The first year of life is terrifying. All sorts of stuff can happen in the first 12 months that will be unlikely to hurt the kid once he is older but can be fatal now. This is also a time when birth defects and problems are diagnosed. All sorts of surprises await parents of a new baby and it can be hard to not worry about every little symptom.
Luckily, not all of the syndromes and conditions your kid can get are serious. Many are mild, passing problems that really don’t require attention at all. Many of the syndromes that are serious are easy to avoid with just a few precautions.
The following list of things your kid may face in the first year is a mixed bag of the serious, the mild and the downright terrifying.
Many of these conditions are rare and unlikely to affect your kid. Other conditions are common as mud but barely even register as a problem. Knowing the difference and putting things into perspective will help you along this year. And don’t worry too much; with a load of luck, lots of outside help, and a little common sense, these 12 months will be manageable.
15 Cheerful To A Fault
Sometimes it isn’t that the kid will have the syndrome until his or her first birthday but that a syndrome that the child will have their entire life will become evident between the 6th and 12th month. This is the case with Angelman Syndrome.
According to Angelman.org, this condition is a type of genetic disorder that comes from something going wrong with chromosome 15. Most of the time, a section of the chromosome mutates and makes it stop working. Sometimes the child inherits two copies of the chromosome from his or her dad, which causes them to cancel each other out.
However, most folks with this condition live a normal lifespan and are often cheerful.
Either way, the symptoms are problems with balance and movement, a small head, seizures, as well as developmental and mental delays. Children with this condition often have tapered fingers, broad thumbs, and odd creases in their palms. Your pediatrician will be able to prescribe medicine for the seizures, physical therapy for the problems with walking and balance, and speech therapy for the speech problems. Even with the therapy, many people with this condition never learn more than 10 words. Parents can manage the symptoms and have them live a long and happy life.
14 That Third Chromosome
This is a condition that medical professionals will have an easy time spotting right away. People with this syndrome have distinctively broad and flattened facial features. According to webmd.com, it is sometimes called trisomy 21 because it is caused by the person inheriting a third chromosome 21.
Plenty of people with Down syndrome grow up and live active lives. The average life expectancy of children with the condition is 50 to 60 years in industrial countries.
The symptoms include delayed physical growth and a mild to moderate intellectual disability. People with the condition tend to be short and to be late to reach developmental milestones. They sometimes have speech impairments as well. It is a random mutation that becomes a little more common when the mom is 45 or older.
Your pediatrician can recommend educational support, but there isn’t a cure. The condition is often accompanied by heart problems, immune system problems, and other health problems. If you are a bit older and pregnant, you might want to get screened for the condition since it occurs in about 1 in 1000 babies born every year, making it one of the most common genetic disorders.
Some graduate from high school and 20% go on to work in sheltered conditions. There aren’t a lot of behavioral problems associated with it either.
13 Some Holes In The Spine
According to webmd.com, about 1,500 to 2000 babies in the United States are born with one of the 3 types of spina bifida. This condition is a birth defect where the backbone that protects the spine doesn’t form completely because of the neural tube that eventually becomes the spine didn’t close while developing.
This is why you take your folic acid supplements in your first trimester. It cuts your odds of having a child with this problem.
The 3 types of spina bifida are spina bifida occulta, meningocele, and myelomeningocele. Spina bifida occulta gets its name from its hidden nature, which is such a minor condition that people who have it don’t realize that there is a hole in their backbone until they get x-rays for some other condition.
Seriously, it’s nothing to worry about, and the only sign may be a tuft of hair or birthmark at the site of the defect. Meningocele is a rare condition where a sack of spinal fluid hangs out of a hole in the backbone. It occasionally causes bladder and bowel problems, but there are usually no complications.
There will be a bump and perhaps a thin covering of skin over the sac. The one to fear is myelominingocele, which is where some of the spinal cord and nerves stick out in a sac of spinal fluid. There usually is no skin covering the spinal cord tissue and it can cause a host of problems, including seizures, bladder problems, and weak leg muscles.
12 Slipping Away With No Warning
I hate including this on the list. It’s so grim to remember that sometimes children under one year old can pass away in their sleep with no warning whatsoever. According to sids.org, the diagnosis of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is only made after an autopsy and thorough death investigation finds no cause.
No one has pinned down the exact cause, but the ‘safe to sleep’ (previously known as 'Back to Sleep campaign') has put a serious dent in the number of victims.
In the past 20 years, the incidence of SIDS has dropped by 66% after parents were taught to put their children to sleep on their backs and keep cribs clear of anything but a sheet. There are about 4,000 sleep-related deaths a year these days, most of them occurring in the first 4 months of life. The only group of infants that wasn’t affected by this campaign seems to be 1-month-olds: the rate for that first month hasn’t budged much and may indicate that some babies have an undetected malady that makes them vulnerable.
Even that group did do better with the precautions outlined in the back to sleep campaign, so remember- infants sleep on their backs and those adorable teddy bears, fluffy blankets and pillows are for the toy bin, not the crib.
11 Yet Another Gene Problem
William Syndrome is another condition that occurs when something goes wrong with the genes. Webmd.com says it is a rare problem caused by a gene being deleted, and the symptoms vary depending on which gene is missing. This is caused by the gene missing from the ova or sperm at conception, which is as random a chance as there can be. It can cause children to have problems with their heart, blood vessels, or kidneys. They often have learning issues as well and may have trouble eating. They are often small and don’t grow as quickly as other children.
It isn’t all bad news, though. A lot of children with Williams Syndrome have excellent memories and language skills. Many have musical talents, as well.
As with Down Syndrome, children with the condition have some distinctive facial features. The bridge of their nose is flattened, their foreheads tend to be wide, and they might have a starburst pattern around the iris of their eyes.
Children with the condition are generally diagnosed before they are 4, and can wind up with many complications. As long as you work with your pediatrician to manage the condition, the kid can grow up and live happily ever after.
10 The Tummy Gets Blocked Up
Infantile hypertrophic pyloric stenosis is the medical term for a condition where the valve between the stomach and intestines is thick and narrow, making digestion difficult.
According to webmd.com, the condition is diagnosed about 3 to 5 weeks old after birth when the kid keeps projectile vomiting which gets worse over time, becomes dehydrated, loses weight or doesn’t gain weight, and gets a lump in their abdomen.
There may be ripples across the baby’s belly and the vomit might smell sour, too. When the parent takes the kid to the hospital, the doctor will try to take a closer look at the kid’s abdomen with an ultrasound or barium swallows. It’s treated by surgery with the doctors cutting the thickened muscles that are blocking the food.
It’s fortunately a relatively rare condition, fortunately, affecting 1 in a 1000 babies, mostly boys and premature babies. Their odds are made worse if mom smokes during pregnancy or she had to take erythromycin or azithromycin at the end of the pregnancy. It was first reported in 1717 and officially identified in 1887. These days, if the condition is caught and treated correctly, the child will survive and go on to hear the story of how they survived surgery ad nauseum.
9 The Brain Can Sustain Bruising
The website for the Mayo Clinic says that this condition is also called abusive head trauma, shaken impact syndrome, inflicted head injury and whiplash shake syndrome. Most people know it as shaken baby syndrome, a brain injury that comes from a baby forcefully shaking an infant. Shaking causes the fragile brain to bounce off the back of the skull and bang into the front, making the brain swell, bleed and bruise. This can be lethal.
What would you look for if you suspect that your infant has been shaken? An infant could be extremely fussy, suffering breathing problems, throwing up, having difficulty staying awake or develop poor eating. Some even more distressing results of being shaken are paralysis, seizure, and comas. Even if the child survives, he or she can suffer from complications. They can develop partial or total blindness, development delays, learning problems, seizure disorders, and cerebral palsy.
It’s important to remember that you have to be gentle with infants, but bouncing a kid on your knee, minor falls or rough play won’t generally cause shaken baby syndrome.
If you think a baby has been shaken hard, then you should immediately take the child to the hospital to treat the brain injury. Although, do be prepared to be questioned closely by the hospital staff. Shaken baby syndrome is considered a sign of child abuse and doctors are mandatory reporters.
8 Sections Of The Intestine Can Slip
Intussusception is a condition where a section of the intestine slides inside another section of intestine. It blocks food and blood, and it can cause a tear in the bowel, infection and internal bleeding. If that sounds painful, it is because it is. And unfortunately, it is a more common condition.
Webmd.com says it is the most common abdominal emergency for children under 2 years old.
It can happen to older children and teenagers though. It tends to affect boys more often than girls and siblings of victims are more likely to suffer from intussusceptions.
The condition happens suddenly. The pain will hit every 15 to 20 minutes initially and become more frequent and stronger as time passes. Other symptoms could include a visible lump in the stomach, bloody stool, diarrhea, fever, listlessness, and vomiting up yellow-green fluid. If the kid is not hustled to the emergency room immediately, infection and shock can set in.
Webmd.com says that this condition will first be treated with an air enema and IV drips to begin with, and if that doesn’t work, the doctors will probably next try gently pulling the sections back into their right place. Since the condition can return within 3 days, the child will probably be kept in the hospital for another day and won’t be able to eat for another 12 hours. A pretty traumatic event all around.
7 When Breastmilk Yellows
Newborns are a bit like paper in that they sometimes turn yellow. According to healthline.com, about 60% of infants get jaundiced within a couple of day of being born. The liver of newborns isn’t as efficient as older kids, so it doesn’t process the bilirubin that comes from the breakdown of old blood as quickly as it could. The bilirubin can settle in the skin and turn it yellow.
Sometimes this yellowing is associated with breastfeeding. Why it occurs is hard to say, although at least some folks believe that it has something to do with substances found in breast milk that prevents the liver from doing its job. It develops within a week of being born.
It’s a rare condition, about 3% of breastfed babies develop it, and it isn’t terribly dangerous. It goes away on its own in 12 weeks. It doesn’t normally cause complications in your baby’s health. Well, that’s not completely true. The yellowing can be accompanied by listlessness, poor weight gain, and high-pitched crying. It can be diagnosed with a blood test if you take your kid to the doctor, and he or she might prescribe light therapy. This means that the baby will be laid under a special light so it will look like he is in a baby tanning booth.
6 Their Weak Limbs
We all rely on our ability to balance and use our muscles every day and we expect that our children will rely on these things, too. Sometimes people are born with a disorder that affects the part of the brain that controls the ability to move muscles. These disorders are called cerebral palsy. According to webmd.com, the condition can be mild or so bad the person can’t walk. They lack muscle tone and sometimes can be accompanied by intellectual disabilities (most go on to have normal IQs though).
There are a number of ways that a child can wind up with cerebral palsy. The brain can start bleeding in the womb, the blood flow can get cut off to important organs and they might get seizures early in life. There are some genetic conditions and traumatic brain injuries can cause it, too. It becomes more common for infants whose moms had Rubella, chickenpox, herpes, syphilis or toxoplasmosis when they were pregnant.
Other risk factors include the mom having multiples, seizures and Rh disease. Difficult labor and premature birth can up the risks as well. Many children with cerebral palsy grow up, so it may be difficult to deal with, it isn’t the end of the world.
5 When The Head Flattens
Infants have amazingly malleable heads. Their skulls are made of flexible sections that can move around and leave a space on the top of their heads where the sections don’t yet touch.
Premature infants have particularly moldable heads. This is great because it is how the infant’s head fits through the birth canal. The downside of this is flat head syndrome. According to kidshealth.org, sometimes an infant, especially a premature infant, spends so much time on his or her back that a lasting flat spot develops on his or her head. The flat spot will have less hair than the rest of the head. The problem won’t get worse once the child can move his or her head on her own.
It’s a largely cosmetic problem most of the time, though your doctor will want to make sure that is all it is.
Occasionally, the skull is flattened out because the baby is cramped in the womb, which causes them to have trouble turning their head and developing a condition caused torticollis. The neck, jaw, and face can wind up being uneven. That is a different case entirely. Flat head syndrome will resolve if you put the baby on his or her tummy often, hold him or her more and change the kid’s sleeping position often.
4 The Tummy Gets Hard
Infants are shaped funny. They arrive looking a bit like a red Idaho potato and with stubby limbs. And their bellies are plump. Humans are born chubbier than any other species, and much of that pudge is on their stomachs. However, this pudge should be soft, not hard and distended.
Livestrong.com comments that this abdominal distension can be a sign of something serious. It frequently isn’t though. Often, the baby just swallows a lot of air while she eats or cries. Simply burping him or her for 2 to 3 minutes will let the gas out. If it doesn’t, a warm bath will cure the problem or at least allow the baby to relax. A baby with colic can get a distended belly, too, but comforting the kid will solve the problem.
If the abdominal distension doesn’t go away, there might be something that your doctor needs to see. An infection could be the problem. There might also be some type of obstruction in the little one’s stomach, or other organs might be suffering. If the distention is new and it causes the baby to cry a lot, there is a chance that there is something seriously wrong. Even if there isn’t a problem, you will probably feel better knowing that the baby is all right.
3 The Baby Turns Blue
Blue baby syndrome affects babies at birth or very early on. As you may have guessed from the name, it is characterized by the kid’s overall skin tone becoming blue. The official name for this condition is called cyanosis. According to healthline.com, this syndrome occurs because the baby’s blood is poorly oxygenated.
There are underlying conditions that cause this blueness. The baby might have a congenital heart defect, such as tetralogy of Fallot, that reduces blood flow. Methemoglobinemia can also cause it. Methemoglobinemia is from nitrate poisoning that can come from using well water in your infant formula or feeding the baby homemade baby food made of nitrate-rich foods.
Once the underlying cause of the blueness is dealt with, the child should be fine.
Other symptoms that might come with blue baby syndrome are irritability, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, clubbed fingers and toes, and feeding problems. Your doctor will want to run a few tests and a thorough physical exam to find out why your baby has turned blue. If the kid has nitrate problems, the problem can be solved with medication and by avoiding well water and nitrate-rich stuff like spinach and beets. A heart condition may require surgery, though it is tricky with newborns.
2 They Literally Mold To The Chair
When you have a little baby and you need to do a lot of things, it can be tempting to put the little one in some kind of container while you work. I used to put my baby in a car seat while I cooked dinner so she could sit on the washing machine and watch me. It ensured that she could be with me safely.
Other moms have strapped the little one in a baby seat or swing while going through the morning routine. Doing this sometimes, as long as the baby is not spending all day in the container, is fine. It is having the child sit in one position for most of the day that is problematic.
Babycenter.ca describes the negative consequences of doing this as flat head syndrome, neck muscle tightness, decreased muscle strength and delays in acquiring gross motor skills. So how can you prevent these problems? Make sure that your child gets 90 cumulative minutes of tummy time and give the kid a chance to look around by holding him a lot.
A playpen is also an excellent place to put the baby while doing household chores so he or she can move around while you work. If you notice that your infant tends to tilt his head a certain way, struggles to hold his head up during tummy time, or is slow to reach his gross motor goals, you might want to talk to your doctor about physical therapy.
1 Bawling For No Reason
This condition is very common and very peculiar. According to webmd.com, colic is when an infant cries for 3 or more hours each day for more than 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks. The colicky infant will often cry at the same time every evening for what appears to be no reason. She might clench her fists, have a bloated belly, and tighten her stomach muscles. The poor kiddo will be inconsolable, and the screaming will be louder or higher-pitched than usual.
Nobody is really certain why this happens. It normally starts up around the 3rd month and peters out after a couple of weeks. If it lasts a while you will want to talk to the kid’s pediatrician. The fussiness may be from some more permanent source such as food allergies or illness. The doctor will be able to eliminate more serious conditions and give you some idea on how to console the poor dear.
The pediatrician will want to know the baby’s eating patterns and when the baby cries as well as how long. In the meantime, let us end on a cheery note: colic is temporary and pretty soon your little darling will be comfortable again. The kid may have not even been uncomfortable to begin with since no one knows what sets infants off.
References: WebMD.com, BabyCenter.ca, KidsHealth.com, Angelman.org, SIDS.org, emedicine.medscape.com, healthline.com, livestrong.com
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