Whether you are a new mom or not, you are bound to experience some scary moments with respect to the health of your new-born. But when should you wait and watch depends entirely upon your understanding of certain common problems faced mainly during the first year.
A fever in a new-born is a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Because the newborn’s immune system is still developing, the child is easily prone to infections—viral or bacterial. The body temperatures can easily rise to 102, 103 or 104. While it’s better to call a paediatrician in case of a sudden increase in temperature for a baby under 3 months, you may defer the visit for an older baby by watching his/her condition for up to a day or two with constant follow ups with a practitioner. Most parents are aware of their child’s behaviour and can easily tell if the child is fussier, or not feeding enough or look sick. If the fever is accompanied by diarrhea, or vomiting, then it’s better to pay a visit to the hospital. When needed, the paediatrician will recommend a urine or blood sample to rule out any issues and administer antibiotics if needed. However, if there is only a slight discomfort, wait and watch.
Some babies cry a lot more than others, especially late evening or at night. There is a regular pattern in the crying period that can scare the wits out of any parent. Nothing seems to help—rocking, singing, feeding—and the crying stops on its own. Doctors term this condition as ‘colic’, a Greek word for intestine, which begins under one month and disappears around 3 to 4 months of age. Because this condition affects the baby at an early stage when the parent is also deprived of sleep, it can lead to anxiety and stress. There are many inconclusive theories about why this happens only in certain babies. Consult the paediatrician and take the necessary steps.
All babies spit up a little milk or saliva after feeding or burping. But roughly about 25 percent of babies suffer from a condition called ‘reflux’ or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Normally, the muscle that separates the stomach from oesophagus closes once the food passes to the stomach. But the babies systems are still immature and this can lead to the contents of the stomach being ‘refluxed’ or thrown out leading to a burning sensation in the oesophagus also called ‘heartburn’. Parents at this point need to be vigilant so that the baby does not choke in its own vomit and the immediate relief is to hold the baby in a more upright position during and after feeding. It’s also advised to do smaller but more frequent feedings to the child. If the problem persists for more than a month, it’s better to rest the baby on a higher elevation until he/she outgrows it, normally by the sixth month. The baby may also have to take some medication if the condition does not show signs of relief.
When we think of a new-born, we usually get a picture of parents changing diapers several times in a day. But the bowel movements of a new-born can vary drastically—7 times a day to hardly 1 time a week. Normally, breastfed babies have more bowel movements than formula fed babies because breast milk is easily digestible and has hormones that help the bowel movements. As long as the child is happy, feeding normally, looks ok, even if there is an irregular bowel schedule, it should not be a cause for concern. However, if the baby is in pain or the stomach looks bloated, then there is probably some blockage to be relieved. Massage, moving your baby’s legs in cycling movement, giving some water and a bath can help, but if there is no sign of improvement, it’s better to take the advice of the doctor before giving the baby a laxative.
Not feeding enough
Breastfeeding the new-born is the most important decision that a mother has to make. Here timing is crucial and adopting the best methods at lactation can reduce the chances of failure earlier on. The top question that every mother has is ‘Am I feeding the child enough?’ Until breastfeeding is established and the mother understands how to help the child latch on and which breast to feed, she will need help from the family. It’s very easy to switch to a formula and there have been cases in the past where the mother has reverted to formula not knowing that she had adequate breast milk. A new-born will feed up to 12 times a day. It really depends on the child. Some feed long and drop off asleep at the breast while some babies continue to feed actively increasing the number of feeds. As long the bowel movements are regular, yellow and the baby seems contented, there is no cause of worry. If the child however is crying and doesn’t seem to be gaining weight, address the issue with the doctor. Don’t jump to your own conclusions, though.
The baby’s sleeping is now dependant on many factors—feeding, sickness, or colic. Babies wake up in the night to feed and play so it’s normal to have an irregular sleeping pattern in the early months. After 6 months, the baby will sleep longer in the night. Introduction of solid foods at this stage helps cut on the night feeding and the parents can now expect longer sleeping hours.
The early months are undoubtedly the most challenging and that’s why pregnant women are normally advised to take adequate rest in their third trimester and prepare themselves physically and mentally for the arrival of the baby which swings them in to a whirlwind of action. Reading and creating a support system at home can ease up all the anxiety related to new-born.