Common difficulties when first brining your baby home
Baby Care 101
By Shawn Ledington
Caring for your baby involves more than midnight feedings and diaper changes. Common skin conditions and other ailments can crop up overnight. Keep a close eye on any physical changes you notice in your newborn. This will keep your baby comfortable and healthy — and you’ll feel better, too.
What is it? Cradle cap is due to overactive oil glands in the scalp. It presents itself as weepy, yellow scales that dry to a crust on the scalp, said Susan Puglese, a certified baby-care expert with Wellspan’s York Hospital.
What to do? It can be treated by applying warm olive oil, baby oil or mineral oil to the scalp and leaving it on for 15 minutes. Shampoo with a mild dandruff shampoo and rub the scales with a soft brush to remove them. In severe cases where this treatment isn't effective, consult your doctor. Although cradle cap is unsightly, it is not harmful and generally clears up on its own by the time the child is 8 to 12 months old, Puglese said.
What is it? A baby’s bottom gets sore, red, scaly, and tender, usually the result of a skin irritation due to tight diapers, soiled diapers left on too long or an allergic reaction to a particular brand of detergent, diapers or baby wipes.
What to do? Expose the red area to air for 15 minutes three to four times a day. “The more you can air out the area the better,” Puglese said. Before putting a diaper on, though, apply a light layer of diaper rash cream that contains zinc oxide to help with healing. And, of course, wash the diaper area well with warm water in between diaper changes. If you don't see any improvement within four days, or if the rash worsens, consult a doctor.
Why does it happen? Constipation can happen when a child's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. Or, it can be caused by a factor in the child's environment. A child is considered constipated when he or she has had fewer than three bowel movements in a week, when the stools are hard, dry and unusually large, or when it's hard for the child to have a bowel movement.
What to do? Babies that are taking solids can be aided with an increase in their fruit and vegetable intake, their low-sugar fruit juice consumption and their water intake. Parents who have younger babies who are not yet taking solids should consult their doctors. Massage strokes for gas and constipation can be learned in infant massage classes.
What is it? Approximately 60 percent of healthy infants develop jaundice, a yellowing of the skin, soon after birth, Puglese said. It comes from bilirubin, which is a pigment made by red blood cells. A newborn's immature liver often cannot effectively clear the bilirubin away. While slight jaundice is harmless, higher levels can have more serious effects.
What to do about it? It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions. If you are breastfeeding, often more frequent nursing will help decrease bilirubin levels. Because breastfeeding has a laxative effect on newborns, they have more frequent stools. Since bilirubin is excreted in the stool, this helps to lower levels. Sometimes your health care provider will suggest putting your baby near a sunny window at home because sunlight helps to break down bilirubin. In the hospital, if the infant has higher levels of bilirubin, he or she may receive phototherapy. The infant is naked with just a diaper and eye coverings on and placed under special lights. Phototherapy is similar to sunlight and helps to break down the bilirubin.
What is it? An infection happens when germs like bacteria and viruses get inside the body and cause trouble. Germs can get into babies’ ears. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever, fussiness and rubbing or tugging at the ear.
What to do about it? It is important to consult your baby's doctor if you suspect your baby has an ear infection. Special treatment will be needed that your doctor can provide.
What is it? Although babies have the beginnings of their first teeth even before they are born, teeth don't become visible until babies are about 6 to 12 months old, according to kidshealth.org. Puglese said that babies generally start teething at 4 to 6 months of age, although others are known to start much later.
What to do about it? Massage baby’s gums with a clean finger. Teething rings that are kept in the refrigerator or freezer (if they are freezer-safe) can also have a numbing effect on gums. For older babies, fruit juice popsicles, which are held by the parent, may help. Over-the-counter numbing medication in gel or liquid form can decrease the uncomfortable sensation in the gum, but should be used carefully. In cases of extreme fussiness, check with your baby's doctor.
Why does it happen? There can be any number of reasons for a fever, including an infection.
What to do? It's always good to consult your doctor when your baby has a fever, Puglese said.
What are they? Birth marks are a discoloration of the skin which can be permanent or temporary, and they range in size. Generally they are pink, red, tan or purple in color. Some are temporary: “stork bites”are small reddened areas usually found on the baby’s face which will fade with time. An example of a permanent birth mark is a “port wine stain.” This type of birth mark is purple in color, covers a larger area of the skin and is often found on the face, neck and arms.
What to do? Nothing can be done; they will eventually fade over time, Puglese said.
Breastfeeding: Overcoming Difficulties
By Alyson English
The moment I first held my newborn son to my breast was not magical. It was scary. Nothing I read prepared me for what nursing was really about. I dealt with sore nipples, thrush, mastitis and engorgement.
Here’s your official nursing reality check: a list of things that can go wrong, and why you shouldn’t quit when they do.
Patience and Persistence
The initial two weeks are the toughest. This sentiment was expressed again and again by the nursing mothers I spoke with. Many women have no pain when nursing, but some do. I believe it takes about two weeks for cluster feeding — very frequent, short feeding intervals — to stop and for a mom to feel more comfortable feeding.
Blood, Sweat and Tears
One possible cause of sore nipples is an improper latch by your baby. When babies don’t get enough of the breast in the mouth, they end up just sucking on the nipple voraciously, which will, of course, leave mom feeling raw and irritated. Another cause might be inverted nipples. Breast shells are one option for moms whose nipples just don’t pop.
One other possible cause of sore, bleeding nipples is thrush, a yeast infection in the nipples. Symptoms include itchy or burning nipples that appear pink or red or shiny, flaky and/or have a rash with tiny blisters. Cracked nipples and shooting pains in the breast during or after feedings are also symptoms. The baby’s mouth may also have white patches that don’t go away.
Doctors aren’t the only ones who can help treat this yeast beast. Breastfeeding professionals can offer advice, as well.
When Mastitis Strikes
Tender breasts that have red streaks or bumps usually mean one of two things: either a clogged milk duct or mastitis. A clogged duct can be treated with warm compresses and frequent feedings. If left untreated, it can become infected. That is mastitis.
Tanya Nichols remembers it well. “So here I am nursing my first baby, and three months into this he is thriving and is growing quite well. Then all of a sudden I hurt. And not a little hurt — a BIG hurt,” she says. “I ignored the pain for several days until I was running a fever and had a red, hot rash on my left breast.”
When Nichols called her doctor, he told her to come in immediately. She had mastitis, which needed to be treated with antibiotics. You can continue to nurse your baby while treating your breast infection. The protective properties in breast milk will help prevent your baby from getting the infection.
Ouch! Biting of the nipple is not a pleasant thing to think about, and it isn’t pleasant when it happens, either. While most babies learn from their moms’ reactions not to bite, mothers should be aware that, especially in older babies, boredom or tiredness can trigger the chomp-down. Jan Zeiger says that her daughter Loralei had that problem.
“Loralei only bit me twice, and both times it was either related to teething or the fact that she wasn’t seriously nursing,” Zeiger says. One note of caution: If your baby bites and breaks the skin on the nipple, be extra vigilant in keeping clean and watching for signs of breast infections.
Lack of Support
It’s no secret that not everyone is entirely supportive of breastfeeding. Nursing mothers should remember that while they are doing something completely natural, others may become uncomfortable with the sight of a nursing baby.
A good knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding coupled with a strong commitment can outweigh problems that may come up. But in making that commitment, it is important to have the right support structure.
Trust Your Instincts
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of what can go wrong when breastfeeding your baby, the stories these mothers have shared should at least give you one thing to take away from this: You know yourself and your baby better than anyone else, and with the right dedication and the right support, most nursing problems can be overcome.
Still Having a Hard Time?
Breast milk is pediatricians’ first choice for newborns. In an ideal world, breastfeeding would be easy and the right fit for all moms. But the reality is that breastfeeding doesn’t work for every new mom. Ultimately, you’ve got to make the choice that’s right for you and your family.
Many new moms can’t breastfeed due to medical conditions, medications they’re taking, or work, travel and scheduling issues that make it impractical. And while some find breastfeeding easy from the get-go, it’s extremely challenging for others. Even with the help of a lactation consultant, it can feel like the baby just isn’t taking to it.
The stress of wanting to breastfeed but struggling with it can be too much. Rest assured, commercially prepared infant formula is a nutritious alternative for babies.
With everything that’s now known about the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be easy to feel like you’re somehow shortchanging your baby if you use formula. Giving your baby formula is nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not the only mom doing so, and you’re doing everything you can to help your baby thrive.
--Information provided by www.KidsHealth.com
Out and About with Baby
Q. My baby’s due date is in February. I’m worried I will go stir crazy cooped up in the house all winter. How soon will I be able to get out and about with my newborn?
There are no hard and fast medical rules about how long to wait before taking a newborn out into the world or letting outsiders near the baby. No matter what time of the year it is, you should feel free to take your baby outside. You both would probably enjoy a stroll outside and some fresh air! But especially during the winter months, it’s wise to take these precautions when venturing outdoors with your baby: make sure your baby’s vaccines are up to date; avoid exposing your child to people who clearly are sick; ask anyone who holds or feeds your newborn to wash his or her hands; and make sure that your infant is appropriately dressed when you go outdoors.
In winter, babies need about the same number of layers as adults for comfort and protection. Keep in mind that a newborn’s ability to regulate body temperature is not well developed, so you need to pay special attention to how they are dressed. A baby that is too cold may fuss but may not complain if too warm. Mottled-looking skin or pale cheeks may be a sign a baby is too cold. If the neck feels damp from sweat or cheeks are especially rosy, the baby may be overdressed.
Dressing your baby in layers allows you to add and subtract clothes as necessary. Diapers and a cotton knit undershirt are important as the first layer of clothing and should be kept dry with frequent changes. If going outdoors in winter, a knit or fleece cap, sweater and blankets or a snowsuit are needed over their indoor clothes.
Remember to protect the baby’s face from wind. Usually, you can drape one of the blankets loosely across the face during trips between the house and car. Be sure to uncover the child’s face afterward. If you are indoors for an extended period of time, take the baby out of the snowsuit or from under the covers to prevent overheating and perspiration that can dampen clothes. Clothes that are damp will not be warm when you venture outdoors again.
Q. We have plans to spend a week at the beach this summer, but our baby will be only 3 months old. Should we cancel our plans?
It’s not necessary to cancel your vacation. By learning more about sun safety, you can help protect your entire family and develop safe sun habits that can last a lifetime.
Babies under 6 months of age need extra protection from the sun. Babies have sensitive skin that is thinner than adult skin. This causes them to sunburn more easily than an adult. Even babies with naturally darker skin need protection. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of the direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade or under a tree, umbrella or the stroller canopy. Dress your baby in clothing that covers the body, such as comfortable lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats with brims that shade the face and cover the ears.
If your baby gets a sunburn and is younger than 1 year of age, contact your pediatrician at once. A severe sunburn is an emergency.
If you cannot keep your child covered and in the shade, sunscreen can be applied. However, before covering your baby with sunscreen, be sure to apply a small amount to a limited area and watch for any reaction.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics and www.KidsHealth.com