treatments.
If you thought acne starts at the teenage stage, you may be surprised to hear it can start in infancy. If a pimple or two show up on your baby’s cute little face, it’s completely normal. The oil glands on your baby’s face are brand new and they’re simply going through a natural process of development. If your baby scratches acne lesions or pimples, the sites can cause a lot of pain. Try to treat acne early on with gentle, natural remedies, and by keeping your baby’s face clean by washing it with mild infant soap just once daily. Excessive washing can make it worse. Also, don’t apply any lotion to your baby’s face. It’s best to let it air dry after washing.
Lavender Oil Acne Remedy
Lavender essential oil is another gentle acne remedy you can apply to the site of your baby’s acne.
- Mix organic lavender essential oil with coconut oil or another carrier oil like jojoba oil or even olive oil, at a 1:1 ratio.
- Apply a small amount of the mixture to the site of your baby’s acne lesions or pimples.
To keep your newborn sun-safe, keep her covered at all times when spending time out in the sun. For example, on the beach, use an umbrella or tent. At the park, use your baby’s stroller to keep her in the shade. As your baby gets older and starts exploring the outdoor on her own, your baby will need to wear sunscreen. You can find natural sunscreen products made with non-toxic ingredients like Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen. Make sure you use the sunscreen according to the product label. Even with sunscreen, try to still keep your baby covered with a hat and cool, breathable clothing, or have her play in a shaded area.
Bonding Activities To Do with Your Baby
Bonding is not just important for your baby, but also for you and her other caregivers. As your baby explores her new world, interaction with friendly faces and familiar voices helps put her at ease. Babies love being held and sang to. Here are some other bonding activities you can do with your baby:
Babies love seeing faces and interacting with funny expressions. When your baby is laying on her back or sitting in a bouncer, smile at her and make silly faces.
Stand with your baby in front of a mirror. Let her see herself and you in the mirror, as you point to each person. Get closer to the mirror and move further away. Allow your baby to explore her reflection and watch yours.
Children are never too young to start “reading” with their parents. Once your baby is a couple of weeks old, she can start seeing the colorful pages more clearly. By the time she’s a few months old, she will start helping you turn the pages, and by 1 she’ll be pointing at things on the pages. See our Book section for a range of the best baby books.
Pediatricians recommend giving your newborn baby just a little bit of “tummy time” each day. This helps her strengthen her back and neck muscles in preparation for sitting upright. Just put her on her tummy on a soft playmat, or on your bed when you’re right next to her. If your baby fusses, turn her over and let her rest on her back. Tummy time doesn’t have to be forced. If your baby doesn’t like it, try again at a different time. Even just a minute or two of tummy time a day makes a difference.
Infants and Sleep: Everything You Need to Know
When your baby shows the first cues of being sleepy, start the process of soothing her to sleep. If you notice your baby typically gets sleepy a feed or after a bath, you can also use those as cues for putting her down. Newborns typically sleep for 2 to 5 hours at a time, for a total of 16 to 17 hours a day. Don’t try to force them on a schedule right away, because irregular sleeping patterns are normal at first. When your baby wakes up, feed her and then wait for her cues to know when she needs to sleep again.
Putting Your Baby to Bed Safely
There’s a checklist you should go through as you put your baby down for bed. Safe sleep practices help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Here are the best practices to follow:
- Your baby should be in a crib with a firm mattress every time she sleeps.
- Put her to sleep on her back.
- Have her dressed in warm pajamas or a wearable blanket for newborns.
- Do not place a blanket on your baby or in her crib.
- Keep the crib clear of toys, stuffed animals, pillows, crib bumpers and any other objects.
Soothing A Fussy Baby
Newborn babies generally get fussy when they need things, such as when they’re hungry, tired or need a diaper change. When you’ve ruled these possibilities out and your baby is still crying, check her fingers and toes for any hairs that have wrapped around them. Sometimes your baby may pull your hair and get it tangled around her fingers. If nothing seems to be wrong physically, your baby may be seeking comfort.
Newborns are accustomed to life inside the womb, and entering our world comes as a shock to their sensory system. They’re no longer floating inside fluid within the small confines of their mother’s belly. There are a few things you can do to help your baby adjust. She should stop crying when you soothe her in a way that mimics her life in the womb.
- Use a swaddling blanket to swaddle your baby. This wraps around her body so that she feels similar to the way she felt inside the womb, with little wiggle room.
- Make “swishing” noises or use a white noise machine. You can also try your stove top fan. These noises sound like what your baby listened to while inside the womb.
- Swing your baby from side to side. As you cradle your baby in your arms, try different movements and see how she responds. Sometimes walking around the room will lull her to sleep, or swinging her side to side in your arms or in a newborn sway swing will do the trick.
- Rock her in a rocking chair. Rocking chairs are still around in nurseries for a reason. Many babies love the rocking motion, and you’ll love being able to sit down as you soothe your baby.
- Reduce stimulation in the room. Newborn babies can easily become overstimulated, since everything in the world is new to them. Make sure the lights are dimmed, your phone is on silent and the room is still. If overstimulation seems to be the problem, avoid singing or music, and just put on some soft white noise.
- Provide a pacifier. The sucking motion can be soothing to a baby’s nerves, so giving your child a pacifier may help her stop crying and drift to sleep.
Straight-Forward Natural Baby Care for New Parents
If you haven’t spent much time around newborns and now you have one of your own, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and even downright scared. Of course, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in adjusting to life with a newborn. Be patient. Your confidence will grow with each day of caring for your newborn and getting used to the new routine.
Following this guide should help you and your baby get off to a great start. Place your newborn baby under quality pediatric care you can trust, as a good pediatrician can answer questions you have. At the end of the day, remember to encourage yourself, as many new parents are too hard on themselves. Take enough time for self care and get the support you need from others to help you care for your newborn.
Our Top Natural Baby Care Products
We’ve put together a list of our tried and tested products that will make life with a new baby simpler and easier.
A luxurious and light lotion carefully crafted with natural emulsifiers and organic oils to moisturize tender and sensitive skin on babies and adults.
A gentle wash made with soothing chamomile, nourishing aloe, and oat and calendula extracts to naturally nurture and clean even the most sensitive and delicate skin.
Soothe irritating rashes with Erbaviva’s Diaper Cream, made from an all-natural cream base formulated with soothing aloe and super-curative Echinacea, long used as an effective topical wound healer and aid to reduce redness, inflammation and pain.
A light and silky cream that doesn’t leave unsightly white residue, Erbaviva Sunscreen is perfect for applying to face and body and offers high possible SPF protection possible without use of unwanted chemicals.
Bath & Potty Time
Kyte BABY Solid Washcloths come in a convenient five-pack so you’ll always have a backup during mealtime or bath time. Made of sustainable bamboo that has natural absorbency, they’re soft and gentle to use on your baby’s delicate skin.
The Stokke Flexi Bath is a foldable baby bath suitable from birth to four years. The space saving design makes it easy to store and convenient to use at home or when traveling. The optional Newborn Support provides additional comfort for newborn babies.
Free of harmful ingredients like chlorine, fragrance, latex and optical brighteners, Coterie makes the hypoallergenic diaper you’ve been looking for.
Coterie Wipes’ enhanced formula is made with purified water and skin-protecting lotion to effectively clean and moisturize your baby’s skin, gently. Hypoallergenic, each wipe is 20% larger than the average baby wipe for broader coverage and higher absorbency.
Made from 100% cotton, the Pehr round playmat provides a large, cushioned space for babies to love tummy time and safely perform milestone exercises like rolling, sitting and standing.
Wee Gallery’s Baby’s First Soft Book – Friendly Faces has been made so little hands can explore lovable collections of animal babies.
Mem Fox’s beloved book will delight parents and sooth babies. All over the world, babies are different. Yet in some ways they are very much the same: each one has ten little fingers and ten little toes – to play with, to tickle, to wave.
It’s always wise to have a good supply of burp cloths to catch those dribbles. Made using 100% organic Peruvian Pima cotton, these super soft burp cloths get even softer with each wash.
The Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle (8 oz) features an ultra wide-neck design, dual anti-colic vents to prevent unwanted air-intake to help reduce instances of colic and a unique soft and skin-like bottle material that offers a better grip and a soothing, calming feel.
The HALO SleepSack Swaddle replaces loose blankets in the crib that can cover your baby’s face and interfere with breathing. In addition to helping your baby sleep safer, it helps him sleep better, too. Discontinue swaddling when the baby shows signs of rolling over or breaking out of the swaddle wrap.
Made of 100% organic pima cotton, 12 | 12’s footed pajamas have a no-fuss front snap closure as well as a non-skid bar print on the feet. An absolute wardrobe essential, they are designed to be snug fitting, which means they don’t require harmful chemicals like flame retardants.
The Hart + Land Organic Cotton Swaddle with Large Star print is a must have item for any parent. Incredibly versatile, it can be used for swaddling, nursing, tummy time, shading, snuggling, wall art and more. Made from 100% organic cotton it gets softer with each wash and will be adored and used daily.
The revolutionary Baby Shusher will help soothe a fussy baby by engaging their natural calming reflex. Utilizing an ancient but doctor tested technique, it makes a rhythmic shushing sound that mimics in utero noises and soothes little ones.
- Tot Lactation Expert Rebecca Agi, MS, IBCLC shares her top tips every mom-to-be should know before getting ready to breastfeed. Here are 10 simple breastfeeding tips to help get you and your tot off to a strong start.
- It goes without saying that life with a newborn can be tricky – there’s sleep deprivation to deal with, potential feeding issues, and of course, adjusting to having a baby to care for 24/7. Here’s what we wish we knew the first time around. See our guide on life with a new baby.