Hesperian Health Guides

Care for a new baby

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 11: Labor and birth > Care for a new baby

Breastmilk is the best food for your baby. Keep your baby warm and clean and let it suckle as often as it likes.

Babies often have a little yellowish mucus coming from their eyes in the first weeks after birth. You can wash out the eyes with breast milk or cool, boiled water and a clean cloth. If the baby’s eyes get red, swollen, or have a lot of pus in them, take the baby to a health worker.

Care of the cord

Keep the cord stump on the baby clean and dry. If possible, clean it with alcohol and a clean cloth with every diaper (nappy) change. It will turn black and fall off during the first week. You do not need to cover it with anything unless there are flies or dust. Then you can use a very clean piece of gauze or cloth to cover it loosely.

If you notice redness or pus around the cord, the baby may have an infection. Take the baby to a health worker for medicines right away. Watch for signs of tetanus, an infection babies can get if the cord is cut with something that is not clean.

Tetanus of the newborn


Take the baby to a health center or hospital right away. If the hospital is more than 2 hours away, give the baby an injection of 100,000 Units of benzylpencillin before leaving.

Danger signs of tetanus in the newborn

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  • fever
  • baby cannot suckle the breast
  • baby cries all the time
  • fast breathing
  • baby’s body gets stiff