Everything you need to know about common newborn conditions. Read the article for tips and advice that will make life easier for you and your baby.
When Lorena Barnett of Fresno, California, took her 4-day-old son to the doctor for his first checkup, the pediatrician mentioned that the baby had a heart murmur. Overwhelmed with being a new mother on her first outing, Barnett didn’t think to ask any follow-up questions, but when she got home she began to worry.
“After the appointment, what he said about a heart murmur just started to stand out for me because it sounds so serious when you think about it, and I thought maybe I should have asked him if I should see a specialist,” says Barnett. “I ended up calling him back and asking about it, and the office told me that it was nothing to worry about and most likely will go away on its own.”
Although Barnett’ doctor may have been a little too casual for her peace of mind, it is not unusual at all for a newborn baby to have a heart murmur. According to Larry C., associate chief of general pediatrics for a children’s hospital, at least half of all newborns will have a murmur that’s heard in the first few days of life. All it is, he says, is the sound of the blood rushing through the baby’s heart and blood vessels near the heart and is usually nothing to be concerned about.
Larry says the baby’s adjustment to living outside the mother’s body is the cause of many of the conditions commonly seen in newborn babies. Some of these conditions are visible and some are not. Often, a parent only learns of them because the pediatrician mentions them in passing. Also, in Larry’s estimate, the majority of children don’t have many of these, but for those that do, the following guide may ease a few minds. (Common Newborn Conditions)
You can learn about pregnancy stages and get week by week pregnancy information in our website.
Like heart murmur, jaundice is a result of the baby’s organs, in this case the liver, learning to work on its own. It’s characterized by a yellowish tint to the baby’s skin, which is caused by an excess amount of bilirubin in the baby’s blood. It sounds alarming, but even adults produce bilirubin, which is a by-product of the normal breakdown of red blood cells.
Usually the liver processes the bilirubin, and it’s secreted as bile. In the case of some newborns, the liver can’t quite handle the excess bilirubin, and it builds up in the body. Because bilirubin has a yellowish-red pigment, it turns the skin and the whites of the baby’s eyes the distinctive yellow tint of jaundice. It usually peaks in the first three to five days of life, and then often clears up on its own.
Katrina S., clinical director of a primary care center, says the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendations for identifying and managing newborn jaundice. The new guidelines will base bilirubin levels on the infant’s age in hours and can better identify infants that are at risk of developing jaundice in their first week.
“The good thing about this is that we can measure the bilirubin on the skin pretty reliably and don’t have to do a blood test,” says Katrina. “If the baby does develop jaundice, many doctors and hospitals even have access to home treatment, so we don’t have to separate mother and baby.” (Common Newborn Conditions)
To learn more about jaundice in babies : What is the Newborn Jaundice?
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It sounds cute, but there’s nothing cute about cradle cap. This completely harmless, but unsightly, condition refers to a yellowish, scaly crust that can form on the baby’s scalp. The reason it does, according to Katrina, is because a baby’s head encounters very little friction. It is not a hygiene issue and bothers the parents a great deal more than it bothers the baby.
To treat cradle cap, Katrina recommends rubbing baby oil on the baby’s scalp, brushing it well with a soft baby brush and then washing the oil out of the hair. She notes that it doesn’t hurt even to switch to a dandruff shampoo once or twice a week. If it doesn’t clear up by either of those methods, it will eventually go away on its own.
This is another manifestation of the new independence of the baby’s body. Larry says it’s caused by the baby’s exposure in the womb to the mother’s hormones and is more common in boys than girls.
Usually, the “pimples” appear just on the baby’s cheeks and will eventually clear up on their own in a few months without any scarring. Washing with mild soap and water is all the care that’s needed.
Also, check our another article about how to choose your baby’s doctor : Choosing a Pediatrician – Finding the Doctor That’s Right for Your Baby
This harmless condition occurs when the muscle underneath the belly button doesn’t close completely. With pressure from the inside, such as when the baby cries or strains, part of the abdominal wall, fluid or some of the intestine can come through that opening and cause a bulge. This generally clears up on its own and is only treated if it doesn’t get smaller by the baby’s second birthday or if there is some other complication.
Forget every old wives’ tale you’ve ever heard about this one. Don’t treat this condition by wrapping cloths around the baby’s midsection or taping quarters to his belly button. In fact, Katrina warns that wrapping cloths around the baby’s body is not safe for the baby, and the quarter may just end up in baby’s mouth. Instead, let the condition heal on its own.
This happens when the cord falls off and, instead of the area drying up, it continues to ooze or weep. In general, if the area where your baby’s cord was doesn’t fully heal within a couple of days of the cord falling off, see your doctor. He or she will apply a substance to dry it up, such as silver nitrate.
You should see our other articles and categories to learn the things you wonder.
Blocked Tear Ducts
Like cradle cap, blocked tear ducts are more unsightly than dangerous. The symptoms range from tears pooling in the eye to a white or yellowish discharge.
Unless the baby has red, bloodshot eyes, he probably doesn’t have an infection. Larry notes that babies may need an antibiotic ointment if they develop an eye infection, but otherwise this will clear up on its own. He also recommends warm compresses followed by a gentle massaging of the tear ducts. This doesn’t cure the underlying condition but may help remove some of the blockage.
Finally, Larry says the best advice about most of these medical conditions is that they will clear up on their own. While it’s important not to underestimate the seriousness of untreated jaundice, most of these newborn ailments will completely resolve themselves with little intervention. But of course, when in doubt, call your baby’s doctor.
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The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons and to protect privacy.