Congratulations on the birth of your new baby! If you are new parents this can seem like an overwhelming time because there are so many new things to learn. Experienced parents will be more comfortable but please remember every baby is unique and what works well for one child may not hold true for the next! This article will focus on the most common concerns about newborns.
First, let us start with the five senses:
A baby can see from birth but they are relatively nearsighted ( best acuity is at about 12 inches ) and that will gradually improve, by 3 months they can follow a moving object ( hint, don’t hang a mobile before then ! ) and by 6 months they can see 20/20.
Babies can hear from the time they are born but do show a preference early on to the female voice.
Newborns are nourished through the placenta while in utero. Their first experience of taste happens with the initial breast or formula feed, when solids are introduced at age 4 to 6 months. It is very important to emphasize adding a large variety of vegetables early on. The sweet taste buds have been getting a workout but the salty, sour and yes, bitter ones need to be stimulated too!
The sense of smell is developed in utero at about 6 months gestation.
The sense of touch is well developed at birth, most newborns prefer to be tightly swaddled, if they are crying or distressed, studies have shown that gentle massage and stroking will lower their heart and respiratory rates .
Now lets talk about some specific common concerns about newborns:
A babies skin is delicate and in the beginning just needs gentle wiping with a soft, wet towel primarily in the diaper area, this can be switched to wipes after the first 2 weeks. A barrier cream like zinc oxide will protect the skin from the irritation of urine and stool and can be applied with each diaper change. Newborns can be bathed once the umbilical stump has fallen off and healed well but this is not necessary on a daily basis. Babies lose moisture from their skin 6 times faster than adults do. Daily application ( several times a day ) of moisturizer will keep their skin soft and supple. If your baby develops patches of flaky, red skin this could be infantile eczema, a condition that should be discussed with your practitioner. Baby skin care during the colder months requires a little extra attention as well.
Feeding schedules will vary depending on whether a baby is breast or formula fed. Breast milk is more digestible and broken down faster than formula. This is the reason breast fed babies will feed every 1-2 hours while formula fed babies will feed every 3-4 hours . Breastfeeding will generally occur for 15 to 20 minutes per side. All babies will lose weight in the first week and then gradually start gaining . Most babies should be back to ( or possibly exceed ) birth weight at the 2 week well visit. Exceptions can certainly occur during this time frame and is the reason there can be a number of visits to check weight (and parental sanity) during this time frame.
Newborn babies breathe about 40 to 60 breaths per minute . There are times when the breathing seems to quicken for a short time frame and then slows down again, this is a normal phenomenon called periodic breathing. The babies skin color should remain pink and there should be no signs of illness . Babies breathe through their noses and anything that blocks the nose will cause some breathing difficulties. Nasal congestion is the most common reason and the nose should be cleared using saline and suction especially before feeding.
All newborn babies have something called a gastrocolic reflex , that means that when they eat, they poop. Breastfed babies will have yellow,seedy mushy stools several times a day and then at about 6 weeks can transition to not stooling for up to a week. The change occurs because breast milk is increasingly broken down by the maturing gastrointestinal tract leaving very little by product. Formula fed infants can vary from several stools a day to one stool every other day , if the consistency is soft, there is no concern. It is important to note that many newborns seem to strain when they are stooling . It is primarily because the anal muscles are tight ( remember the gastrointestinal tract was letting the placenta do all the work in utero ! ) and because the baby is having a bowel movement against the force of gravity.
If your baby boy has been circumcised you will need to lubricate the tip of the penis and the inside of the diaper so that nothing adheres until it heals in 7-10 days. Uncircumcised boys need only routine skin care . Females have a white coating inside the vagina that is protective to the skin ( it will gradually slough off on its own ). The important thing is to gently remove any stool that might be present inside the vaginal walls. This will prevent a possible urinary tract infection.
These are just a few highlights of the information on the newborn. It never fails to amaze me how such a complex being can be derived from just two cells! If you have any questions or concerns please contact the office to schedule an appointment.