Caring for a newborn baby can be daunting for any parent. It is generally more difficult for first time parents despite the advice and assistance of others. However, in most instances it is a matter of common sense and a few simple measures that most people know even if they are not parents. The first few weeks of life is the most delicate and while parents may have the child’s best interests at heart, conflicting advice and uncertainty can lead to incorrect decisions. Here are 8 simple tips on some of the most common points of concern for first time parents.
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Many mothers panic when they discover that their newborn has a rash on the bottom, genitals and upper thighs. But diaper rash is very common. It is not usually a serious skin disorder and often resolves on its own with a few simple measures. However, there are instances where untreated and severe diaper rash can have serious consequences. But this is largely preventable. Diaper rash is not a poor reflection on the part of the mother, nanny or caregiver. Even the most conscientious mother may be unable to prevent diaper rash entirely. However, there are several ways to reduce the chances of your baby developing diaper rash and to help it resolve as soon as possible.
Macrosomia is the medical term for a baby that has a significantly higher birth weight than the average for newborns. The term is also known by the common term big baby syndrome. The other common term that overlaps with macrosomia is large for gestational age. Macrosomia is usually defined as a birth weight of more than 8 pounds 13 ounces (4 kilograms). It may also be defined by the gestational age which in turn is influenced partly by the gender of the newborn and ethnicity. Since male newborn babies are typically larger and heavier than females, macrosomia is more likely in male newborns. Overall, macrosomic babies are significantly larger compared to average infants.
What is seborrheic dermatitis?
Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that tends to occur on the oily areas of the body, most noticeably on the face, scalp and chest. The rash usually appears as scaly skin with greasiness and yellow crusting that flakes off to reveal underlying redness and a flat or slightly raised plaque. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic condition that occurs for unknown reasons. There seems to be a link with abnormal immune responses and a certain type of yeast (fungus) that normally dwells on human skin. When it occurs on the scalp, it is commonly referred to as dandruff. However, the term dandruff may also be used to describe similar scalp conditions that differs in the disease mechanism and appearance to some extent. Seborrheic dermatitis can also affect newborn babies and the scalp presentation is usually referred to as cradle cap. It may also cause severe diaper rash.
What is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is not a single disease but a range of disorders which include numerous physical and mental problems, as well as various developmental defects, that may occur as a result of alcohol consumption by the mother while pregnant. No amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy since alcohol passes easily through the placenta to reach the fetus, where it may also affect the fetal brain. Consuming even a small amount of alcohol carries the potential danger of irreversible birth defects in the baby. However, the risk may be lower with occasional drinking than with regular heavy drinking.
What is Premature Birth?
The duration of most pregnancies is usually about 40 weeks but it is quite normal for a baby to be born a week or two earlier. However, when a baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation, it is said to be a premature birth and such babies are known as premature babies or preemies. Prematurity is a leading cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity.
Premature babies born around 36 to 37 weeks of gestation may be relatively free from complications, whereas those born much before the due dates are more likely to have serious problems which may require management in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Babies born before 24 weeks have less of a chance of survival. Complications usually arise as a result of immaturity of the lungs and other organs which have not yet developed fully at the time of birth and which may not be ready to function outside the uterus.
Early and regular prenatal care can reduce the risk of a premature birth.
Infants, both breastfed and bottle fed, have a tendency to regurgitate milk for various reasons, many of which are not due to any disease process. This effortless regurgitation or spitting up of milk is known as possetting. With vomiting, the regurgitated contents are pushed out with force. A list of causes of vomiting in infants and toddlers is discussed under Baby Vomiting.
In cases where the vomiting is persistent or recurrent and accompanied by other problems like the inability to gain weight and thrive, listlessness, fever, diarrhea, difficulty breathing or signs of dehydration needs to be investigated and managed by a medical professional.
Although babies tend to frequently regurgitate after meals (possetting), vomiting itself should not be taken lightly as it may be due to some underlying pathology. This can range from more acute causes like viral gastroenteritis to serious conditions like gastric outlet or intestinal obstruction or even meningitis. In toddlers however, regurgitation may arise for other reasons like ingesting small objects, triggering the gag reflex by putting objects in the mouth and food poisoning due to the tendency to explore the environment.
Generally if vomiting is persistent or accompanied by other features like diarrhea, fever, dehydration and/or listlessness, then immediate medical attention should be sought so that the appropriate treatment can be commenced. If vomiting is occasional and the baby does not seem distressed then a wait-and-watch approach may be adopted.
Before commencing with any treatment for infantile colic, it is important to first confirm the diagnosis by eliminating other causes of baby colic symptoms. A thorough case history and physical examination of the infant by a pediatrician should be conducted before the diagnosis of infantile colic is reached. Parents who opt to bypass a medical professional, diagnose the infant and commence with home remedies and over-the-counter (OTC) medication may be risking the health and even life of the infant should the underlying cause be linked to a serious medical disorder.
What is colic in infants?
Infantile colic, commonly referred to as baby colic, is a distressing condition that most often occurs in babies between 2 weeks to 4 months of age. The exact cause of baby colic is unknown although a myriad of contributing factors and possible causes have been identified. However, none can be attributed to every single case of baby colic.
Infantile colic can be defined as frequent episodes of inconsolable crying which lasts for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days per week, for at least 3 weeks in an otherwise healthy and well-fed baby. In most cases, baby colic starts to settle around 3 months of age and very rarely does it extend beyond 6 months of age.
Although a baby cannot express the symptoms like nausea, stomach ache and cramps associated with excessive gastrointestinal gas, it is only logical to assume that the level of discomfort expressed by crying is related to these sensations. Gas problems in babies are not just a uncomfortable experience for the child but due to the neediness of an infant, especially a newborn baby, a gas problem can put undue stress on the parent.
Excess gastrointestinal gas in babies is a common phenomenon and in most cases, it is not a sign of a digestive problem. Gas buildup in the gut may present with signs like excessive belching, flatulence, abdominal distension (bloating) and crying.
Baby Gas Problems – Causes
Gas accumulation or production within the gut of a baby occurs for the same reasons as in an adult – air swallowing, byproducts of chemical digestion and bacterial action. However, in babies the contributing factors resulting in excess gas being trapped or produced within the gut may be unique in that it may not be seen in other age groups. Swallowed air will be passed out as belches although some of the air could travel down the gut and mix with other gases to be passed out as flatus.
Breastfeeding is an essential practice for at least the first few months of a baby’s life. While many women opt not to breastfeed either due to career obligations or for cosmetic reasons, some women are unable to breastfeed despite the willingness to do so. A number of problems with breastfeeding may either discourage a women or make breastfeeding impractical and this is more likely to arise in first time mothers. However many of these breastfeeding problems can be treated or resolved with proper advice and guidance as well as patience.
Neonatal jaundice is the yellow discoloration of the skin, sclera (“whites” of the eyes), mouth and deeper lying tissues of the body in a newborn baby due to a high level of bilirubin in blood (hyperbilirubinemia). Jaundice can lead to a complication known as kernicterus which is the damage to the brain as a result of bilirubin deposition.
Bilirubin Levels in Babies
In newborns, it is mainly the unconjugated bilirubin that is elevated. Your pediatrician may monitor the total serum bilirubin which is the combination of the unconjugated (“indirect”) and conjugated (“direct”) bilirubin levels in the blood.
Jaundice in newborn babies are a common occurrence and is evident as a yellowish discoloration of the skin, mouth and whites of the eye (sclera). In babies, the discoloration of the sclera is often more prominent than it is in jaundiced adults. Jaundice is due to an elevated level of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia).
Neonatal jaundice that is not pathological may be due to physiologic jaundice, breastfeeding jaundice or breast milk jaundice. Jaundice in newborn babies that may be due to pathological causes includes non-hemolytic jaundice in a condition like Gilbert’s syndrome or hemolytic jaundice as a result of erythroblastosis fetalis.
Newborn babies can develop various types of skin rashes, caused by many different factors. Most are harmless and resolve spontaneously but others can be dangerous and may even be life-threatening for the baby.
Causes of Skin Rash in Newborn Babies
A rash is a reaction of the skin due to any cause, such as :
- Infection – bacterial, fungal or viral.
Most rashes caused by viruses are not serious and do not harm the baby. They usually do not require any treatment and disappear on their own. Viral infections such as chicken pox, rubella, or measles may become serious in newborns because of their weak immune system.
- Allergic reaction.
- Skin irritation.
- Drug reaction.
- Normal physiologic skin changes.
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