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The Birthplace Blog

Struggling To Understand Your Newborn?

The Birthplace


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Holding a newborn in one’s hand gives immense happiness. At the same time, parents struggle to understand the typical anomalies. Even simple questions like ‘when to feed my baby?’, ‘is the stool normal?’, ‘how long should my baby sleep?’ and ‘can my baby see me?’ haunt the minds of the parents. 

In our earlier article, we have covered  Apprehensions And Concerns About Breastfeeding  and this learning exercise is to provide insight into various aspects of care-taking and healthy development of infants between 0 to 3 months of age. Here are few questions commonly asked by new parents. 

What are the sleeping patterns in a newborn?

Babies sleep 16 to 22 hours per day in the newborn period and this gradually decreases to 12 to 16 hours in the 3rd month. Initially, most babies sleep well during the day and are awake during nights. To facilitate proper sleep patterns simple things may be followed like allowing natural light during the day and dim light during sleep time in the night with soft music.

How to prevent infection in the umbilical region?

The cord will shrivel and fall between 7 to 13 days of age and  some sticky blood stained secretion is common. Avoid applying any cream or antibiotic powder. The umbilical area must be kept dry and must not be allowed to smudge with the diaper. Frank pus and reddish changes of the skin around the cord region warrants immediate attention from a pediatrician.

When and how to bathe a newborn?

Bathing can be initiated once the cord falls off and the area becomes dry. Until then sponge bath is recommended. In the first few weeks, bathing twice a week is more than enough. Mild soap and shampoos can be used for the same. Refrain using any other items like bath-powder or turmeric to bathe the baby. Massaging can be started from the 2nd week. Coconut oil or olive oil is preferred when compared to mineral oils. For hair, only coconut oil is recommended to prevent cradle cap. It is recommended not to apply any lotion, cream or powder following bath.

Does a newborn have a taste?

Newborns have a sense of sweet and bitter taste. Reactions to salty foods can be seen after 5 months of age. They can also smell and localise the source of odour including breast milk.

How much vision does a newborn have?

During the first one week after birth, the eyesight of the baby is fuzzy. Babies can look with crossed eyes in the first 3 months of age. Babies are pretty sensitive to light and can see in 3 dimensions.

 Dr. Madhavi, a senior Pediatrician, is an author of more than 600 articles in the field of medicine and nursing.  An expert in the field of Pediatric Asthma and Neonatal Resuscitation, she is trained to meet the unique needs of children, through all of their developmental stages, as they grow and mature.  To know more or to consult Dr. Madhavi, please call 040-30911234. You can also write to her at  contactus@thebirthplace.com  or visit www.thebirthplace.com

Dr. Madhavi, a senior Pediatrician, is an author of more than 600 articles in the field of medicine and nursing.  An expert in the field of Pediatric Asthma and Neonatal Resuscitation, she is trained to meet the unique needs of children, through all of their developmental stages, as they grow and mature.

To know more or to consult Dr. Madhavi, please call 040-30911234. You can also write to her at contactus@thebirthplace.com or visit www.thebirthplace.com

What are normal newborn stools?

In the first 3 to 5 days, the baby passes dark-green colored stools. Typical breastfed babies pass 3 to 7 times soft, semisolid, yellow colored, mushy, stools with white freckles and organic smell. Some babies can pass stools once in a few days. Hard pellet-like stools, any number of times in a day, is a sign of constipation and must be reported to the pediatrician immediately. Formula fed babies can have stools that are solid in consistency and grey or green in color. Blood in stools, black colored stools, pellet-like stools and clay-colored stools are abnormal and must be reported to the pediatrician. The consistency and color of stools can vary depending on the mother’s diet in some babies.

What to know about urination in newborn babies?

Babies pass urine about 6 to 20 times a day depending on the season and the milk intake. The color is light yellowish or colorless. However, in the first few days, when the babies have mild jaundice, the urine is yellow in color. Pinkish orange deposits in the diaper is due to urate crystals. These deposits are typically seen in the first week of life and may indicate dehydration in some cases. Blood in urine warrants investigation. Crying before passing urine may be normal. In boys, one must check whether there is a good stream of urine.

What is the appropriate clothing ?

The tummy, palms and soles of the baby must be as warm as the mother’s tummy. The baby must be wrapped appropriately and the room temperature must be maintained around 28 degree Celsius. Swaddling must be done necessarily. Cloth diapers or disposable diapers can be used. Petroleum jelly may be applied to prevent diaper rash.

How to wash clothes of a newborn?

In the first month, clothes must be soaked in warm water for few minutes and then  washed using plain water. They must be dried in sunlight or must be ironed after drying. Use of antiseptic or disinfectant liquids  and detergents must be strictly avoided. Incase of staining, baby shampoo can be used to remove stains. From the third month, baby friendly detergent can be used.

What activities does a newborn do?

A Newborn is a bundle of joy!  Their activities are mere reflexes which gradually fade away as they advance. Few reflexes that you may observe are - 

  •  Startle reflex -  makes the baby arch her back and extend her legs or arms in response to sudden noise or movement.
  • Babinski reflex - occurs when the sole of the foot is stroked firmly. This reflex lasts during the first several months of life.
  • The tongue-thrust reflex  - makes the baby push out anything that is placed in the mouth.
  • Step reflex  - is seen when the baby's feet touch a solid surface.
  • Rooting reflex -  is seen when the baby starts turning head towards the nipple when the nipple is touched to the cheek of the baby. 

What developments can we expect in a normal newborn?

Babies change and grow at an astounding pace and every month new developments can be seen. In the first 3 months of age, the brain and body of the baby are learning to adapt to the outside world. It tracks objects with its eyes and follows light by the end of 3 months. The baby opens & shuts and starts bringing its hands to mouth. This is the beginning of 'mouthing' wherein the baby tries to put anything it holds into its mouth. It learns to grip objects in its hands and tries to reach out to dangling objects in front of it, although, it won't be able to get hold of them yet.

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What are the warning signs in a newborn which warrant immediate attention?

You must watch out for signs like sick, dull, bluish, pale or yellow appearance.  A Pediatrician must be contacted if the baby has been cranky for more than 2 hours, is vomiting excessively, has frequent loose stools, is feeling cold to touch, has skipped more than 2 feeds in a row, has a shrill cry, has abnormal movements or is not responding well.