Merck Manual

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Care of the Normal Newborn


Deborah M. Consolini

, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Reviewed/Revised Sep 2021
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While in the hospital, new parents should be taught how to feed, bathe, and dress their newborn and become familiar with the newborn's activities, cues, and sounds.

Before hospital discharge, clinicians should discuss with parents the routine aspects of care regarding the umbilical cord, circumcision, weight, and urine and bowel movements. Infants who do not pass meconium in the first 24 hours should be reassessed.

Routine Care and Observation of the Newborn

Neonates can be bathed (if the parents wish) once their temperature has stabilized at 37° C for 2 hours.

Umbilical cord

The umbilical cord clamp can be removed when the cord appears dry, usually at 24 hours. Umbilical cord care is aimed at reducing the risk of umbilical infection (omphalitis). The umbilical stump should be kept clean and dry; other care varies depending on the birth setting. In a hospital delivery (or properly managed home birth), where the cord is clamped and cut aseptically, dry cord care or cleansing with soap and water is adequate; topical agents do not decrease risk of infection. However, when cord clamping and/or cutting is not aseptic (eg, in some medically underserved countries, precipitous out-of-hospital deliveries), applying a topical antiseptic (eg, chlorhexidine) to the cord reduces the risk of omphalitis and neonatal mortality. The cord should be observed daily for redness or drainage.


Circumcision, if desired by the family, can be safely done, using a local anesthetic, within the first few days of life. Circumcision should be delayed if the mother has taken anticoagulants or aspirin, if there is a family history of bleeding disorders, or if the neonate has displacement of the urethral meatus, hypospadias Hypospadias Congenital anomalies of the urethra in boys usually involve anatomic abnormalities of the penis and vice versa. In girls, urethral anomalies may exist without other external genital abnormalities... read more Hypospadias , or any other abnormality of the glans or penis (because the prepuce may be used later in plastic surgical repair). Circumcision should not be done if the neonate has hemophilia or another bleeding disorder.


Most neonates lose 5 to 7% of their birth weight during the first few days of life, primarily because fluid is lost in urine and insensibly and secondarily because meconium is passed, vernix caseosa is lost, and the umbilical cord dries.

Urine and bowel movements

In the first 2 days, urine may stain the diaper orange or pink because of urate crystals, which are a normal result of urine concentration. Most neonates void within 24 hours after birth; the average time of first void is 7 to 9 hours after birth, and most void at least 2 times in the 2nd 24 hours of life. A delay in voiding is more common among male neonates and may result from a tight foreskin; a male neonate’s inability to void may indicate posterior urethral valves Urethral valves Congenital anomalies of the urethra in boys usually involve anatomic abnormalities of the penis and vice versa. In girls, urethral anomalies may exist without other external genital abnormalities... read more Urethral valves . Circumcision is usually delayed until at least after the first void; not voiding within 12 hours of the procedure may indicate a complication.


Hospital Discharge of the Newborn

Neonates discharged within 48 hours should be evaluated within 2 to 3 days to assess feeding success (breast or formula), hydration, and jaundice Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia Jaundice is a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by hyperbilirubinemia (elevated serum bilirubin concentration). The serum bilirubin level required to cause jaundice varies with... read more (for those at increased risk). Follow-up for neonates discharged after 48 hours should be based on risk factors, including those for jaundice and for breastfeeding difficulties, and any identified problems.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
Betasept, Chlorostat, Hibiclens, Oro Clense , Peridex, Periogard, PerioRx , Perisol
Anacin Adult Low Strength, Aspergum, Aspir-Low, Aspirtab , Aspir-Trin , Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength, Bayer Aspirin Plus, Bayer Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Children's Aspirin, Bayer Extra Strength, Bayer Extra Strength Plus, Bayer Genuine Aspirin, Bayer Low Dose Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Womens Aspirin , BeneHealth Aspirin, Bufferin, Bufferin Extra Strength, Bufferin Low Dose, DURLAZA, Easprin , Ecotrin, Ecotrin Low Strength, Genacote, Halfprin, MiniPrin, St. Joseph Adult Low Strength, St. Joseph Aspirin, VAZALORE, Zero Order Release Aspirin, ZORprin
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NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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