Your life has changed forever. You have a new life to care for. Caring for a newborn can be an intimidating task, but thankfully, there are many resources available to new parents.

The Brant County Health Unit offers support to new parents on the following topics:

  • How to safely hold your baby
  • Bathtime
  • Diaper changes
  • Skin, nails and gums
  • Jaundice
  • Crying
  • When to call the doctor
  • Feeding
  • Teething
  • Tummy Time
  • Sleep
  • Caring for Mom
  • Infant Hearing Program

For more information on any of the topics above, contact the Brant County Health Unit at: 519-753-4937 ext. 464 or email to speak to a public health nurse.



Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Caring for your newborn

Holding your baby

  • Always support your baby’s neck when holding. Neck muscles remain weak for the first few months of life.
  • Remember to never shake your baby or handle baby roughly.


For more information about baby slings and carrier safety, visit Baby Sling and Carrier Safety (Health Canada).

Bathing your baby

  • Your baby’s bath water should be warm – not hot – to touch. Test the water temperature with your inner wrist or elbow before putting your baby in the tub.
  • Babies do not need to be bathed every day. Bathing too often can cause your baby’s skin to dry out.
  • Sponge baths can be given in the first week or two, until you are more comfortable handling baby.
  • Cotton swabs, powders, and lotions are not recommended.
  • Supervise a baby in the bathtub or around water at all times. Do not rely on older siblings to supervise.
  • When bathing your baby, it is important to start from the cleanest (face) to the dirtiest areas (genitals and bottom).
  • Eyes: clean one eye at a time with a clean, damp cloth. Soap is not needed.
  • Genitals:
    • Boys: If your son is not circumcised, do not try to retract or clean under the foreskin on their penis.
    • Girls: If you have a girl, make sure to wipe her from front to back.

Caring for baby’s cord

Proper cord care after birth is important to stop the umbilical cord area from becoming infected. The umbilical cord stump is approximately 2 – 3 cm long and purplish-blue in colour. The cord clamp may still be on. The cord usually falls off within 7 to 14 days. During this time, it will change colour from yellowish green to black as it dries out.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after caring for your baby’s umbilical cord.
  • Keep the umbilical cord dry and exposed to air or loosely covered with clean clothes.
  • Fold the front of the diaper over so it is below the cord stump.
  • If the cord becomes dirty, wash with clean water and soap and thoroughly dry the cord stump

Call your doctor if your baby develops a fever or if the umbilical area:

  • Oozes pus
  • Bleeds
  • Smells foul
  • Looks red and swollen around the cord

Do not pull on the stump even when it starts to come off.

It’s normal to notice a few drops of blood on the diaper around the time the stump falls off.

Changing baby’s diaper

Change diapers regularly to prevent diaper rash (redness on the skin, with shiny patches and some pimply spots).

  • In case of diarrhea, you can prevent diaper rash with an unscented barrier cream such as petroleum jelly.
  • The use of baby powder is not recommended.

Protect your baby from falling:

  • Never leave your baby alone when changing a diaper.
  • Keep one hand on your child while they’re on the change table.
  • Place car seats and bouncy chairs on the floor.

Treating diaper rash

  • Change diapers frequently, especially after bowel movements.
  • Clean diaper area gently. Wipes can be irritating; use a wet cloth instead.
  • Give your baby as much “bare bum time” as possible to allow it to air out.

Caring for skin, nails and gums

  • Sunscreen is not recommended for newborns and babies less than six months old.
  • Keep baby out of direct sunlight, especially in the warmer months and between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • File nails with an emery board for the first two weeks of life.
  • Wipe gums with a damp washcloth. This should be done twice daily preferably after feedings.
  • Toothpaste is not necessary for babies under one year of age.

Learn more at Your Newborn: Bringing Baby Home from the Hospital (Caring for Kids).

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is an illness that can make skin to look yellow. It happens when bilirubin builds up in the blood.

Jaundice can be seen in newborns and typically appears in your baby’s first week of life.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Sleepiness
  • Yellowish skin or eyes
  • Hard to feed
  • Dark stools for the first five days of life or more 

When should we see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if the baby:

  • Looks more yellow
  • Is not feeding well
  • Has dry lips and mouth
  • Has decreased urine

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department if your baby:

  • Is hard to wake for feeds or is very sleepy
  • Is throwing up
  • Has a fever

If you are concerned about your baby having jaundice, seek medical attention right away.

If your family doctor is unavailable go to your local emergency department as soon as possible.

Crying is your baby’s only way of letting you know they are unhappy or uncomfortable. Most babies:

  • Cry a lot in a 24-hour period
  • Have at least one fussy period a day, often in the evening
  • Cry more at night

Why do newborn babies cry?

It could be:

  • Hunger/thirst
  • Change from being awake to sleep, and sleep to awake
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Need to suck or be held
  • No cause at all

How can I help calm my crying baby?

  • Take care of physical problems first: hunger, diaper change, or the need to burp
  • Place your baby skin-to-skin
  • Walk with your baby in a sling or in a stroller
  • Rock your baby in a gentle, rhythmic motion
  • Gently pat or stroke the back or chest
  • Lay your baby tummy-down across your lap and gently pat their back

You cannot spoil your baby by picking them up when they cry. In fact, if you respond warmly and quickly to your baby’s cries, they will cry less.

Call your doctor right away or go to the emergency department if your baby is:

  • Three months old or less and has a fever
    • The normal range for a temperature taken under the armpit is 36.5°C to 37.5°C (97.7°F to 99.5°F).
  • Having black stools at five days old
  • Refusing to breastfeed or drink from a bottle
  • Crying a lot and will not soothe
  • Develops a rash or purple blemishes
  • Lethargic
  • Having seizures
  • The soft spot at the top of their head (fontanelle) is swelling
  • Appears to be in pain
  • Pale or flushed
  • Irregular or difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased urination or diarrhea (frequent or loose watery stool)



Skin-to-skin: the healthiest place to begin

All babies benefit from skin-to-skin. Placing your newborn baby on your bare chest is recommended right after birth for at least an hour, until completion of the first feeding, or for as long as you wish.

Skin-to-skin is easy. Here’s how to do it:

  • Take off your baby’s blankets and clothing, leaving the diaper on.
  • Move clothing away from your chest.
  • Hold your baby, facing you, against your chest.
  • You can put a blanket over you and your baby.
  • Enjoy the closeness and bonding with your baby.

Benefits for baby:

  • Breastfeeds easier.
  • Cries less and is calmer.
  • Stays warmer.
  • Enjoys more comfort from you.
  • Has better blood sugar levels and heart rate.
  • Is protected by some of your good bacteria.

Benefits for you:

  • Breastfeed more easily.
  • Create more breast milk.
  • Learn when your baby is getting hungry.
  • Bond more with your baby.
  • Gain confidence and satisfaction caring for your baby.
  • More relaxed.

As babies grow:

  • Skin-to-skin is great after birth, but it doesn’t have to stop there.
  • Babies love skin-to-skin contact with either mom or dad as they grow older; it is soothing to them and helps them feel secure.
  • Skin-to-skin also helps baby cope with painful procedures such as vaccinations.
  • Stay together with your baby by sharing your bedroom (‘rooming in’) for at least the first six months.

Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

  • Teething is a normal part of infant growth and development.
  • Mouth care is very important at all ages (including wiping down gums as a newborn and brushing teeth as soon as the first tooth emerges).
  • There are many ways to soothe an infant who is teething, including offering a damp washcloth or teething ring, and offering acetaminophen/ibuprofen if baby is especially irritated and cranky.
  • Teething creams should be avoided as they can be swallowed and numb an infant’s throat.
  • Not all crankiness/irritation can be attributed to teething. Babies can be cranky for a variety of reasons including being overtired, overstimulated, developmental leaps, etc.


Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Tummy time is when you lay your baby on their stomach or side when they are awake.

Several times a day (for a total of 90 minutes/day), put your baby on the floor, on a safe firm surface. This may include your lap or chest. Your baby only needs to be on their back when sleeping. When awake your baby needs to be held, loved and played with. Supervised tummy time is a very important part of your baby’s day.

Help your baby learn to enjoy tummy time:

  • Start tummy time when your baby’s cord is healed.
  • Put your baby on their tummy after each diaper change. Add one minute of tummy time each day. If your baby gets upset, increase the length of time more slowly
  • Talk and sing to your baby
  • Give your baby a gentle massage on their back, arms, or legs. Gently touch or stroke your baby
  • Give your baby interesting things to look at, such as brightly coloured toys or a mirror. Get down on the floor so your baby can see your face

Learn more at Playtime with Your Baby: Learning and Growing in the First Year (Caring for Kids), and Tummy Time: Helping Your Baby (About Kids Health).

Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Here are some ways to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby:

  • Provide a smoke-free home. Studies show that exposure to smoke is one of the greatest risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep.
  • Place your baby in a crib next to an adult’s bed for the first six months.
  • Ensure the crib has no toys, no bumper pads, no pillows or no loose bedding. Only use a fitted sheet.
  • To avoid overheating, baby should be lightly clothed for sleep.
  • Babies should not sleep for long periods of time in a car seat, swing or bouncy chair.

What about co-sleeping?

Do not share the same sleep surface as your baby. This includes a bed, couch, futon, beanbag, recliner, armchair, air mattress, memory foam, or any makeshift bed.

Co-sleeping is a risk factor for SIDS and can lead to suffocation.

Video courtesy of Public Health Agency of Canada


Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Car seat safety:

Proper use of car seats help keep children safe. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and the child restraint section in your car owner’s manual. Visit the link below for more information.

Please note: As of January 2018, the Brant County Health Unit no longer holds car seat clinics.

Home safety resources:

Life with a new baby is not always what you expect.

Postpartum blues (or “baby blues”)

“4 in 5 mothers will have postpartum blues.”

Pregnancy, the birth of a baby or an adoption brings many changes. Adjustments to the new roles and relationships are not always easy. Your sleeping or eating patterns may change. As well, you may feel sad, tearful, irritable, exhausted and/or overwhelmed.

These feelings are normal and tend to peak on the fifth day after childbirth, and gradually decrease from there. Full recovery usually occurs within two weeks. The baby blues will pass easier if you take care of yourself, get lots of rest, and let family and friends help you.

Postpartum mood disorder

“1 in 5 mothers will have a postpartum mood disorder.”

If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from a postpartum mood disorder:

  • Not feeling like yourself
  • Are sad and tearful
  • Feel exhausted, but unable to sleep
  • Have changes in eating or sleeping pattern
  • Feel overwhelmed and can’t concentrate
  • Have no interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feel hopeless or frustrated
  • Feel restless, irritable or angry
  • Feel extremely high and full of energy
  • Feel anxious — you may feel this as aches, chest pain, shortness of breath, numbness, tingling or “lump” in the throat
  • Feel guilty and ashamed, thinking you are not a good mother
  • Are not bonding with your baby or are afraid to be alone with your baby
  • Have repeated scary thoughts about your baby
  • Have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby

How partners, family and friends can help:

  • Listen and support her feelings.
  • Encourage her to seek professional help.
  • Develop your relationship with the baby to provide breaks for mom.
  • Ask her how you can help.
  • Educate yourself about postpartum mood disorders.
  • Don’t take mom’s depression or sad feelings personally (it is not her fault or yours).

Questions about postpartum mood disorder?

A postpartum mood disorder can begin any time during the first year of your baby’s birth. Ask for help from your partner, family or friends. You can also call:

  • Your health care provider (family physician, midwife, nurse, obstetrician, psychiatrist)
  • A public health nurse at the Brant County Health Unit at 519-753-4937 ext. 464
  • Telehealth Ontario (24 hours): 1-866-797-000

Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Mental Health Support:

  • St. Leonard’s Community Services: For immediate support for individuals experiencing addictions, mental health or situational crisis.
    • 519-759-7188 or 1-866-811-7188 (24/7 mental health crisis line)
    • 519-752-2998

Quiz: Do you have postpartum depression?

The Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC) program is a free home visiting program for pregnant woman, parents, and caregivers of children from birth and up to school entry age. The program provides supports for parents and helps link them to community programs and resources. The goal of HBHC is to help parents create an environment that leads to healthy babies, healthy children, and later, to healthy adults.

If you are interested in taking part in the program, please call us at 519-753-4937 ext. 464. A public health nurse will ask you some questions to see if you are a good fit for the program and, with your permission, bring you into the program.

Pregnant Women

Our program will help you be healthy and ready for your baby. However, the public health nurse does not replace the care you get from a doctor or midwife.

Child Under Six Weeks Old

After your baby is born, your hospital nurse or midwife will do a survey with your permission. The survey goes over:

  • Your pregnancy and birth
  • Type of help from your family
  • Your basic parenting skills

You will be asked if the survey results can be sent to the Health Unit after you leave the hospital. If you say yes, a public health nurse will follow up with a phone call to you within 48 hours of coming home.

Child Six Weeks to School Entry Age

You will learn about your child’s needs such as sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, playing, and getting ready for school. We can also help your family with other issues, such as stress, budgeting, anger, and drugs or alcohol use/abuse.

Every baby is unique and will develop differently. A good tool to help keep track of your baby’s development is called the Looksee Checklist. This was previously called the Nipissing District Development Screen (NDDS).

The Looksee Checklist:

  • Are checklists to help parents keep track of your child’s development.
  • Were designed to be done at the same time your child gets their vaccinations. There is a different checklist for each developmental stage up to age six.
  • Includes a list of ideas and activities parents can do with their child that are age appropriate and will help them with their development.
  • Parents can complete the Looksee at home and then take it to the doctor during regular check-ups. This tool helps parents tell the doctor if they have any concerns with the child’s development

To receive your copy of a Looksee Checklist:

    • Available from 
    • Ask staff at any EarlyOn Brant
    • Call our Family Line 519-753-4937 ext. 464


Source: Your Newborn Guide – Brant County Health Unit / Brant Community Healthcare System

Hearing screening identifies babies who may be at risk for hearing loss as early as possible. The sooner hearing loss is identified, the better.

If you are discharged from hospital on the weekend, or if your baby needs a
follow-up screen, you should register for your baby’s infant hearing screen by phoning 1-866-826-4327 ext. 221.

Effective September 1, 2019, the hearing screens are conducted by the Central South Infant Hearing Program. The Infant Hearing Clinics are held are at 217 Terrace Hill St., Unit 222 in Brantford (across from Brantford General Hospital).

In preparation for your visit:

  • Please bring an OHIP card with you to the appointment.
  • It is okay if your baby is asleep when you arrive for the appointment. Your baby should be relaxed.
  • Please ensure you bring items with you that will comfort your baby or be prepared to breastfeed.
  • Do not put any cream or lotion on your baby’s head, or behind the ears the day of the appointment.
  • If your baby is congested or unwell, please call to reschedule as this may interfere with the test result.
  • Although tests are often completed quickly, please be prepared to stay for the allotted 30 minutes if necessary.

There is no cost for this program.


  • Free drop-in programs for parents, caregivers and their 0-6 year old children in collaboration with EarlyON Brant. Visit EarlyOn drop-ins for times and locations.
  • Visit our Parenting classes page for more details about Triple P parenting classes in Brant.