A-to-Z of Newborn Care

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The newborn journey is unlike any other. Learn what to expect and how to care for your bundle of joy with this helpful guide.

Acne

Newborn acne develops when maternal hormones stimulate oil glands in the baby’s skin. Boys develop this problem more often than girls, and outbreaks generally occur on the cheeks, although they can appear on the chest and back as well. This is a normal condition which will disappear in about two to three months.

Care: Clean gently with mild soap and warm water whenever you bathe your baby.

Birthmarks

Skin discolorations, which can appear anywhere, can be present at birth or develop shortly thereafter. Most birthmarks are harmless. Different types develop in different ways: some are the result of excess pigment cells in a small area; others develop when tiny blood vessels overgrow or expand on the skin.

Care: No special care is required, but if the birthmark changes in size, color or shape; becomes sore or bleeds and itches; or if a new mole-like growth appears, consult your pediatrician.

Colic

About one out of every five newborns suffers the frequent crying bouts known as colic. The symptoms are unmistakable: The baby cries for hours on end on a daily basis. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) in Your Child (Harper Resource), colic generally begins with an abdominal pain caused by a spasm, and the only way the baby knows to respond is to cry.

Care: Since the child may be inconsolable until the pain passes, the AACAP recommends music and rocking or some other form of movement. Some parents suggest placing the baby in a vibrating car seat or actually driving the baby around in a car when all else fails. Colic will usually disappear by 3 or 4 months of age, but parents should consult the child’s physician to determine whether the colic is caused by allergies or an immature intestinal track.

Diaper Rash

Characterized by inflamed red areas in the diaper region, diaper rash can be dry, moist or pimply.

Care: Change the baby frequently and use your doctor’s preferred ointment for treatment. When the rash has cleared, try using petroleum jelly on the baby’s bottom after every change to keep moisture away from the skin.

Ears

Since ear infections are quite common among babies – especially in the first year of life – let your pediatrician guide their care.

Care: A good rule of thumb is to have your pediatrician check and clean the ears at your scheduled well check-ups as the baby grows. Clean only the outer part of the ears yourself.

Fontanel

The soft spots on your baby’s head – easily detected by gently caressing the skull – are where the bones are widely separated. The separation allows a baby’s head to travel through the birth canal. Separations close by 18 months after birth.

Care: Handle the baby’s head with great care, washing gently when bathing.

Growth Patterns

During the first few days after birth, you can expect your baby to lose six to eight percent of his birth weight – most of it in the form of water. After the first four days, the baby should begin to gain weight and should attain or surpass his birth weight in 10 – 14 days. For the first six months, says the AACAP, the baby will grow at a rate of approximately one ounce per day.

Care: To be sure your baby is growing healthily, maintain visits to your pediatrician in order to plot weight, height and head circumferences regularly.

Head Banging

Anywhere from five to 15 percent of healthy babies do it, with approximately three-fourths of the “bangers” being boys. Banging usually appears during the first 12 months, and although it seems strange, the activity is generally harmless and may be used by the baby as a means of calming himself.

Care: Consult your doctor if your baby engages in prolonged periods of head banging and is uninterested in his surroundings, if he can only be soothed by banging his head or if he does not respond to your efforts to soothe him.

Immunizations

The most important preventive health measure parents can take for their children, immunizations prevent many serious childhood illnesses.

Care: Consult your physician or visit aap.org for a recommended schedule.

Jaundice

The skin of a baby with jaundice may take on a yellowish tinge, a condition quite common and usually harmless in healthy newborns. It generally disappears after the first week of life and is a sign that the baby’s blood contains excessive amounts of bilirubin (a substance released when red blood cells break down).

Care: If the jaundice does not decrease after a week of age, seek the advice of your pediatrician.

Kisses

You can’t give a newborn enough of these.

Care: People with colds should kiss the top of the baby’s head only, or not at all.

Laughing

Some babies begin laughing as early as 5 weeks of age, although it more typically begins around 4 months of age.

Care: Through laughing, babies begin to learn that they have an effect on other people. Help to stimulate your baby’s laughter by engaging him in playful fun.

Music

You’ve already heard that early development specialists believe the youngest of babies should be exposed to all types of music – not only lullabies or children’s songs.

Care: Your baby will enjoy whatever it is you are listening to, as well as the humming, whistling and songs you sing to him.

Nasal Congestion

Your baby will get more colds than any other illness, averaging between eight and 12 a year. Signs include a stuffy nose and discharge, watery eyes, coughing, a decreased appetite and sometimes fever.

Care: Place three or four drops of warm water or saline drops in each of your baby’s nostrils. Then use a small suction bulb to gently clear mucus from each nostril, while holding the other nostril closed. Call your doctor if your baby younger than 3 months of age has a fever higher than 99.5 degrees Farenheit or older than 3 months has a fever that lasts more than three days; pus-like drainage from his eyes, nose or ears; large red nodes in her neck; breathing problems; vomiting; shaking chills; or extreme exhaustion.

Onesies

Small T-shirts that snap between the legs � onesies � are baby essentials. In warm weather, a onesie or diaper is enough for your baby. In cold weather, keep plenty on hand for him to wear under all of his outfits.

Pacifiers

Some babies love them; others refuse them. Many parents love them, while experts have varied opinions. Sucking is a natural instinct for your baby and, according to the AACAP, it can soothe a fussy baby by stimulating the mouth and relaxing his gut.

Children who suck on pacifiers are also less likely to suck their thumbs, and the pacifier usually becomes unfavorable to the child by age 3, while thumb sucking can go on until age 5 or 6.

Care: Boil pacifiers for a few minutes before their first use. Always clean with water and soap after they fall on the floor before giving back to your baby.

Q-Tips

Don’t use Q-tips in your baby’s ears! However, they can be useful for gently removing nasal mucus after the baby’s bath, for instance, or for keeping the umbilical cord clean at its base. Extra-wide Q-tips are great for cleaning surface ear wax.

Rice

When it’s time to start feeding your baby solids, most pediatricians recommend beginning with iron-fortified rice cereal.

Care: Start with a teaspoon of food mixed with enough formula, breast milk or water to be smooth and moist, but not runny.

Separation Anxiety

Around 8 or 9 months, your baby may often awaken from a nap screaming. In later months, he may protest when you leave his sight. This is a healthy and normal reaction. Not until he is about 12 months of age will he grasp that you are a distinct, separate entity.

Care: The cognitive advances involved in your baby’s management of separation from you will happen naturally. However, babies do delight in playing peek-a-boo. For an infant, the emotion of surprise and the joy of being reunited are very real in these games.

Teething

The first tooth can appear as early as 3 months, though it more commonly occurs around the 6 months. Teething may be preceded by irritability, crying or drooling. Other common signs are changes in feeding habits and trouble sleeping.

Care: Provide a hard rubber pacifier or a cold teething ring to help. Also helpful are Baby Anbesol or Orajel and a baby dose of acetaminophen, but consult with your pediatrician.

Umbilical Cord

For one to three weeks after his birth, your baby will have a black, dry stump where his belly button will be.

Care: Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and gently dab it around the base of the cord each day until it falls off.

Vaseline

This works wonders to help stave off diaper rash.

Care: After each diaper change, apply a coat of petroleum jelly to shield the bottom from wetness.

Waking Patterns

Baby may not be sleeping through the night for quite a while, and in the first several months it’s important for him to know you’ll be there when he cries. “Crying it out” doesn’t come into play until much later on, after he has already learned how to sleep through the night but has started waking up again.

X’s and O’s

Again, you can’t give Baby enough of these!

Yawns

Tiny ones need lots and lots of sleep in their early months, and they may sleep through all of your family’s household noise. There’s nothing quite so sweet as a baby’s little mouth opening into a big, wide yawn.

Zzzz’s

Before you know it, you’ll all be getting a good night’s sleep (oh, in about a year or so!)

 

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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