Just so we’re all clear right at the beginning, it’s not newborns that have concerns, it’s generally their parents.
There should only be a couple of issues on your radar when you’re less than a month old, and that’s feeding and nappy filling.
Everything else can be taken care of by someone bigger and older.
But my baby’s different
Most of the concerns parents have with their newbornjust seem to settle with time and development. But in the meantime, it’s useful to know what’s common and what you can do.
We’ve all heard a million times that each baby is a unique little individual and no two are exactly alike. Unless, of course, if we’re talking about identical twins. But there are a few common issues which most newborns will have at some stage, to a greater or lesser extent. And while babies are generally blissfully unaware of what all the fuss is about, their parents, on the other hand, can be genuinely worried.
Colic is the reason given for most newborn crying. The actual definition of “colic” is crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week and for more than three weeks, in a well, healthy and thriving baby.
Colic used to be called “Three Month Colic”. This is because generally, by around three months of age, babies tend to become more settled. Their gut and digestion have matured and there tends to be more of a predictable routine around feeding and settling behaviour.
Warm baths, tummy massage, moving the baby’s legs gently as if they are riding a bike, can all help. Carrying the baby in a sling or going for a walk in the pram can also help to soothe colic symptoms.
Babies cry, some a lot and some less. If you’ve never had much to do with a newborn baby before you may be surprised by how much noise your little one can make. But then again, some newborn babies are very quiet and spend the first few weeks of their life just sleeping and feeding. It’s not until around the six-week mark that they seem to wake up and connect with the world.
Premature babies tend to be quieter than full-term babies. It’s as if they are conserving their energy for growing and gaining weight.
Common causes for newborn rashes are hormones and simply adjusting to being in an unsterile world. Both tend to settle with time and maturity. There is nothing specific which parents can do to influence either cause.
Sometimes babies develop a specific type of rash which is widespread over their face, chest and back. Erythema Toxicum is the term for the red blotchy rash which can include angry, red and pus filled pimples. The temptation is to squeeze them but the risk of doing this is scarring. Erythema Toxicum tends to appear around two to five days after birth. Again, there is no specific treatment other than to wait and watch.
Be aware that rashes can be a symptom of illness. So it’s always worth checking with your baby’s GP to make sure they are generally well and the rash is not due to illness.
Newborns typically develop a rash on their face. This can be worse when they are crying or are hot. Sometimes after feeding and if the baby has become overheated rashes look worse. After a bath and when first waking up, rashes tend to look less obvious.
Facial rashes tend to be red, sometimes pimply and be concentrated in areas over the chin and cheeks. There is no specific treatment for a newborn facial rash. Washing their face with plain water will help to clear excess oil from the skin. Baby wash and soap can aggravate a rash and make it worse. Sometimes residual laundry detergent in sheets and clothing which brushes the baby’s face can inflame a rash. So think about using a detergent for sensitive skin and double rinse washing.
Newborns breathe in a particular and unique way. They breathe more rapidly than adults do and tend to take shallow breaths. They also have little pauses between breaths before they start again. This is called periodic breathing and is generally completely normal.
Again, with time and maturity babies’ tend to breathe in a more regular and consistent way.
The official term for milk spots is ‘milia’. We all have these little blocked cysts on our skin which form when keratin and oil collect. On a newborn, milia tend to concentrate across the nose and cheeks, but sometimes the eyelids as well. There is no specific treatment for milia though you will hear lots of theories on how best to get rid of it. Again, plain water when washing your baby’s face is the only thing you need to do.
You’ll hear people say your baby has a “good tan” or a “healthy glow”, which may be very true, but it’s more than likely due to jaundice. Babies who are premature, have been unwell, or who were born by forceps delivery are more likely to develop jaundice. If a mother’s blood group and her baby’s are not compatible then jaundice can also occur.
Blood tests can be taken to measure the level of bile in the baby’s blood. If it is too high, the baby may need to have phototherapy. This is a particular type of light therapy which helps to breakdown the bile in the baby’s skin. Plenty of feeds also help their body excrete excess bile.
Jaundice is so common in newborn babies that it fits into the category of “normal”. Jaundice occurs because of liver immaturity and the baby’s need to breakdown an excess of red blood cells. During pregnancy the unborn baby needs to get as much oxygen from their mother as possible. Red blood cells carry oxygen to where it is most needed. But after the baby is born and they can breathe for themselves, they don’t need such a high red blood cell count.
The by-product of red blood cell breakdown is bile and it is this which causes the yellowish tint to the skin.
If you are at all worried about your baby, have them checked by a doctor or your healthcare professional.
This article was written for Kidspot by Jane Barry from www.mybabybaby.com.au – child health nurse, midwife and parenting columnist.