Newborn Medical Conditions
Coping with everything from jaundice to the common cold
Roughly half of all babies experience some form of jaundice during the first two or three days of life. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin in the bloodstream is produced in greater quantities than an infant’s liver can process and eliminate. Breast milk jaundice is believed to occur when a substance in the mother’s breast milk further hinders the breakdown and elimination process. Most cases of jaundice disappear within days; however, more severe cases require treatment under an ultraviolet light often called a billilight.
Rashes and Cradle Cap
Marks and rashes on the skin of a newborn are also often cause for concern in the early days. While “stork bites,” strawberries, and moles add distinctiveness and personality to a newborn’s appearance, cradle scalp can be unsightly and worrisome to new parents. Rest assured, however, that the scaly, crusty skin that appears on the scalp is benign and is believed to result from adult hormones that crossed the placenta before birth. Treating cradle scalp (or cradle cap) is relatively simple. Often rubbing baby oil into the scalp one hour before washing with anti-dandruff shampoo is all that is needed to bring out the smooth, soft scalp your baby was meant to have.
Diaper rash on the tender skin of a baby’s bottom can also be worrisome to new parents. Unlike jaundice and cradle scalp, the discomfort associated with diaper rash may cause the baby to be fussy or have trouble sleeping. Continuous moisture, friction, and the irritating substances in stool and urine are often the culprit. For diaper rash, more air, a protective layer of ointment, and less exposure to irritants is the best cure.
Kelly Curtiss, a mother of two in Richmond, Virginia, found that her daughter Courtney would sob heavily when she was changed. “I realized the wipes themselves were stinging her,” she says. “I tried all kinds of wipes and finally I just started making my own.” Curtiss recommends cutting a roll of paper towel in half lengthwise and placing it in a 1-quart plastic container with the combination of 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons each of baby shampoo and baby lotion. She found that the solution cleans well while soothing her baby’s skin.
Soothing a baby who suffers from colic can drain a parent’s physical and emotional reserve. All babies cry, but babies with colic cry once or twice a day for no apparent reason for two hours or more. In addition to being inconsolable, the crying often escalates to all out screaming. Approximately 10 percent of infants are diagnosed as having colic. Helping to comfort these otherwise healthy babies can be challenging.
The best news for parents who suspect they have a baby with colic is that most newborns outgrow colic by 3 months of age. Finding strategies that allow for some parental freedom while addressing the baby’s needs may be the best approach to coping. Carrying the baby in a sling or infant carrier during the fussy time is a great way to give the baby physical contact and assurance that their needs are being responded to. Equipment that rocks the baby, such as an automatic swing or a vibrating baby seat, may induce memories of the security they felt rocking in the womb. Many parents have found that rhythmic sounds, such as the hum of a hair dryer or fan, are also helpful.
The most important advice for parents is to take a break from the crying when it becomes too much. Put the baby in a safe place and leave the room for a few minutes or if need be, wear earplugs. Babies with colic are no worse for the wear from crying it out, and parents need to keep up their strength to effectively care for the baby when the colicky period has subsided.
The Common Cold
When Billy Davidson showed signs of a common cold at 2 weeks of age, his parents were worried. “He was having trouble breathing,” says his mother, Laura, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina “He would breathe in, cough, and wake himself up. It was scary. His nose was completely congested, and I didn’t know if he could breathe any other way.”
Since babies and young children have not had the time or exposure to build up immunities against the more than 100 different viruses that are known to cause colds, they can be quite common. “Elevating his head by putting him to sleep in his car seat helped him rest more easily,” says Davidson. Using saline solution to help loosen the mucus before suctioning it out with a bulb syringe can also be useful.
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