The first thing that a mom thinks when her baby is born is how amazing her baby is. The second thing is: “Is s/he ok?”, a question will dominate the new mom’s thoughts for the next couple of decades. It will be the biggest concern for the first year since the little angel can't talk or describe any pain that they may be experiencing. It will be a particularly difficult question to get a clear answer to in the first two days.
All newborns look a bit like wrinkly, scrunched up gummy bears with alien heads, so appearances could be deceiving. They scream a lot if they are healthy, and also if they need something, so listening can be deceiving. If they are 100% normal, they can’t control their muscles and their resting heart rate is between 100 and 160 beats per minute. As such, comparing the baby’s condition to yours is not reliable.
Worst of all, infants don’t come with built-in system error messages. Life would be a lot easier on parents if they did. Fortunately, there are some signs that indicate that your infant is hale and hearty. Think of them as the opposite of system error messages: if your infant does the following 15 things within the first 48 hours, the baby is ok.
15 Dance On Reflex
If you hold your infant upright and place the baby’s feet flat on a surface, the baby does a little dance. He or she lifts one foot and then the other, like a clunky two-step. You can actually look it to see examples on YouTube. According to whattoexpect.com, the baby is born with this reflex and the baby’s pediatrician will test for it in the first couple days.
The reflex fades away after 2 to 3 months, and there doesn’t seem to be any really good reason for it.
Its presence may indicate that the kid’s legs and feet work fine so they can learn to walk later. The stepping reflex has been observed in the womb and some kids seem to re-develop the reflex a little before they start walking, so perhaps they are just exercising their limbs.
14 Stutter Breath
If there is one thing that a pediatrician knows, it is that children are not just little adults. One of the ways that your infant will not be exactly like you is in how he or she breathes. According to the Springfield Pediatrician website, the newborn pattern of breathing is called periodic breathing. It involves pausing in their breathing for more than 3 seconds about 3 times within 20-second intervals. The pauses become more frequent as the baby sleeps. There isn’t anything you have to do about these weird pauses in the baby’s breathing. The pattern goes back to regular, even breathing through the nose.
Definitely, don’t shake or smack the baby to restart the breathing.
The baby is just adjusting this whole ‘breathing air’ thing, and parents don’t have to worry unless the pauses are more frequent than 3 in 20 seconds or it doesn’t go back to the normal pattern.
13 Score Over 7 On The Test
A very bright obstetrical anesthesiologist by the name of Virginia Apgar invented the official test for judging a baby’s health right after birth. This test is done, according to kidshealth.org, is done twice, once when the baby is 1 minute and again when the baby is 5 minutes old and gives you the baby’s Apgar score.
It’s a series of observations that are then rated between 0 and 2, and a total score under 7 may indicate that your baby needs some medical attention.
One of the things that a pediatrician will observe is movement and muscle tone. If a baby makes a lot of spontaneous movements and is active, the baby will be rated a 2. If the arms and legs are flexed and don’t move much, the baby is given a one. A parent wants her kid to be rated a 2.
12 Suck Your Finger
An infant is born with the ability to search for food. Or at least, he or she will turn towards what might be a nipple. According to the Stanford Children’s website, this is called the rooting reflex. Testing it is both fun and simple: brush your finger against the baby’s cheek, and watch the little darling turn his or her head toward the touch. The kid’s mouth will open and he or she will ‘root’ around in the direction of your finger.
This instinct is basically how infants find breast milk in the first couple of months, but the instinct will fade away by the time the infant is 4 months old. Is the infant trying to zero in on anything stroking his or her cheek? Congratulations! Baby is prepared to eat!
11 Throw Their Hands Up In The Air
Infants are a jittery lot. Loud noises or sudden movements cause them to jerk into motion. It’s a whole routine: their arms and legs go out like their parachuting, they throw their head back, and then they curl right back up again. Sometimes they will even do this in response to their own crying. According to the Stanford Children’s website, this is called the startle, or Moro, reflex.
They will keep doing this for about 5 or 6 months, and gradually becoming less pronounced until they are only jumping a little in response to really surprising movements.
A pediatrician will want to observe this reflex in action because a response that is lopsided or nonexistent indicates a problem. Not doing it in response to loud noises? Baby may be deaf. Not able to lift both arms? Something may be up with Baby’s spine or nerves.
10 The Smell Of Breakfast
Infants have crummy eyesight, overly sensitive skin, and little control over their limbs. However, they have a really sharp sense of smell and taste. According to babycenter.com, infants can taste bitter and sweet (though not salt) at birth and they can smell things so well that they locate the source of that smell. Their sense of smell is so strong that they can detect and identify their own mother’s breast milk.
Studies have been done on days-old infants with pads soaked in various women’s breast milk found that infants can pick out their mom’s breast milk from the other’s breast milk. If your kid is normal, she or he will wiggle toward your nipples with pinpoint accuracy even with the eyes of the baby closed. She or he will also turn away from unpleasant smells as best as the kid is able. That is a good sign that the brain is thoroughly developed.
9 Suck On Everything In Sight
Most animals are born with an instinctive grasp of how they eat. Newborn humans are no different. According to whattoexpect.com, every infant is born with the instinct to suckle on anything that touches the roof of a baby’s mouth or the baby’s lips. The point is to suck on a breast or bottle, but the child will suck on your finger if you stick it in her mouth.
The baby gets a little more discerning as time passes as the instinct fades away by the 4th month.
Fortunately, by that time, the kiddo has figured out how to eat and what to eat, including what to suck. Not that they won’t try to mouth everything that fits in his mouth, but he will bite down on whatever it is instead of automatically sucking on it.
8 Air Fence
Some reflexes are not immediate, but it should appear pretty quickly. One of these, according to whattoexpect.com, is the tonic neck reflex. It’s also sometimes called the fencing reflex because it looks like the baby is fencing with the air. It appears between the kid’s birth and turning 2 months old. It lasts for a couple of months and generally disappears by the time kid turns 6 months.
This reflex is pretty entertaining: whenever the infant is laid on his or her back with the head turned to the side, they extend the arm on the side that the infant turns his or her head is facing, and they bend the opposite arm at the elbow. It may have something to do with the kid learning to reach for things. Or it might be a more comfortable way to lie on one’s back. Babies are weird.
7 Grimace On Demand
Part of what an obstetrician will look for when conducting the Apgar test is sensitivity to stimuli. This observation is often called ‘reflex irritability’ or ‘grimace reflex,’ but that is more for nurses to remember what they are looking for. As Arizona State’s nurse’s webpage describes, the medical care provider will gently pinch the baby.
A baby gets rated a 2 (and therefore healthy) if the baby pulls away, sneezes, coughs or cries.
A baby gets rated a 1 if the kid only grimaces. If the child doesn’t respond at all, he or she gets rated a 0 and probably should get some medical attention. You can probably see why. Lack of reaction would indicate something that is wrong with the baby’s health such as the baby doesn’t have the energy to respond or something is wrong with the baby’s nerves.
6 Love The Vacuum Cleaner
Babycenter.com lists many possible warning signs that a baby may have a hearing impairment. We have to add the caveats that one warning sign shouldn’t trigger panic as every baby is different and the only fool-proof way to tell if your baby has trouble hearing is a hearing screening, but there are some signs that should trigger a visit to your pediatrician. One of them is if your baby is not soothed by soft noises.
All right, a baby with colic won’t be soothed by definition, but if making those clucking noises at the kid or murmuring ‘there-there’ doesn’t elicit any reaction at all, it might be because the infant can’t hear you. If this is coupled with not startling at loud noises and not responding to sounds in general, there could be a problem.
5 Grab Anything In The Palm
Here is something that you can do at home for fun: press a small object, such as a rattle, into your baby’s palm. According to the Stanford Children’s website, the baby will make a fist and grasp the object if it is done correctly. The baby’s grip can be amazingly strong.
They can even be strong enough to hold his weight, though you probably want to test this over a soft surface. This is sometimes called the Palmer reflex.
This amazing ability will last for 3 to 6 months, and if you repeatedly fail to elicit it, you might want to tell your pediatrician. Whattoexpect.com seems to think this may be practice for grasping things, but some think it is a way to ensure your baby can hang on to you while you travel, monkey-style.
4 A Boatload Of Diapers
Babies are known for soiling lots of diapers. In fact, the American Pregnancy website, infants pee once every 20 minutes. However, babies generally get off to a slow start. If you are breastfeeding, you produce a thick liquid called colostrum a couple of days after you give birth. In the meantime, according to verywellfamily.com, your baby should produce at least one to two wet diapers a day for those first days.
Your baby has some nastiness from your womb still in him or her, and the infant should excrete it in a tarry green poop within 12 to 24 hours. After your milk comes in and the baby’s digestive system has adjusted to milk, he or she will crank through 6 to 8 diapers a day, so perhaps it is good to ease into it.
3 Toes Up
This is a reflex that the Stanford Children’s website calls the Babinski reflex, which sounds like a case in a noir novel. However, it is actually a response that children under 2 years old have.
What happens is that you firmly stroke the sole of the baby’s foot from heel to toe, and the kid’s toes instinctively spread out and the big toe bends back toward the top of the foot. I can’t do that consciously now, so that is pretty impressive for a baby.
It can start to fade out as early as 6 months, but it is always present at birth. The reflex might have something with keeping the baby from falling, but the connection is somewhat tenuous. It’s just a thing that is fun to do to your baby and should be present if all the nerves are firing in your kid.
2 Be Very Pink
As Stanford Children’s website points out, infants are born a variety of colors. When they first come out of the womb, they can be anything from dark red to purple, and their hands and feet can be blue for a few hours after birth. The baby has not been breathing oxygen for the past 9 months, and this leaves the blood darker. They can also temporarily turn a little yellow, too, if they have a bit much bilirubin.
The immature circulation system can make the return of normal coloring slow for hands and feet. However, the rest of the kid should lighten in skin color in the first day, getting nice and pink. The rest of the body shouldn’t be blue, that’s for sure, though they may look a little mottled for a while.
1 Beginning Vision Signs
All infants are nearsighted. As livestrong.com points out, an infant’s eyes are only 75% developed. So, your infant isn’t going to be able to focus on anything further away than 18 inches. A pediatrician won’t be able to administer a vision test. However, there should be signs that the eyes are at least at the three-quarter’s mark as far as development goes.
Healthy baby eyes work together, both pupils moving in tandem and face you when you are talking to him or her.
Occasionally, babies pick up bacteria in their eyes when they are born. They can get conjunctivitis which will prevent the baby from opening one of their eyes.
Does the Significant Other like to take photos with flashes? If there seems to be something in your baby’s eyes in every picture with a flash, a pediatrician should perhaps examine the eyes, too.