Newborn tips – care with confidence
Keep your new baby in tip-top condition with our list of 15 bits of essential new-mom know-how
SLEEP Newborns N wb sleep l for f 16 hours h a day, d but b t not in one long stretch. Usually they sleep for stretches of three to four hours at a time, waking up for a feed in between. Many newborns also swop day and night around, becoming more active at night and barely waking during the day. Tiredness will soon get the better of you, so try this to get over this phase: • Work in shifts with your baby’s daddy. You can feed, he can wind or you take the night shift during the week while he lets you sleep a bit longer over the weekends. • Sleep when your baby sleeps, or at least make sure you go to bed early. • If you need to change your baby’s nappy at night, keep the room dark and be quick, gentle and quiet. He mustn’t feel like it is playtime. • Don’t rush to the side of the cot with every little peep. Allow your baby some time to soothe himself back to sleep. CANDIDA/THRUSH Candida or thrush is quite a common infection in newborns. It can be transmitted from mom to baby during breastfeeding. Look out for a gray-white layer on the tongue and inside the cheeks. You won’t be able to wipe this away easily and sometimes it might even bleed. Candida on the bum area usually starts with little red dots with a clear border. Your usual barrier cream won’t make it better. You’ll have to get a script from the doctor for this. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after every nappy change. NAPPIES Avoid nappy rash by being preventative. Invest in a good bum cream and quality nappies. Change your baby’s nappy regularly and clean his nappy area thoroughly to get rid of all traces of urine or stools. Deal with nappy rash at the very first sign – if left untreated it can quickly get out of control and make your baby miserable. Allow your baby some nappy-free time every day to air out the area. Don’t hesitate to go to the doctor if nappy rash doesn’t improve – it could be a fungal infection. COMFORTING Remember, it is impossible to spoil your baby by comforting him. Trust your instinct, and pick him up and comfort him. It could help to give him a dummy, or to take him for a walk, or to rock him in your arms. Play some calming music. If his crying is pushing you too far, ask someone else to take over for a while so you can give yourself a break. Your baby loves your touch and massage can help your bond grow stronger. It also gives your baby physical benefits by enhancing sensory development. Especially preterm babies can benefit from massage, as soon as you have the all clear to do so.
TAKING BABY TO THE DOC Many new mothers feel uncertain about when to take their new baby to the doctor. You don’t want to be branded neurotic, but you naturally worry when your baby is out of sorts. If your baby has any of the following symptoms, you should see the doctor: • Your baby is unusually floppy and restless. • She cries more than usual and you can’t seem to comfort her. Her crying is shrill or weak. • She won’t nurse or gets tired very quickly while nursing. • She has diarrhoea or is vomiting. • Her fontanelles are sunken in. • She is unusually sleepy. • It looks as if she has difficulty breathing. • There is blood or slime in her stools, or her stools look jellyish. • She has a temperature of more than 37.7 degrees Celsius. • Take your baby to the doctor if your instinct tells you that something is wrong, even if she doesn’t have the symptoms listed above.
Sids (sudden infant death syndrome) Cot death is very rare, but all parents worry about it. The most important things to do to minimise the risk are to let your baby sleep on his back and don’t let anyone smoke near him or in your house. Breastfeeding reduces the risk. Ensure there is nothing in his cot that can suffocate him.
BATHING BABY Bathtime can be a little stressful initially. Get on top of it with the following pointers: • Make sure everything you need is ready and within arm’s length. • Bath your baby at a time of day when he is calm and happy and not hungry. • Make sure the baby bath is at a comfortable height for you so that you don’t strain your back. • Test the temperature of the bath water. We recommend using a bath thermometer. • Drape a washcloth over his tummy to make him feel safe. • Talk to him in a soothing voice while you wash him. • If your baby doesn’t enjoy bathtime, don’t feel obliged to bath him every day. On cold days you can also opt for a top and tail bath. You also don’t have to wash his hair every day. • Devote special attention to all the little skin folds in his neck, behind his ears and under his arms where milk can pool. Also dry them off properly with a soft towel. BIRTHMARKS Birthmarks are really very common and can range from temporary colour splotches to permanent marks. The red marks that babies typically have on their eyelids or on the back of the neck are known as stork bites (cute, hey?) and they are harmless. They usually disappear in a few months. Strawberry birthmarks, on the other hand, are flat at birth but then increase in size and are raised on the skin’s surface. Most disappear within the first 15 years of life. Large purple port wine stains on the face are usually permanent. Most of the time birthmarks are harmless, but if your child has an unusual number of these marks it could indicate an underlying condition. Be sure to point them out to your doctor. FONTANELLES Fontanelles are the soft spots on your baby’s head where the skull bones have not joined yet. The front fontanelle is small and triangular and closes within six weeks. The back fontanelle is larger and diamond shaped and closes by 18 months. If your baby’s fontanelles are sunken, it could be a sign of dehydration. If they bulge out, it could be a sign of meningitis. VACCINATIONS Don’t hesitate – vaccinate! Your baby will get his first inoculation against tuberculosis and polio before you leave hospital. You will also be given a card with information on when the next vaccinations are due. If you get one thing right as a new mom, make sure your baby gets vaccinated on schedule. It could save his life and protect others by stopping the spread of dangerous diseases. A CRYING BABY Crying is your baby’s first method of communication, and boy, will he use it! It helps to know what the cause could be. Here are some typical reasons for your baby to cry: • He has a wet or dirty nappy. • He is hungry. • He could be too cold or too warm. Check by feeling the temperature of his neck. Babies are usually comfortable in one layer more than adults. • Are his clothes comfortable? Is his nappy pinching? • Your baby could be crying because he is overly tired or has been overstimulated and cries to release stress. • He has wind or other pain. UMBILICAL CORD CARE It is important that you take proper care of your baby’s umbilical cord stump. Keep it as clean and dry as possible until it falls off, which should be within two weeks of birth. Wipe it at every nappy change using surgical alcohol. Wipe right around the base. Fold baby’s nappy down so it doesn’t scrape against the stump. Call the doctor immediately if the stump gets infected or smells bad. BABY’S WEIGHT If you worry about your baby being overweight or underweight, have a look at his growth chart. Babies need more body fat as an energy source and to keep them warm, but doctors warn against force-feeding your baby, as a baby who is too fat can struggle with chest infections and other ailments. An underweight baby is also more vulnerable to disease and failure to gain weight can indicate an underlying medical condition. It is a good idea to monitor your baby’s weight with a monthly weigh-in and then charting this on his growth chart. The 50th percentile indicates average weight for his age, being above the 97th percentile indicates that your baby is overweight and under the third percentile indicates underweight. COLIC If your healthy baby cries at the same time every afternoon for three hours, will not be consoled and pulls his legs up to his tummy, it could be colic. It usually kicks in at about two to three weeks and can continue for 12 weeks, at which age baby suddenly outgrows it. Doctors really aren’t sure what causes this distressing condition… it could be winds, tummy ache, overfeeding or hunger, stress, overstimulation or even a neck injury from birth. Things that could help: anti-colic bottles, a visit to the chiropractor, keeping baby’s tummy warm, swaddling, or walking with him or taking him for a drive. Massage and a warm bath with mom can also help. STIMULATION We know you’re keen to start stimulating your baby’s little brain, as you’ve most likely read that that is the way to improve learning abilities. But just hang on a bit… Newborns need their sleep more than anything else. Just being born and being new in the world is already plenty stimulation. You are your baby’s most important toy in the early weeks. Your touch and voice are his most important sources of stimulation. Those flash cards can wait. YB