New Born Baby Care

It is certainly a great pleasure when a baby is born and there is an additional member in the family. This is the moment that you have been looking forward to all the previous nine months.

If your baby is born by normal delivery or Caesarian section done under spinal anesthesia, then you will able to hear your baby's first cry and will be able to hold, cuddle and breast feed your baby soon after birth. If your baby is born by Caesarian Section under general anesthesia, your baby will be given to you after a few hours after you wake up from affect of General anesthesia. However your husband will be able to cherish those first moments and, if allowed by your Obstetrician, may be able to take a video clip which you can see later on. 

Thereafter comes the task of looking after your precious baby and naturally you will be a bit anxious. However, all you need is a lot of self-confidence and a little bit of advice from healthcare providers, friends, relatives and baby books. It is easier if you can get some help to look after your baby for about one month after delivery until you can regain your strength. Probably the best help you can get is from your mother or mother-in-law. If that is not possible then you may need to hire a nanny.

However, it is essential that whoever helps you should be up-to-date with their knowledge about baby care. She should not be bossy and should not make you feel inadequate and undermine your confidence. Your husband’s help is the best help you can get, especially if he can take leave from his work. Neither of you may have any experience but if you try to get some knowledge about baby care from various sources you certainly will be able to cope. 

This will also help in building a strong bond between the baby and her father. In this chapter on New born baby care, I will guide you in meeting your baby’s needs and answer the concerns that you may have about baby.

Bathing the Baby
  • There was a time when a baby was given a bath soon after he was born. With this practice, babies at times became very cold and therefore this practice has been abandoned. Now as soon as the baby is born, he is kept warm under a heater or hot lamp and cleaning of baby is done after the baby has warmed up. Cleaning is done by wiping with moist cotton. Thereafter, cleaning of the baby should be done in a similar manner daily. 
  • Regular bath in a tub should be given only after the baby is 5 to 7 days, mainly after the umbilicus dries up, because dipping the baby in the tub will make the umbilicus moist and thus can cause infection. Baby soap and shampoo should be used 2 to 3 times a week. 
  • Baby cream should be used over the nappy area and other folds in the skin. It can also be used all over the body of the baby if the skin is dry. Do not rub the cream but leave a thin layer over the skin. This will protect the skin from stool and urine.
  • It is better not to use powder, as it forms a paste with moisture and this causes irritation of the skin.

Oil Massage
  • In our culture, almost all babies are given oil massage daily. Some parents massage the baby 2 to 3 times a day. They believe that the baby’s skin will become better with the massage and the baby will become stronger. 
  • Little bit of oil that is massaged on the skin can get absorbed, however it is not necessary for the baby’s well-being, as the baby will get its full nutrition from the breast milk or the formula milk that the mother gives to her baby. Usually, oil massage is followed by passive exercise and then the baby is kept in the sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes, followed by a bath. 
  • This is certainly good for the baby as the exercise will make her muscles stronger, build up an appetite and sunshine will give her vitamin D. However if you cannot do this do not worry too much, as your baby will get enough vitamins from the milk and baby’s muscles will become stronger by the normal movements of her legs and arms. If you are doing passive exercises, be very careful that you do not use any force while doing the exercises, as this can produce fractures of the baby’s bones. 
  • Also, when you keep the baby in the sunshine, be careful that the sun is not too hot and there is no strong wind. Keep the baby in the sunshine for a very short time and cover the eyes as too much light can damage the eyes.

When to start oil massage
It is best to start an oil massage after the baby is one month old. It is easier to handle the baby by this time and also there is less chance of rashes occurring due to oil massage.

Taking care of the umbilicus (navel)
  • It takes 7 to 14 days before the umbilicus dries up and falls off. You have to take care that it remains clean and dry otherwise, there is a chance that germs may collect over it and it may get infected. The best way to take care of the umbilicus is to dry it with a soft cloth and then apply surgical spirit (with alcohol swabs) 3 to 4 times a day. 
  • However, some doctors may advise ointment or antiseptic powder to be applied over it. 
  • How do I know if it is infected or not? If the base is red, some pus is oozing out of it and has bad smell then it may be infected. Contact your doctor in such a case. He may take a swab from this for testing and prescribe antibiotics if necessary.

  • About 50% of the babies become jaundiced when they are 2 to 3 days of age. This is called physiological jaundice in contrast to pathological jaundice that may occur before 2 days of age.
  • Pathological jaundice may be due to the fact that you and your husband may have different blood groups and because of this, antibodies are produced in the baby’s blood. These antibodies destroy the baby’s red blood cells very rapidly and thus cause jaundice. Pathological jaundice can also be due to the fact that baby may have some deficiency in certain enzymes like G6PD.
  • Physiological jaundice is mild jaundice and occurs after 2 to 3 days of birth. This jaundice is not due to any infection. The reason for this is that baby’s liver is not yet mature and cannot handle the extra bilirubin that is collected in the baby’s blood due to normal breakdown of red blood cells (breaking of old red blood cells is a normal phenomena that occurs in everyone’s body). After 7 to 10 days, the baby’s liver becomes mature and the jaundice disappears. 
  • In some babies, it may last up to one month of age, especially in breast fed babies. If jaundice is mild, there is nothing to worry about. However, if it lasts more than 1 month or disappears and reappears again then you must contact your doctor.

How do I detect jaundice and how do I know if it is mild or severe?
  • You may see the baby’s eyes are yellow and may come to know that baby has jaundice. However, the best way to know whether a baby has jaundice is to press over the baby’s forehead, and then you may find that the skin is yellow. Thereafter you should press over the chest, the abdomen and then the legs. 
  • If the jaundice is detected only over the face, this is mild however, if it has spread over chest and abdomen, it is moderate and if it has spread over the legs it is severe.
  • If it is mild and has occurred after the second day of age and baby is well, there is nothing to worry about. If it is moderate or severe then you should contact your doctor.

If the jaundice is physiological then why should I worry about moderate jaundice or severe jaundice?
  • If the jaundice is moderate or severe, it is not physiological. It is due to some other reason although at times we cannot find out the reason even after doing all the investigations. Anyway, if jaundice is moderate or severe, then the baby needs investigation and treatment. In such a case, your doctor will ask for a blood test to detect the percentage of bilirubin in the blood.
  • Usually if the bilirubin exceeds 15mg% in the blood, baby is given phototherapy in a hospital and if it exceeds 20mg% then exchange transfusion is done (i.e. baby’s blood is exchanged with compatible adult blood slowly, 10- 20ml at a time). 
  • Fortunately, with proper preventive measures and early phototherapy (keeping the baby under many tube lights), it is very rare that we have to do exchange transfusion nowadays.
  • So if you detect mild jaundice in your baby do not worry, however, if you think it is more than mild or if you have any doubt, do contact your doctor, because very severe jaundice can cause brain damage.

Does keeping the baby in the sunshine helps?
Yes, it does, but only if you keep the baby naked. You cannot do that if the weather is cold or sun is too hot. If the baby’s blood bilirubin is more than 15mg %, you have to give phototherapy in a hospital. You cannot rely on the sunshine.

Head of the baby: swellings, lopsided head
  • When the baby is born by normal delivery there is a soft swelling at the top of the head and is sort of dome-shaped. This is because of the fact that the head had to come out through a narrow passage of the womb, so it got molded in that shape. This is nothing to worry about.
  • In 2 to 3 days time the head shape becomes normal. At times there is a small swelling on one side of the head. Other times a similar swelling occurs on both sides. This is due to the collection of small amount of blood under the skin of scalp. This may take 3 to 4 weeks to disappear. No treatment is required. No harm will come to the baby because of this.
  • At times if the baby has the tendency to sleep only on one side, the head’s shape becomes lopsided. This happens mainly with preterm babies (babies born before expected date of delivery).
  • In such cases, you should try to keep on changing the child’s position. Once the baby starts sitting up, the head will take its normal round shape.

Pink and salmon-colored spots and bluish-black spots
  • You may find that your baby has some pink patches over the forehead, nape of the neck and over the eyelids. These are due to dilatations of blood vessels. These are quite normal and will disappear in time.
  • Bluish black spots are found over the back and sometimes over legs and other parts of body.
  • These are known as Mongolian Spots (nothing to do with the Mongolian race). Why these occur is not known. This is not a cause of worry; the spots will certainly disappear after 1 to 2 years.

Vomiting in new born babies
  • Many babies spit out small amount of milk after feed. In some babies it is more and for other babies it is less. This is because the junction between the food pipe and stomach does not close properly. Hence after the baby has had milk, some of it comes out of the stomach into the food pipe and the baby throws out this milk.
  • To prevent this spitting out, you should keep the baby in your lap with the head raised, for 5 to 10 minutes after feed. Thereafter, when you put the baby down on the cot check that the head end is kept raised for about half an hour. If you use a pillow, it keep under the head as well as the shoulders. You can also put the baby on her abdomen after feeds for some time, as this may reduce the spitting but never leave the baby in this position when not supervised. 
  • In spite of all these measures, the baby may still vomit small amounts. As long as the baby is well and gaining weight normally, you do not have to worry about this.

Conditions under which vomiting needs to be investigated
Sometimes vomiting can be serious and needs investigations and treatment. Contact your doctor
  1. The baby spits out large amount and is not gaining weight
  2. The vomiting is projectile, i.e. the milk comes out in a jet and is thrown far away
  3. If the vomit is yellowish green in color

Diaper and diaper dermatitis
  • You can use either cloth diapers (nappies) or disposable nappies. Cloth diapers are cheaper and do not pollute the environment but they are inconvenient as compared to the disposable ones.
  • If you use the cloth ones you will need at least 20 to 24 of these, so that you can collect the soiled ones in a bucket with a lid, and wash them once a day. If you use disposable ones, you will need to change 8 to 10 times a day in the 1st year and less often later on.

Diaper rash
Babies get this commonly because of the use of the diaper. This is due to the irritation of the skin by the contact of stool and urine. Typically, there will be red colored rash at the diaper area and at times. in a severe case, there will be peeling of skin.

Prevention and treatment of the nappy rash
  • Change the diapers as often as possible. Before putting on the diaper, clean the skin with cotton soaked in lukewarm water, tap dry it and then apply a thick layer of nappy rash cream. It is better to use a zinc based one (see the contents), but any other cream can be used. The idea is to create a barrier between the skin and the diaper. 
  • This should be done at every nappy change, even if the baby has no rash. Do not use powder as it forms a paste with the moisture and this irritates the skin. If the rash is very severe, you will have to contact your doctor. He may prescribe a rash cream, which may contain antifungal medicine with or without hydrocortisone.
  • This should be used according to your doctor’s advice only. Hydrocortisone is corticosteroid.
  • Too much use of all these medicines should be avoided as these can be absorbed by the skin and cause side effects.

Prevention of infection in a newborn baby
  • Newborn babies can get infection very easily as they have very low immunity. Therefore, to prevent this, the caregivers should wash their hands or use hand sanitizers before touching the baby and, as far as possible, those who have cold and cough should not come near the baby.
  • A difficulty arises when many visitors with their children come to visit your baby. Children usually suffer from cold and cough more often than adults and they can pass infection to your baby when they cough or sneeze while handling the baby. However, you will have to try to prevent this and, if you tell their parents tactfully, I am sure most people will understand. In spite of this, if you cannot avoid children handling the baby then ask them to wear a mask and clean the hands with hand sanitizers before touching your baby.

  • In some babies, a swelling occurs over the umbilicus after about 1 month of age. The swelling increases when baby cries and reduces in size when baby sleeps. This is umbilical hernia. It is more common in preterm babies. No treatment is required for this. It will subside once the baby is 8 to 9 months of age. 
  • Sometimes it may take longer but eventually it will disappear and there is no need to worry about this. In olden days, a bandage was tied around the abdomen after keeping a coin over the umbilicus. There is no need for such treatment. It does not help.
  • Very rarely a small similar swelling occurs at inguinal (groin) region. This is inguinal hernia.
  • This requires treatment in the form of a minor operation. You must contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice swelling in the groin area.

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