ABNORMAL BOWEL MOVEMENTS
“How can I tell if my baby’s bowel movements are normal or abnormal?”
Because stool patterns vary with each baby, it is impossible to define what is normal. The best way to answer this question is to describe what is not normal. Watery stool or stool containing mucus or blood may indicate an intestinal disorder, such as diarrhea, and should be reported to your baby’s doctor. Watery stool may resemble chicken or beef broth. Also, if the baby experiences great difficulty passing stool, and if the resulting stool is hard and dry, he may be constipated. In general, anything else is normal.
“My baby has been circumcised. What special care does he need?
When cleaning the circumcised penis, squeeze warm water over the tip of the penis. Use Vaseline on the tip of the penis with each diaper change for the first 48 hours after the circumcision. This may prevent the circumcision site from sticking to the diaper.
Some physicians use a device called a plastibell. It is a plastic piece that fits over the head of the penis. If the plastibell is used, it will fall off in 3-5 days. The rim of skin in front of the string will turn black and come off with the bell. Do not pull the plastibell even if it is barely on – the plastibell will come off by itself. You will probably find it loose in your baby’s diaper. Do not use Vaseline with the plastibell.
If a significant amount of foreskin remains after a circumcision, the irritation from the foreskin/penis separation component of circumcision may cause that foreskin to reattach to the penis. Full healing takes about two weeks, so if adhesions to the penis are going to develop, they usually do so within this time. These adhesions can be prevented with a simple painless maneuver performed at home. The tip of the penis is called the glans. The base of the glans has an edge, which is usually slightly darker in color and raised as compared to the rest of the penis. This edge should be viewed in its entirety with each diaper change. Starting approximately 48 hours after the circumcision, the skin of the shaft should be gently retracted to allow for visualization of this edge of the glans. The actual timing of when to begin this “diaper change” retraction varies with how the circumcision was done, so as always, it’s best to check with the doctor before beginning this.
After the circumcision is healed you can bathe your baby in a tub without fear of harming the circumcision or penis.
“My baby cries all of the time. Can I do anything to get her to stop?”
First, look for physical causes for the crying, such as hunger, the need to suck, over-stimulation, fatigue, discomfort (such as being too warm or too cold), a wet or soiled diaper, or the desire to be held. Then try to satisfy the physical need by feeding, burping, walking, changing the diaper, or rocking; whatever seems appropriate. If the baby is tired or over-stimulated, you can try placing her in a quiet, darkened room or bundling her in a blanket to give her feelings of closeness and security. "White" noises, such as the noise from an exhaust fan, vacuum cleaner, or dryer, may calm your baby. If none of these techniques works and the baby’s crying periods seem excessive, you should consult your baby’s doctor to rule out any other physical problems that may be causing the distress.
If you are at the end of your rope with the crying, put the baby gently in the crib, raise the sides, and close the door to the room. Call for help and give yourself a few moments to calm down. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Never, ever shake a baby. You could injure the baby’s brain. And never take your baby’s crying personally. That is simply one way a baby has to communicate.
“How can I tell if my newborn is getting enough to eat?”
If the baby seems to be gaining weight and appears healthy, you can be fairly sure he is getting enough nourishment. Another indicator is frequency of urination. A well-fed baby will usually need a dry diaper every two or three hours. If you are breastfeeding, remember that when the baby is nursing eagerly, most of the milk will be consumed in the first 10-15 minutes. Even if the feeding seems short, he has probably gotten all he wants. Bottle-fed babies typically drink four to six ounces of formula every three to four hours.
“How can I stop my newborn’s hiccups?”
Hiccups are caused by the newborn’s immature muscles and occur quite often in some babies. There is nothing you can do when your baby gets the hiccups except to let them run their course and understand that they are normal and no cause for alarm. If hiccups last for a long period of time and interfere with feedings, however, check with your baby’s doctor.
NOISES WHILE SLEEPING
“Is it normal for a baby to make grunting and squeaking noises while he sleeps?”
Yes, and these sounds can be very disconcerting to the new parent. Sometimes they sound almost like animal noises. In a short period of time, you will get to know your baby and will become comfortable with all of the peculiar little noises unique to his special style of sleep.
PIMPLES AND RASHES
“My baby has pimples and red blotches all over his face. What’s wrong?”
It is very common for newborns to have milky-white pimples on their faces. This is caused by the pores becoming clogged with natural oils and is not a reflection on how the parents have taken care of their baby. Keep the baby’s skin clean, and time will take care of the problem. Red blotches, often called “stork bites,” sometimes appear on a baby’s forehead, nose, and neck. The cause of these blotches is not known. Most of them disappear in time, but your baby’s doctor can tell you if any of the blotches seem to be permanent.
REDNESS AROUND UMBILICAL CORD
“The area around the umbilical cord looks red. Could it be infected?”
It is normal for the area around your baby’s umbilical cord to be pinkish or reddish. Swabbing the area with alcohol-drenched cotton balls or Q-Tips will help combat infection and hasten the drying process. The presence of a lot of redness or some pus, however, could indicate a slight infection. If this occurs, consult your baby’s doctor.
SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT
“When will my baby sleep through the night?”
Since a newborn baby’s stomach can empty in as few as two hours, you can expect several nighttime feedings for a while. Each baby is different, but generally they all begin to develop sleep patterns by 3 months of age. At that time, you may get four hours or so of uninterrupted sleep. By six months your baby will sleep six or seven hours, maybe more, before waking to be fed. It is unfortunate that babies need the most nighttime attention during the weeks when parents need the most sleep. Try to snatch sleep during the day when the baby is napping. This may leave you more refreshed and better able to enjoy those middle-of-the-night encounters, which can be peaceful, quiet times to get to know your baby better.
“My baby is sneezing a lot. Could he have a cold?”
Sneezing is probably not a sign that your baby has a cold. A newborn’s respiratory passages are easily irritated, and frequent sneezing is quite common. Your baby is probably responding in a healthy way to something in his nose, such as mucus, fuzz, or dust. On the subject of colds, it is uncommon for newborns to catch colds or other contagious illnesses during the first three months of life because of the protective, immunizing properties present in the placenta and in breast milk. However, if your baby feels hot, shows a sudden loss of appetite, or switches abruptly from active to listless behavior, you should consult your baby’s doctor.
TAKING BABY OUTSIDE
“When can I take my baby outside?”
A baby who is dressed appropriately can be taken out almost any time, unless a doctor has advised otherwise. Fresh air is good for babies. Remember, though, that babies tend to lose body heat more rapidly than adults. They should wear hats or hoods that cover their ears if it is very windy. Otherwise, dress your baby in the same type of clothing that most people-at-rest find comfortable, given the weather conditions. Avoid taking the baby out for extended periods if the temperature or weather conditions are uncomfortable for most adults. But even in these situations, a short car ride to visit friends or relatives is okay. Avoid taking your baby to places where he could be exposed to people who might be sick.