Once first-time parents leave the hospital, the thought that they are on their own now can be quite nerve-racking. Even if you’ve had other children, sometimes you’ll encounter something with your newest baby that you haven’t seen before. Don’t panic! Here are a few tips on anticipating and coping with some of the things that you will (or may) see in the first couple of months of your baby’s life.
Let’s start with bottom activity. If your baby is bottle-fed, don’t worry if they only have bowel movements once every couple of days; it’s quite normal for formula babies. They will also have slightly harder stools than a breast-fed baby’s, although the stool should not be so hard that your baby is straining to pass it – that could be a sign of constipation. Another sign of constipation is a swollen hard tummy. If you suspect your baby is constipated, try giving her a nice warm bath; in my experience this generally gets things moving. If it goes on for a week or more, ask your midwife or general practitioner (GP) and they will give you some other little tips to help get things moving. With any infant, you should not resort to laxatives, enemas or suppositories except under medical guidance.
On the other hand, breast-fed babies poo almost as often as they eat. It can be quite runny and yellowish green in colour. However, if your baby soils a nappy more than once in a feed and you notice it is runnier than usual, then it could mean they have diarrhoea. If you notice these signs and it goes on for more than 24 hours, then contact your GP, as your child could become dehydrated. But it could just be a change in your diet that does not agree with your baby.
Make sure you’re always prepared with plenty of nappies and a change of clothes. To avoid nappy rash, try to change your baby as soon possible after they are soiled.
Umbilical cord care
Your baby’s cord will take 2-5 weeks to fall off. Make sure you keep the area dry and exposed to air as often as possible. Don’t pull the cord off, even if it’s hanging by a thread. Until it falls off, refrain from giving your baby a bath; you can just wash around with a warm flannel instead. If it starts to go red or oozing pus, it’s time to contact your midwife or GP.
Cradle cap is a yellowish, patchy, scaly and crusty skin rash that can appear on newborn babies’ scalps. It is completely harmless and they will eventually grow out of it. There are some natural remedies that you can use to try to get rid of it, or at least prevent it from becoming worse. Try a tiny little bit of natural olive oil or baby oil on the top of the head and leave it on whilst you give your baby a bath. Then remove it with a gentle circular massage or use a very soft baby brush on the baby’s head. Wash their hair as usual with a gentle shampoo. It could take a couple of goes, but the cradle cap will eventually disappear. If you notice it getting worse, or a slight redness, contact your GP.
Some babies are born with one or both tear ducts partially or totally blocked. Blocked ducts can cause a yellow crust or discharge in the corner of the eye. Just take some cotton wool and warm water (or ask your local chemist or GP for some sterile water) and gently wipe it away. This might reoccur several times over the first few months of the baby’s life.
If you notice any redness or puffiness, don’t hesitate to contact your GP.
While it is normal for a baby’s ears to produce wax, which is an antiseptic protection for the ear canal, it is never normal for them to produce any other kind of discharge from the ear. If you are not sure that the substance you see is ear wax, consult your GP.
Never poke around in your baby’s ear; you could damage the ear drum. Stick to just cleaning around the outer ear – it’s much safer.
These are just a few of the many things you may encounter in caring for your new baby which can cause concern if you’re not prepared for them. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post, where I’ll be examining more of these things in the near future. Good luck and congratulations on your new baby!