As a mom to a newborn, you’re sure to encounter one or more of these health concerns during the first few months with your little one. Here’s why you shouldn’t worry. By Xanet Scheepers
Taking your new baby home for the first time can be scary − especially for first-time moms. Dr Judy Rothberg, a paediatrician at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital and a mom of two, says the following concerns are the most common, but can be easily treated.
Half of all babies between birth and three months of age spit up at least once a day. A baby’s digestive system is still immature, making it easier for the stomach contents to flow back up into the oesophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach). Newborns will, generally, spit up directly after a feed, which could be due to overfeeding or a stuck wind. According to the Mayo Clinic, spitting up (or possetting) is nothing to be concerned about if your baby is comfortable, eating well and gaining weight. However, it’s important to note the difference between spitting up and vomiting. “Spitting up is the easy flow of a baby’s stomach contents through his or her mouth, possibly with a burp. Vomiting occurs when the flow is forceful — shooting out inches rather than dribbling from the mouth,” according to Mayo Clinic.
You can reduce spitting up by feeding your baby in an upright position, feeding her smaller amounts more frequently and burping her often during and after feeds.
Baby acne is a common and temporary condition. It’s characterised by small red or white bumps that usually appear on a newborn’s cheeks, forehead and nose. Baby acne usually develops two to four weeks after birth and clears up on its own after three or four months.
The condition is believed to be caused by the mother’s maternal hormones that cause the baby’s oil-producing glands to become overactive and block the pores.
It’s important not to pick or pop the pimples as this can break the skin, introduce bacteria and increase the risk of infection. Wash the affected areas with warm water twice a day and gently pat the skin dry. Don’t use soap or lotions on the affected areas.
Blocked tear ducts
Blocked tear ducts are common and some babies are born with them. They are either caused by a piece of soft tissue covering the duct so it doesn’t open at birth like it should, or the tiny tear ducts become clogged later. Dr William Sears, an American paediatrician and author of multiple parenting books, explains that these tiny tear ducts usually drain the tears from the eyes into the cavities near the nose, but when they are blocked, excess tears well up in the eyes, which then creates pus or a sleep crust in your baby’s eye.
To treat this problem at home, simply use a wet, soft cloth and gently wipe the yellow discharge out of your baby’s eye. Do this several times a day or as often as necessary. Dr Sears also recommends massaging the tear ducts. “Often, when the tear ducts are blocked, you may feel a bump where the corners of your baby’s eyelids converge. Use your finger to gently massage this area, moving your fingertip in a semi-circle from the corner of the eye inward toward the nose. Do five to 10 strokes at least six times
a day. Putting gentle pressure on the fluid-filled tear duct will often force the fluid through the clogged passages and open them up.”
If these remedies don’t seem to unclog the tear ducts, make an appointment with your paediatrician as your little one may need antibacterial ointment or drops.
Hearing your baby snore can be cute, but when it’s a regular disruption, moms often start to worry whether it’s normal. Young babies tend to be noisy breathers, because their airways are narrow and filled with secretions. “The air passing through these puddles of secretions cause lots of different vibratory sounds, similar to the musical sound produced by a reed instrument. That’s all snoring is − the sound produced by the vibrating soft tissues of the airway,” explains Dr Sears. He adds that most of the time, these sounds gradually subside as your baby’s airways grow and she learns to swallow excess saliva. However, snoring can also be an indicator that your baby’s breathing passages are obstructed, which means she needs to breathe harder to move air past these obstructions, which then produce the sound of snoring.
There is a simple solution to helping your little one breathe easier. Make sure her nasal passages are clear by using a saline nasal spray and a Nosefrida to remove the excess mucous and secretions. Consult your paediatrician before using the saline nasal spray. Allergies, a cold or other respiratory conditions can also bring on snoring, so ensure your little one’s environment is free from dust, pet dander and other allergens.
Newborn hiccups are rarely a cause for concern. Just like in adults, hiccups are caused by your baby’s developing diaphragm going into spasm. “Overfeeding is a common cause of hiccups. If the stomach distends too fast, or becomes too full, this can trigger the diaphragm muscle to go into spasms,” explains Dr Sears. He recommends slowing down feeds if you’re breastfeeding, and burping your baby before switching from one breast to the other. If you’re bottle-feeding, stop halfway through the bottle to burp your baby before finishing the feed.
Another cause of hiccups is swallowing too much air during feeds, which also distends your baby’s stomach. If you’re breastfeeding, make sure your baby’s lips open wide and form a tight seal around your areola, not just your nipple. “Listen to your baby. You will hear a lot of gulping and air swallowing if she’s nursing too quickly and sucking in air,” says Dr Sears. If you’re bottle-feeding, tilt the bottle to a 45-degree angle so the air rises to the bottom of the bottle.
He also recommends feeding your little one in an upright position and keeping her in that position for a little while after feeds to prevent hiccups.
Dr Rothberg adds that you shouldn’t worry too much if your baby doesn’t burp. “It’s helpful and very satisfying for Mom when a burp is achieved, but you don’t need to go to all lengths to get your little one to burp. Holding your baby upright, rubbing her back, sometimes laying her down and lifting her up gently may all work to achieve a burp. But, if no burp is achieved, it’s not going to lead to major problems.”
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.