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The Bump Editors

What Every New Parent Should Know Before Bringing Home Baby

Baby’s finally coming home! Wondering what happens next? Here’s everything you need to know to make it through those first few weeks.

HEAD HOME

What to wear
Take the approach of less is more when packing baby’s going-home attire. A simple T-shirt, diaper and baby blanket for wrapping work in warm weather; colder weather calls for a cozy sleeper and some extra blankets for bundling.

How to travel
Get ready for the car ride home. Hospitals won’t even let you leave without an approved car seat — it should be rear-facing and strapped in the backseat.

KNOW THE BASICS

There are two soft spots
One is on the top of the head and the other is on the back. These are points on the head where baby’s bones haven’t grown together yet. Sounds scary, but, in fact, there’s a tough membrane covering the soft spots of the skull. So there’s actually no real risk of hurting baby’s head while you’re holding him or her.

Nails grow fast
Trim the nails with infant-size clippers while baby’s sleeping. Because nails are so small and grow quickly early on, you may need to trim them up to twice a week. Smooth rough edges with a soft emery board.

Acne happens
Baby has your hormones to thank for all those red bumps on his or her face. Do not pick or pop them. Instead wash face up to three times a day with warm water and gently pat dry.

Eyes can look crossed
For about the first six months, baby’s eyes tend to drift, especially when he or she’s exhausted or focusing on something very close. Talk to the doctor if you notice they get stuck or make any odd windshield-wiper-like motions.

Earwax builds up
Don’t stick anything into baby’s ear canal. If you’re concerned about buildup, talk to baby’s doctor.

Birthmarks pop up
Often called “stork bites,” such marks can appear on places like baby’s nose, eyelids or on the back of his neck. If baby is crying or changes temperatures, the spot may darken. Most marks disappear within 18 months, so if the doctor isn’t concerned, don’t worry.

Watch for jaundice
Some babies — especially breastfed ones and preemies — develop a yellowing of the skin and eyes in the first week. It’s fairly common and tends to go away on its own in two to three weeks as baby’s liver matures, but it does require a trip to the doctor to have it checked.

Skin needs moisturizing
Dry skin or eczema looks like red patches and can cover baby’s body and cheeks. Limit baths and slather on petroleum-based creams for relief. If it’s serious, the doctor may suggest low-dose, anti-inflammatory ointments.

KEEP BABY COMFY

Don’t over-bundle
As a rule of thumb, put baby in one extra layer than you’re comfortable wearing. So if you’re fine in a T-shirt, put baby in a lightweight onesie with a swaddled blanket.

Decode cries
Watch and listen so you’ll be able to learn what’s wrong with baby. “I’m hungry” sounds rhythmic and repetitive, but “I’m in pain” is louder and more intense.

Hold baby right
Place the head in the crook of one arm and either wrap your other arm around baby or hold the original arm with the second arm. Keep the head supported.

Do tummy time
Babies spend a lot of time on their backs, but they need to develop other muscles too. To give those other parts a workout, lie down on the floor, put baby stomach down on your chest, and then have her squirm up toward your face.

GET THE POOP

First poops are dark
Those first few diapers will most likely contain stool that’s black in color and is referred to as meconium. Why is it so dark? It’s the result of all the nutrients baby received in utero. Don’t stress about it. In the beginning, this is normal and healthy.

Color gives clues
The shade of baby’s poop depends on what you feed him. If you breastfeed, for example, it’ll be a shade of mustard yellow with what looks like seeds. The plus is it doesn’t really smell. Formula-fed babies, though, tend to produce poop that ranges anywhere from a shade of yellow to brown or green. Sorry, but this batch is much stinkier. Also keep an eye out for certain abnormal bowel movements, which are fairly easy to spot. Poop in shades of red (this could mean blood), black (with the exception of the first few) or white are all warning signs, so you should alert your doctor.

It gets animated
Because grunting, crying or turning red is normal when baby poops, there’s no reason to be alarmed. And once newborns get used to how their body works, they won’t be quite as loud about it. Remember that this is all new for them too.

Frequency varies
Some babies go a few times a day, while others only need to poop once. Breastfed babies will often poop after almost every feeding so prepare for lots of diaper changes. Most babies poop less as they grow (some may even skip a day, which is usually normal).

MARK MILESTONES

2 weeks old
Your little one may start to focus on faces a bit more.

3 weeks old
This is the point to watch for signs of colic. We’re talking nonstop cries that last at least three hours a day, three days a week. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.

4 weeks old
Welcome all the new sounds, such as dovelike coos. This is also the time when baby may begin lifting and holding his or her head slightly off the floor all on her own.

6 weeks old
If baby was grinning before, it was definitely gas. Now it's from happiness.

PHOTO: Getty Images