Newborns don’t come with an inbuilt alarm to alert you if something’s not right. And as a first-time parent, it can be unnerving not knowing what to do if you spot something out of the ordinary, like a rash, fever or breathing troubles. The good news is that not every newborn condition warrants a rushed trip to the emergency room. By knowing what to watch for, you can stay prepared and tell normal from not.
Critical Symptoms to Watch For
If you are still learning the ropes of parenting, this guide should help ease your mind and help you plan ahead for an emergency. Here’s a spotlight on the symptoms you should respond to by reaching out to your paediatric specialist right away.
If your newborn exhibits a persistently dry mouth and lips, is fatigued and lethargic and goes through fewer than three wet diapers per day, you may have a case of dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that ought to be addressed at the earliest.
During the first month, your baby should pass stools at least once everyday. Failing to do so may indicate that your baby is not getting adequate nutrition. From the second month onwards, the frequency of bowel movements may reduce, with many breastfed infants passing stools once every few days. If your baby does struggle with bowel movements, it is likely that he or she is constipated. At this stage, it may be too early to introduce external foods to your child, so it is important to speak to a paediatrician to seek views on how best to address the problem. Other bowel problems that merit intervention are white, mucus-laced or blood-speckled stools.
The most accurate way to measure a newborn’s temperature is via the rectum. If the temperature exceeds 100.4 F, it is likely a sign of a fever. A fever in your newborn may be a cause for concern and a manifestation of a more serious, underlying condition like meningitis or sepsis. Left untreated, some conditions can be life-threatening. Remember to note your baby’s temperature before calling your doctor so that you can chart changes if required.
Classic indicators of newborn breathing problems include less than 60 breaths per minute, abnormal rests in breathing or tinted, pale skin, nails and lips. Also, watch for signs of grunting, flaring of the nostrils, laboured or heavy breathing and chest retractions.
Bloody vomit may be a red herring, and simply an outcome of a diaper rash. However, it could also be a sign of a severe stomach infection.
Umbilical Cord Problems
An infected umbilical cord could elicit an odour, pus or continual bleeding from the stump. Redness, swelling or pain around the navel could also be a symptom of an infection.
Jaundice usually strikes newborns between the second and fourth day after birth. Gently press your baby’s forehead to look for signs of yellowness. Many hospitals check for signs of jaundice before discharge. Occasionally, however, jaundice develops anytime during the first week. Yellow eyes, arms, legs and abdomen are usually signs of jaundice, and a call for early medical intervention.
Lack of Appetite
A baby who feeds less than six times a day or whose sucking motion looks visibly weak may suffer from a reduced appetite. Also, a baby who displays excessive fatigue and does not demand feeds every three to four hours ought to be checked by a paediatrician immediately.
As you breeze through this list, it is important to put to rest the concerns that hound you as a parent to a newborn. While many conditions warrant emergency care, the majority are just your baby’s way of getting used to the ways of the world. With the right care, you can caress your baby back to wellness and give yourself much-needed peace of mind.