Caring for Your Baby

Click on the links below to find out about things you can do to take good care of your baby.

Feeding Your Baby & WIC | A Crying Baby – Do Not Shake!
HIV & the Newborn Screening Program | Keep Your Baby Safe
Keep Your Child at a Healthy Weight | Lead Exposure & Testing
Dental Care During Pregnancy | Sun Exposure Prevention

Feeding Your Baby and WIC

Breastfeeding provides ideal nourishment and a special bonding experience that many mothers cherish. EmblemHealth and the New York State Department of Health encourage all women to feed their infants nothing but breast milk for at least the first six months of life. Some of the many benefits of breastfeeding are:

  • Protection against infection—Antibodies passed from a nursing mother to her baby can lower the risk of many conditions including ear infection, respiratory infection, allergies and asthma. Breast milk also provides babies with temporary immunity to some communicable diseases, such as chicken-pox, if the mother is already immune.
  • Nutrition and ease of digestion—Breast milk contains all the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires and is easily digested by his or her immature digestive system.
  • Cost—Breastfeeding is free! All mom needs to do is to eat well and drink plenty of water. There are no other costs!

If you decide to breastfeed, your body will know to produce milk because you will be nursing your baby often. Almost all women produce enough milk, but if you don’t use it, your body will stop producing it. Contact your pediatrician if you have questions or need some support. If your decision is to bottle feed, you should wear a good supportive bra and not stimulate your breasts when they become full with milk. It may take a day or two, but your body will get the message that you will not be using the milk and will stop producing it.

The Women, Infants and Children’s Program (WIC) will assist you with food for yourself or your baby if you are in financial need. The WIC Program will help provide nutrition to mothers of infants up to six months old (12 months if you are breastfeeding) and children up to 5 years of age. Services are based on your income.

To find the WIC office nearest you and find out more about qualifying, call 1-800-522-5006 or visit their Web site. In New York City, dial 311.

A Crying Baby - Do Not Shake!

Crying is a normal way for babies to communicate and is part of their normal development. Crying can be stressful for adults so it is important to remember that crying periods do come to an end.

If your baby is crying, there are some things you can do to help him calm down. Through trial and error, you will learn what works best for your baby. Make sure to let your baby’s other caregivers know what works so they will also be able to calm your baby down. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure your baby is not too hot or too cold, is not hungry, does not need a diaper change or is not sick. If you think your baby may be sick, call your pediatrician.
  • Gently cuddle, rock or stroke your baby.
  • Play soft music, sing or talk to your baby. Use a gentle voice to soothe your baby.

If you are unable to cope with your baby’s crying, take a break. Place the baby in a safe place such as a crib or playpen. You can spend a few minutes listening to music, exercising or talking to a friend to help you relax. After a few minutes, you can try again to soothe your baby. You can also talk to your health care practitioner for advice.

Never Shake Your Baby!
Your baby’s neck muscles are not strong enough to control the motion of his head. These weak muscles make your baby very vulnerable to injury from shaking and are the reason you must always support your baby’s head when you are holding him. When a baby is shaken or jerked, it causes the brain to move back and forth in the skull. This causes bruising and bleeding in the brain that can lead to blindness, seizures, paralysis and even death. This is called Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Everyone who spends time with your baby should be told to never shake your baby. If you think someone has shaken your baby, call 911 right away.

For more information on Shaken Baby Syndrome visit the following Web sites:

HIV and the Newborn Screening Program

New York State requires that all newborns be tested for HIV and other disorders through the Newborn Screening Program. This testing is free.

Some of the conditions tested for can affect a newborn’s physical and mental development very early in life. Early treatment is very important to make sure your baby has every chance to develop to his/her potential.

While in the hospital, a small amount of blood will be taken from your baby’s heel. This blood sample will then be sent to the state for testing. The results will be sent to your baby’s doctor. Be sure to discuss the results of these tests at your baby’s first checkup.

Your baby will also be tested for HIV while in the hospital. The results of this test will be given to you before you leave the hospital and confidentially reported to the State Health Department as well as to your baby’s doctor. Your baby’s doctor is the best source of information about the results of this test and can help you decide if treatment is needed.

The Wadsworth Center can give you more information about the New York State Newborn Screening Program.

For more information on HIV and AIDS, visit the New York State Department of Health.

Keep Your Baby Safe

When you bring your baby home, it is important to create an environment that promotes safety and well-being. Here are some precautions that will help keep your new baby safe:

  • Make sure your crib meets national safety standards and is in good condition. Look for a certification and safety seal. Older cribs may not meet standards. Crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8” apart, and the mattress should fit snugly to prevent suffocation.
  • Be sure that no pillows, soft bedding or comforters are used when baby is put to sleep. According to the March of Dimes, your baby should be put to sleep on his or her back in a crib with a firm, flat mattress. Babies who are put to sleep on their stomachs are at the highest risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • To help protect against injuries and falls, be sure that safety gates are used to keep children away from potentially dangerous areas, especially stairs.
  • Mini and venetian blinds should not have looped cords. Check that vertical blinds, continuous looped blinds and drapery cords have tension tie-down devices to hold the cord tight in order to prevent strangulation.
  • Never leave your baby alone on a changing table, counter or any surface that is above floor level. In fact, don’t even turn your back. In only an instant, a baby can roll off a counter and fall. Try changing your baby’s diapers on the floor. Put the baby on a changing mat or a small blanket. This way, you will have plenty of space and your baby can’t fall.

Have a car safety seat waiting when you are ready to bring your baby home. Make sure the car seat meets federal safety guidelines.

  • The seat and baby must face the back of the car. Car seats are safest when placed facing backward in the back seat.
  • It is against the law for a baby to ride in the front passenger seat. If your vehicle has an air bag for the front passenger seat, it is especially dangerous. A deploying air bag could seriously injure your baby.
  • Put your baby in a sleeper so that the car seat harness straps can go between the legs. Then cover the baby with a blanket.
  • When installing a child safety seat, please follow instructions in your vehicle owner’s manual and those accompanying the child safety seat. If you need help, fitting stations are available.

Please visit the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more. You can get additional information about the proper use of child safety seats through the following organizations:

1 Adopted from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Keep Your Child at a Healthy Weight

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 17% of children in the US between the ages of 2 and 19 years are obese.1 There are several factors that can put a child at increased risk for becoming overweight. These include:

  • Behaviors—Foods eaten and level of physical activity have a direct affect on your child’s weight. Personal likes and dislikes, culture and family income all affect behaviors.
  • Genetics—Heredity can affect how the body stores fat and burns calories. Being overweight as a child or teen can negatively affect future health. Children who are overweight are more likely to develop serious health problems and become obese as adults.

You can help prevent your child from becoming overweight by preparing healthy meals with the correct calories needed for growth. You should also make sure your child is active and try to reduce the amount of time he or she sits still. Here are some other tips:

  • Breastfeeding your newborn will help you know that your baby is getting the food that is meant for him or her. Your baby should consistently gain weight when checked at doctor’s visits and have at least six wet diapers a day.
  • Help your child develop good eating habits by serving healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish and lentils. Pay attention to portion sizes. Also try to get your child to drink water and limit sweetened drinks.
  • Limit salty and calorie-rich, high-fat or high-sugar snacks. Instead, offer your child fruits and cut up vegetables as snacks. If you start this at an early age, your child will reach for these foods when hungry as he or she gets older. Then, a high-fat or high-sugar snack every once in a while will really be a treat!
  • Try to get your child to take part in at least 60 minutes of activity on most days. This can include walking, playing tag, jumping rope, playing sports, swimming and dancing. And the best part is that you can do these activities with your child!
  • Experts do not recommend television watching for children less than two years old. As your child gets older, quiet time is needed for reading and homework, but TV watching, video games and surfing the Internet should be limited to less than two hours a day.

By helping your child develop good habits from the beginning, you will help your child maintain a healthy weight and have a healthier life.

For more information about your child’s weight gain, speak with his or her doctor.

1 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey-NHANES;

Lead Exposure and Testing

Lead poisoning can be very harmful to your baby. It is usually caused by months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead in the home, work or day care environment. The most common source of lead exposure for children is dust from old lead-based paint.

If lead gets into your baby, it will travel through the blood stream and collect in the soft tissues of the body, such as the liver, kidneys and the brain. If too much lead gets into your child’s body, it can cause:

  • Growth and development problems
  • Impaired hearing
  • Anemia
  • Behavior disorders
  • Kidney damage

There are steps you can take to prevent lead exposure in your child:

  • Remove sources of lead in and around your home. Wash your child’s toys (especially teething toys), windowsills, door frames and floors with a damp cloth or mop with warm, soapy water twice a week.
  • Keep children away from chipped paint or broken plaster.
  • Wash your child’s hands frequently to rinse off any lead dust or dirt.
  • Use lead-free dishes, pottery and glass.
  • Use cold water, not hot, for infant formula preparation and cooking. Let the cold water tap run for at least a minute before using to flush any lead that may be picked up from pipes.

Dental Care During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at an increased risk for cavities and gum disease. Dental care during pregnancy is not only safe but very important to your health and the health of your baby. You may see your dentist for oral health care any time during pregnancy, but the best time is between 14 and 20 weeks.

It is safe to have dental X-rays during pregnancy, even during the first three months, as long as a lead shield is placed over your belly. There is evidence that young children get the bacteria that causes cavities from their mothers. Improving the health of your mouth may also improve the dental health of your child.

Here are some things you can do to improve your dental health:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with toothpaste and floss daily.
  • Drink water or low-fat milk and avoid sugary carbonated beverages.
  • Choose to eat fruit instead of drinking juice to meet your daily requirement for fruit.
  • Eat sugary foods with meals only.
  • Go to your dentist for a checkup early in pregnancy and receive any necessary treatment. If your dentist is not comfortable examining or treating you during pregnancy, ask him to contact your doctor to discuss treatment options.

You can also improve the dental health of your children by following these suggestions:

  • Use a soft cloth to wipe your infant’s teeth and gums after eating.
  • Watch your young children brush their teeth and offer suggestions on how they may do it better.
  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup unless it contains water.
  • Limit sugary foods to meals only.
  • Do not put your child’s spoon, pacifier or toy in your mouth and then give it to your child.
  • Take your child for his or her first dental visit between 6 and 12 months of age.

If you have dental benefits as part of your health plan coverage, you can call the Customer Service phone number on the back of your ID card to find a dentist in your area. Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus members can call Healthplex at
1-800-468-9868. If you do not have dental coverage as part of your plan, you can locate a dentist by asking family or friends. If you live within New York City, you can also call 311 to find a dentist in your area.

Sun Exposure Prevention

The sun is at its strongest between 10 am and 4 pm in the northern hemisphere. You should avoid exposing yourself and your child to the sun for long periods during these hours. If your child is playing outside between these hours, be sure to apply protective sunscreen. Sun damage occurs as a result of day-to-day exposure during routine activities, not only at the beach. Even on cloudy days, UV rays travel through the clouds and reflect off sand, water and even concrete.

Keep your family safe in the sun by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Babies Under Six Months
Avoiding sun exposure and dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck are still the top recommendations from the AAP to prevent sunburn. However, when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. If an infant gets sunburn, apply cold compresses to the affected area.

For Young Children
Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF should be at least 15 and protect against UVA and UVB rays.

For Older Children

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays) and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours - between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen - about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.