- Medicine syringe or dropper These devices are essential to ensure that you're giving your child the right amount of medicine (a baby can easily overdose). Syringes, which are measured off in teaspoons and milliliters, are best. They don't drip and are easy to direct into the mouth of a squirming baby. You can also try droppers measured off in teaspoons, but they tend to drip. A hollow-handled spoon that can be filled with medicine works well for babies old enough to sit up on their own.
- Nasal aspirator Made of soft rubber, aspirators are often given to new parents before they leave the hospital. Since an infant can't blow his nose, mucus buildup can make it difficult for him to breathe, and can even cause gagging. This device creates a suction that clears baby's nasal passages. (Keep one close by in the first weeks, when baby's learning to feed. If he has a choking spell and milk comes out of his nose, the bulb can be used to clear it.)
- To use, first squeeze the bulb and then place it in the nostril as far as it will easily go, angling it toward the top of the ear. As you slowly release your grip on the ball, it will suck up the mucus. But remember: Babies hate having their nose messed with. So if your child has a mild cold, you can leave him alone.
- Cotton swabs Use swabs to clean the folds of the outer ear. Never insert them into the inner canal of baby's ear; you risk perforating the eardrum.
- Bandages The famous plastic strips protect boo-boos but can be a choking hazard for babies. Don't leave a child younger than 2 years old alone with a bandage on unless you're sure it's securely in place or that he can't reach it.
- Digital rectal thermometer Parents should take their child's temperature rectally until 6 months of age. The results are more accurate than from an under-arm or ear thermometer reading, and accuracy is crucial in infancy, when even low fevers can be significant. Any fever requires a doctor's visit for a child younger than 4 months old, and babies younger than 2 months old may need to be hospitalized for a high fever. To get the best reading, hold the thermometer about 1 inch from the end that will go in. Then slide it in gently, resting your fingers on baby's buttocks without letting go until you're ready to take it out.
- Nail clippers Infants grow so quickly, they may need their nails trimmed every five to seven days. Use clippers designed specifically for babies, and be careful not to cut their fingertips. If your baby is resistant, try clipping her nails while she's sleeping or feeding.