The night I went into labor, my husband and I were conveniently attending our first parenting class at the hospital: Newborn Care 101. After our instructor (also a nurse) covered bathing tips, umbilical cord cleanliness, and circumcision care, she moved onto proper diapering.
My husband had never changed a diaper, and I thought years of babysitting had at least prepared me for this part of parenthood. The nurse recommended using only water wipes or a wet paper towel to wipe newborns at first. “Their skin is extremely sensitive,” she said, and with a knowing smile she added, “You can use wipes right away if you want to, but you might change your mind.”
Less than an hour later, my water broke on our drive home from the hospital and any lessons about water wipes—and pretty much everything else from the class—flew out of my mind as we spent the following three weeks in the NICU with a preemie. The NICU nurses taught my husband how to change a diaper, among other things, and we will forever be grateful to them for helping us through those first weeks.
But then we got home and were on our own for the first time.
Babies need their diapers changed a lot, which I’d forgotten from my babysitting experience. By day three post-hospital, our new baby was developing a severe, blistering diaper rash. We used some of the cream we received from our registry, but the diaper rash was getting worse and was surely painful for our tiny baby. Thankfully, pediatrician visits are also frequent in those first days post-hospital, so we were able to get professional advice quickly.
The first tip from our pediatrician was to give our baby’s buns some air. So after every diaper change, we’d have her practice tummy time on a blanket in the buff.
Second, our pediatrician recommended a thick layer of diaper cream after every change. In fact, she said, “Think Sweet Mandy B’s frosting thick” (if you’re from Chicago, you know this means a very, very thick layer of diaper cream) covered by petroleum jelly. The cream creates a barrier between the baby’s skin and the wetness irritating their skin, helping the rash to heal. “But if you skip the petroleum jelly, most of the diaper cream will come off in the diaper and won’t help heal the diaper rash.” The diaper cream she recommended and worked was Triple Paste, which I now buy for every new mom.
The third tip was to avoid wipes until the rash healed. Our knowing nurse instructor had been right. We used soft wet paper towels to wipe her for the next few weeks, then we slowly introduced sensitive wipes. It was our first parenting blunder (and certainly not our last).
So much of those first weeks of parenting are spent failing and figuring things out, but remember that if you’re trying to be a good parent, you already are one.