Congratulations! I hope you are enjoying falling in love with your newborn baby.
Coming home with a newborn may be one of the most exciting times in your life, but it also may be one of the most challenging, particularly for first time parents.
During the current COVID-19 Pandemic, many parents feel isolated and nervous about seeing health professionals unless their baby is really sick. I would urge you during this time, to see a health professional if you are worried about your baby or feel that “something is not right”.
Below, I have put together some brief information about a few common newborn conditions which I often see as a paediatrician (specialist children’s doctor).
Many babies have slightly uneven or funny shaped heads
Babies have soft bones that move to fit through the birth canal during delivery and they often come out with an elongated or odd head shape
By 6 weeks, your baby’s head shape should remould to a more normal, more symmetrical shape
If a funny head shape doesn’t resolve, it is worth getting checked by a health professional to check that the skull bones are growing normally.
Babies may also develop a bruise or lump on the outside of their skull after birth due to bleeding between the scalp and the skull (Cephalhaematoma)
This is more common after forceps or suction deliveries
These lumps do not cause pain and are not dangerous. The brain is not affected
They usually resolve without any treatment within a few weeks or months but may become harder as the blood calcifies, before shrinking and disappearing.
Sticky, discharging eyes
Babies can develop sticky eyes in either one or both eyes. This is usually due to a blocked tear duct and gets better by itself with time
Gentle eye cleansing with cotton wool and saline (salt water) and gentle tear duct massage can help
Blocked tear ducts don’t usually need antibiotics but please see your doctor if there is redness around the eye or eyelids, or your child is unwell.
Yellow eyes or body (jaundice)
Jaundice, or yellowness of the skin or white of the eyes, is really common in newborns. It is due to a build up of bilirubin, a product of broken down blood
“Normal” jaundice usually starts on day 2-3 of life, peaks on day 5-6 and resolves over a couple of weeks without treatment (physiological jaundice)
When to seek help: If your baby has jaundice that appears in the first 24 hrs. after birth, lasts > 2weeks or is associated with pale poos and dark wee, your baby should be checked by a Dr and have blood tests
If your baby is unwell, becoming increasingly yellow or feeding poorly, it is also important to get checked
Treatment: Most babies will not need treatment for their jaundice but if your baby does, the treatment is usually light therapy (phototherapy) and is easy and safe.
Your baby’s umbilical cord will gradually dry, become black and then fall off, usually within the first 10 days. Try to keep the umbilical cord clean and dry. If it looks red and sticky, wash with saline/water and see a health professional.
If your baby was breech, there is a family history of developmental hip disorders, or a nurse or doctor feels a “clunk or click” when examining your baby’s hips, a hip ultrasound may be ordered- this is to look for Developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH)
Most babies do not require treatment but some do require a hip brace or other treatments
Wrapping your baby safely, with the legs free to move, is important in the prevention of hip problems (https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Wrapping_your_baby_safely/).
Your baby’s first poo should be a dark green/black tar-like substance called meconium. This is usually passed within 48 hrs. of birth
After that, your baby’s poo will often become dark green for a few days and then its colour may vary enormously- ranging from yellow, orange, mustard to green
The consistency will also vary from runny to firm and everything in between
Some baby’s poo all the time, others who are breast-fed may only poo once every week or even 2 weeks
There is huge variation in the colour and consistency of baby poo
If your baby has very pale poo or blood in the poo, diarrhea causing dehydration or constipation, please see a health professional.
It is normal for your baby to lose weight during the first five days after birth
This weight loss should not be more than 10% of your baby’s birth weight
Most babies regain birth weight after 1-2 weeks
If your baby has lost too much weight, please get them checked.
When to see your GP OR Maternal Child Health Nurse
If something doesn’t seem right and you are worried about your newborn, please seek medical help.
Please see a health professional if your newborn:
Is not feeding well
Has fewer wet nappies (< 6-8 per day)
Seems irritable, lethargic or is difficult to wake for feeds
Has pale or yellow skin.
Your GP or local doctor is a key contact in your community. It can be very helpful to have a GP who gets to know your baby and family well and travels on your journey with you. It’s worth asking your friends or family to recommend a GP who is experienced and comfortable seeing babies and children, if you do not already have one.
Your baby’s 6 week check is important so please do not postpone this too long.
In Australia, the majority of babies will not need to be seen a paediatrician as we have a great system with Maternal Child Health Nurses and GPs managing most childhood issues. If there are concerns, your MCHN or GP will refer you on.
In this article, I have only been able to discuss a few common newborn problems but I’m sure there are many others you would like to know about. In my next article, I will discuss common newborn rashes.
Below are some great local resources you can access at any time:
Please remember to seek help any time you feel you need to, particularly during this COVID-19 Pandemic.
Disclaimer: This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion and consultation with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. Mama You've Got This and Dr Lexi Frydenberg accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in this information.