From the comfort of the womb to arriving in the big, bright world, babies go through quite the journey. But for these little bundles of joy, and their moms, the real adventure begins at birth, and no amount of research can fully prepare new mothers for what to expect.
Expectant moms have never had so much access to information and advice when it comes to caring for newborns. There are websites, forums, and books, not forgetting friends and family, all bursting with facts and guidance. Yet when that tiny new human arrives, there are so many things that can still take moms completely by surprise.
There are so many common infant conditions that parents might not be prepared for. Thankfully, many of them, such as cradle cap and other skin conditions, are completely harmless and correct themselves with time, but it helps to know what to look out for.
It is important to know how to help your baby, and to recognize potential warning signs for more serious problems. So new moms should never be scared to ask for an explanation from medical professionals, and with babies, who are so vulnerable, trust your intuition. The best advice is always to consult a doctor when in doubt.
You don’t necessarily associate acne with babies, which is why this skin condition can come as a surprise to new moms. Baby acne most commonly affects a newborn’s neck, upper back and chest, and about 20 percent of babies get it before they are six weeks old. Some are born with it, others develop it later, but a rash or spot that appears after six weeks might be something different, so it’s worth consulting a medical professional, just in case.
Like in teenagers, baby acne is caused by hormones, only it’s mom’s hormones that cause the condition. It doesn’t usually need treatment, unless symptoms are severe, in which case a doctor may choose to prescribe antibiotics.
We expect newborns to cry, right? But if your little one cries more than three hours a day, three days a week for at least one week, the poor little thing might have colic. Other symptoms include clenched fists, a red face, arching their back or bringing their knees up to their tummy, and excessive wind.
Colic is estimated to affect about one in five infants, and though medics think wind or indigestion may be involved, no one really knows what causes it. We just know it's tough for new parents to cope with. The good news, however, is that it does pass, so stay strong, mama.
When you picture what your new baby might look like, a flat head isn’t what most new moms imagine. But a newborn’s skull is soft - that’s what allows it to squeeze through the birth canal - and continued pressure on one spot can cause the head to flatten.
Flat head syndrome will usually correct itself by a baby’s first birthday, but there are methods parents can use to reduce the chance of it developing.
Of course, you should always put baby on his back to sleep, but alternating different ends of the cot will encourage him to sleep on different sides of his head.
Known as milia, these tiny white lumps don’t itch or hurt, they are totally harmless, and they fade by themselves. New moms needn’t worry. Milia just look a bit strange if you’re expecting your new baby to have picture-perfect skin.
Milia are caused by old skin cells trapped beneath the surface of the skin’s top layer, and they don’t respond to creams or ointments. To help prevent them, gently wash baby’s face everyday, but resist the temptation to pinch, scrub or pop. Just be patient - you baby is still gorgeous and she won’t have them forever.
We all have a naturally occurring yeast that lives in our bodies. If the balance of yeast tips, the organism can quickly multiply and cause an infection. It’s this yeast that causes oral thrush, and it’s a common infection in newborns.
Babies can get it by sucking on teats or dummies, or by breastfeeding, or they can pick it up on their way out of mom’s birth canal.
The symptoms include white spots or patches on the tongue, and on the inside of lips and cheeks. These areas can cause baby discomfort if they turn red or blotchy. If you suspect your baby has oral thrush, visit your physician who can prescribe antifungal drops or oral gel.
You can physically see when a baby has had a good feed - their tummies stick right out. In between feeds, however, their bellies should feel soft. If baby’s tummy feels swollen and hard, your newborn might have abdominal distension.
In infants, this condition can result from a variety of normal causes, like swallowing air, gas and colic, and it often doesn’t indicate a health problem, so don’t panic. If it’s a new condition, and accompanied by discomfort, fewer bowel movements for a few days and, or vomiting, call your physician. Abdominal distension could signal a more serious intestinal problem.
Many new parents wander around in a sleep-deprived haze, covered in baby sick. There is no such thing as too many cloths. If you think you’ve bought too many, buy more.
Most infants spit up small amounts of milk within the first hour after a feed. This is sometimes known as “cheesing,” and it lessens as the baby grows. This kind of spitting up is normal and nothing to worry about, providing baby is gaining weight.
However, if the puke seems unusually forceful and frequent, call your pediatrician, because it could mean baby is struggling to feed, or it could be the symptom of a stomach infection.
Newborn babies can get cold quickly, so it’s not unusual for them to have mildly blue hands and feet. It’s nothing that a bit of extra clothing or a blanket can’t solve. Really upset babies can also turn their face and lips a little blue, thanks to all the crying, but this should resolve itself as they calm down. Persistent blue skin coloration, however, might be sign that baby is not getting enough oxygen in the system and it’s best to seek medical attention.
The most common cause of blue baby syndrome is water that is too high in nitrates. More seriously, it could also be symptom of an underlying problem.
Babies can get away with all kinds of behavior that just wouldn’t wash with adults, and their gas output is one of them. Burps or farts, they can pass wind 13-21 times a day, so new moms must be prepared to spend a surprisingly big chunk of their day burping their little one.
They get gassy because they swallow a lot of air and, just like in adults, it can be pretty uncomfortable for them. Other than the obvious symptoms, if they’ve got gas, they might be extra fussy and have a hard tummy.
There are ways to lessen it and these include keeping baby’s head higher than her stomach when feeding, frequent burping after feeds, massage, and bathing.
Greasy, yellow crusts on a baby’s head might take many new parents by surprise, but cradle cap is really common and completely harmless. Cradle cap is similar to dandruff in some ways, but it’s not clear what causes it.
Around 10 percent of infants up to the ages of one month are affected and though it usually clears up on its own, there are a few things parents can do to help it on its way. Regular hair washing with baby shampoo and loosening the flakes with a soft brush can help, as can rubbing baby oil on the scalp to soften the crusts.
No one knows why some babies get birthmarks but these visible skin discolourations, which can be reddish or brown, come in all shapes in sizes and can appear anywhere on the body. Some are present at birth, some appear later on, and while many fade with time, some types of birthmark, like port wine stains, are permanent.
In some cases, a birthmark will need to be treated for medical reasons. A haemangioma, for example, can block airways or affect vision. But most are harmless, though it can be tough for parents if their baby has a prominent mark in a very visible location.
“As smooth as a baby’s bum,” or so the saying goes. But lots of newborns end up having diaper rash, which can cause their behinds to feel tender and look sore, red and even scaly.
A baby’s skin is super sensitive and it can get irritated by diapers themselves, because they don’t allow the skin to breathe, and by the waste that fills them. Pee changes the skin’s pH levels, which encourages the growth of bacteria and fungi. This causes a rash. Good hygiene, frequent diaper changes, creams and letting the baby have some diaper-free time, should all help to keep diaper rash under control.
Did you know that newborn babies can’t breathe through their mouths? No? Well, you do now. For the first few months of life, babies can only breathe through their noses, which is why they sound stuffy.
This stuffiness can also be caused by amniotic fluid getting into their nasal passages during birth, but this clears after a few days. Babies’ nasal passages can also get filled with small amounts of regurgitated milk, which can cause a tiny bit of swelling.
But there’s no need to reach for the saline drops and nasal aspirator, unless baby is having trouble breathing. If this is the case, then seek medical help.
A forceps delivery is only used when medical professionals deem them entirely necessary. Though they can be effective in helping to get baby out, they can leave their mark on your little one’s face. No one expects their newborn baby to arrive in the world looking like he’s done a few round in the boxing ring, but it happens.
The marks caused by forceps, which look like giant tongs, will usually disappear within 48 hours. About one in 10 babies born via assisted delivery will get small cuts on their face and scalp. But this is nothing compared to the tears and injuries mom can experience.
So you’ve just met your new baby and you’ve noticed his skin is yellow. This is newborn jaundice and it’s extremely common.
When baby is growing inside the womb, mom’s liver works for the two of them. When the placenta is detached after birth, baby’s liver suddenly has to do all the hard work by itself, and this can take time.
Most babies who have newborn jaundice are fine within two weeks, but breastfed babies are at risk of developing two types of jaundice - breastfeeding jaundice and breastmilk jaundice. Though treatment isn’t needed in most cases, it’s definitely something worth mentioning to health professionals.
Red cells carry oxygen around the body, and anemia is a condition in which a baby (or adult) has fewer healthy red cells than normal. Because newborns don’t make new red cells until they are about a month old, they are often affected by a mild type of anemia, until their hemoglobin count rises to normal levels.
Most babies have no symptoms and no treatment is necessary. If baby is displaying symptoms of more severe anemia, including sleepiness, pale skin, and a fast breathing rate, visit a physician, who may recommend iron drops.
Preemie babies can struggle with a whole host of medical difficulties and one of them is infant apnea, which is an irregular pattern of breathing that can really put an anxious mom and dad on edge.
If baby pauses for more than 10 seconds between breaths, this could be a type of apnea and though the baby is likely to outgrow it, it’s not fun for parents and needs to be monitored by professionals.
The most common cause of apnea in preemies is the immaturity of the respiratory center in the brain, and it usually begins within the first week of life.
Babies don’t have many tools of communication at their disposal, but crying is one of them - and it’s probably their most effective, too. Nothing grabs mom’s attention more than hollering at top volume. But how much crying is too much crying? How can you tell the difference between a normal and an excessive amount?
Normally, infants will cry when hungry, thirsty, lonely, bored or in pain, and they’ll cry about one to three hours a day. Moms have to become master troubleshooters to find the root cause, but if that fails, and none of the usual calming tactics have worked, follow your intuition and seek help to set your mind at ease.
Sources: Medical News Today; NHS UK; KidsHealth.Org; HealthyChildren.Org; WebMD; MedlinePlus.