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Helping your newborn with a cold

Is your newborn blocked up and suffering with the symptoms of a cold? Here are our 5 best tips for helping to alleviate the symptoms and guidance on when to seek medical advice.

Why and when is my newborn most susceptible?

For the first 4-6 weeks of life, your newborn is classed as high risk for colds and other viral infections. This is because your little ones immune system hasn’t yet matured, breastfeeding adds to the immunity protection already received through the placenta and is recommended but unfortunately it does not offer 100% immunity. As well as breastfeeding, ensure you and anyone else in contact with your baby washes their hands and if bottle feeding always follow the guidelines on sterilising and preparing the bottle properly. You may also want to avoid public transport or anywhere where there are large groups of people in a confined space. If despite your best efforts your newborn does get a cold. Here is what you can do:

First things first: See a doctor

Even if you are absolutely certain it is ‘just a cold’ you should make an appointment to see your doctor. As a new parent you need that piece of mind and you need to rule out anything more serious (however unlikely). Your doctor will be able to advise you on how best to help your newborn and may also recommend or prescribe some medication.


If you are prescribed medication or you buy something over the counter, always make sure the person giving you dosage instructions is aware of how old your newborn is and what the problem is. You must always follow these instructions carefully. Giving too low a dosage will probably result in the medication not working and giving too much could cause serious harm or even death.

Plenty of nourishment

As the saying goes, “Feed a cold”. This is true for adults, children and newborns. Give your child plenty of nourishment, if you are breastfeeding, feed on demand, if you are bottle feeding you may need to feed little and often. Ensure you look after yourself too. The stress, worry and lack of sleep caused by an unwell child can take its toll – have plenty of early nights and wherever possible, sleep when your baby sleeps. Never be tempted to sleep with your baby on the sofa and ensure you continue to follow the advice on SIDS.

Keep warm

Just as important as keeping nourished is the importance of keeping warm. There is nothing worse than feeling cold when you have got a cold and this is the case for babies too. Be sure you don’t wrap your baby up too much and always stick to the advice on tog rating and room temperatures.

Keep clean

Keep your hands clean, keep the environment clean and do all you can to avoid the spreading of germs. Your baby’s nose and face will need wiping frequently to avoid reinfection and to protect your little ones sensitive skin.

Monitor the symptoms

If you feel it is lasting an usually long time for your child to get over the cold, if he isn’t feeding well or if he has a raised temperature always go back to see your GP. As a new parent you will worry more as you don’t know what is ‘normal’ or what to expect. Never take a chance, it us always better to have an opinion of a medical professional.

webmd, Babymed

What checks will they do on my newborn?

Your newborn will be checked soon after birth and again within 72 hours of birth. This is to check for any signs of an underlying health problem. Your little ones heart, hips, eyes and testes (boys) will be examined as part of a top to toe physical examination. Here is what to expect and how:

Who will carry out the examination?

The examination is normally carried out by one of the healthcare professionals in the maternity unit such as the midwife, junior doctor or paediatrician.

When will it be done?

Your newborn will initially be checked immediately after birth for any obvious physical problems and then when baby is calm and settled, a more thorough examination will take place.

What is involved?

The top to toe physical assessment is to check for any obvious signs of any physical problems as well as specific screenings and examinations to identify if there are any underlying conditions that may need to be followed up, monitored or treated. The specific screenings will always check the following:

  • Eyes – An ophthalmoscope (special torch) is used to check your newborns eyes for cataracts and other conditions, these conditions are identified by checking the movements and appearance of the eyes. Approximately 0.03% of babies have problems with their eyes that require treatment.
  • Heart – Your little one will be observed feeding as heart problems can cause poor feeding. Her pulse will be checked and her heart listened to in order to identify any problems. It is estimated around 0.5% of babies have a heart problem that requires follow up/treatment.
  • Hips – Each hip will be thoroughly examined as any problem left untreated could result in a limp or further joint problems. If further investigation is needed, an ultrasound may be arranged. Around 0.2% of babies have hip problems identified that require treatment.
  • Testes – Your little boy will be checked to ensure his testes are in the right place. Most boys testes will have dropped (into the scrotum) by around 12 months of age. If they haven’t dropped by 2 years of age an operation may be required. Approximately 1% of boys have problems identified that require an operation.
  • Ears – Usually carried out separately from the above tests, the newborn hearing screening will be conducted within a few days of birth. This is usually conducted on the maternity ward but in some areas this is offered at home. The test involves placing a small earpiece with a microphone and earphone attached into your child’s ear. A clicking sound is then played and the microphone picks up on whether the cochlea is functioning properly by monitoring the echo within the ear. This test is called the Octoacoustic emissions test. If the results of the OAE test are unsuccessful it could be due to a noisy atmosphere, fluid in the ear from birth or an unsettled baby. A second attempt is usually scheduled if this is the case. If the 2nd attempt is unsuccessful your child will be referred for further tests which involve monitoring the brain activity in response to sounds. This test is called the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) test. Around 15% of newborns are referred to have the AABR test and approximately 3% of those children are then referred for a full diagnostic of their hearing at an audiology clinic. 0.2% of babies have some form of hearing loss in one or both ears.
  • What happens next?

    The results of the examination and the reason for any follow up will be explained to you and the details recorded in your maternity notes and in your child’s ‘red book’ (which you will be given soon after birth). The physical examination will be carried out again when your baby is around 8 weeks old.

    0.03% of babies have problems with their eyes, 0.5% of babies have a heart problem, 0.2% of babies have hip problems, 1% of boys have problems identified with their testes and 0.2% of babies have some form of hearing loss in one or both ears. These figures are not high but as a parent you can not help but worry. In some cases these problems will be minor, some can be corrected with surgery/treatment and in some cases it will be something you and your child have to live with. Identifying any sort of physical or underlying problem early helps with identifying and offering you and your child the support you will need (both medical and emotional).

    Resources: Newbornphysical.nhs, ncds

    Should I wake my newborn for a feed?

    Waking a newborn baby in the middle of the night may seem a little crazy, however, for a short while, you will need to do this. Here’s why:
    Babies lose around 10% of their birth weight soon after being born, so even just a few days after being born (and of course being weighed for the first time), his weight will be below his centile. This is usually the case for around 2 weeks. Until your little one is back up to the weight he should be (according to the centile graph), he should go no longer than 4 hours between feeds and you should wake him up if necessary – newborns need anything from 8 to 12 feeds a day. You may also need to wake your newborn from daytime naps if they tend to exceed 3 hours. Once this period is over and your child has regained the lost weight and gained weight appropriately (therefore following the correct centile), it is then time to look at establishing a better day/night routine to encourage your baby to sleep for longer periods during the night. As well as the obvious health benefits to your child as stated above, feeding your little one regularly also helps you to establish your milk supply if breastfeeding, it is also important to note that crying is a late sign of hunger. In terms of recognising early signs of hunger, you may find my post on hunger cues and what they mean helpful.

    To establish breastfeeding and minimise the risk of breastfeeding complications, I would recommend feeding at least every 3 hours during the day and every 4 hours during the night for the first 2-3 weeks. The chances are your breastfed baby will wake for feeds anyway but good to know where you stand if she decides she wants to give you a little rest! If you are bottle feeding you should still wake your newborn for a feed until she is following her centile and always follow the instructions on how much formula milk to give (always check instructions on the packet).

    I hope you have found this post informative and helpful, as always, your comments are warmly welcomed.

    Tommee Tippee digital monitor with sensor pad – closer to nature

    I bought the Tommee Tippee digital monitor with sensor pad to replace the old analogue version which I used with my first born. I was very impressed with the clarity, quality and reliability of this digital monitor and the sensor pad. Being a worrier, I was always going to choose a monitor with a sensor pad and as it was a brand I trusted (from previous products) I went with this. Within 5 minutes of taking it out of the box we were set up and ready to go; you have to make sure you put the sensor pad in the right place with the wire not interfering with the pad or being within reach of baby, this is easily achieved by just following the simple instructions. The wire from the sensor pad then plugs into the base unit. We used the sensor pad in a Moses basket, cot bed, travel cot and also on a single bed (as she got older) and it has always been reliable and reassuring.
    You can adjust the sensitivity of the pad easily – once you have the level that doesn’t give any false alarms there is no need to touch it at all until your child moves to a different bed (and therefore has a different sized mattress). The monitor unit can be set so that it continuously beeps on every movement that is detected and/or to sound an alarm if no movement is detected (in my experience of using this, baby breathing is enough movement for detection) . The room thermometer is displayed on the monitor base and portable parent unit and the talk back function is clear and easy to use (press to talk). It has a charging dock which sits on our bedside table making it easy to put the monitor on charge whilst always knowing exactly where it is, therefore being easy to grab in the middle of the night. We have never had a problem with the battery life or with the reception; if you are looking for a digital, portable baby monitor with a sensor pad, I can’t recommend this enough.

    Good Points

  • Accurate temperature display on parent unit and monitor base
  • Reliable movement sensor pad with adjustable sensitivity
  • long distance range with out of range indicator
  • Belt clip on parent unit
  • Comes with a charging dock
  • Night light on base unit can be remotely controlled by parent unit
  • Easy to use talk back function
  • Negative Points

  • If you set the parent unit to constantly beep with every movement detected it is slightly too loud to sleep through – however you can switch this off and have the alarm sound if no movement is detected for 30 seconds.
  • If your baby moves around a lot this may result in false alarms – I didn’t have this problem but my view is it is still worth having for those first few months before baby is able to roll over.
  • Who is it good for?

    If like me you need reassurance that your sleeping baby is ok then this is for you. Although your baby should sleep in your room with you for the first 6 months, that doesn’t mean we are able to constantly monitor them – we need sleep too. The Tommee Tippee digital monitor with sensor pad monitors your baby for you. And the beauty of it is you can set it so you are alarmed (woke up) if no movement is detected for 30 seconds and also have the option of constant beeps through the parent unit to reassure you that your baby is still OK. Buy this if you need that peace of mind each night.

    Buy the Tommee Tippee closer to nature digital monitor with sensor pad

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    Is it safe to swaddle?

    Does swaddling damage babies hips? Does it increase the risk of SIDS? Are there any 21st century benefits to swaddling? Swaddling is an ancient, traditional method of wrapping babies. The blankets or cloths used are tightly wound around the body thus restricting movement, particularly to the limbs. It dates back to around 4000 years ago until becoming unpopular in the 17th century, it appears it is becoming popular again in western civilisations but, some studies have cast doubt on whether it is safe to swaddle or not. Here is the low down:

    Does swaddling damage hips?

    Professor Nicholas Clarke, an orthopaedic surgeon from Southampton University Hospital, argues that swaddling may damage the development of babies hips. His theory was published in the peer reviewed journal ‘Archives of Disease and Childhood’. His opinion is that swaddling (tightly wrapping a baby) forces the hips into a straightened position where the legs are pressed together, and this he says, may lead to a condition called hip dysplasia.
    Dysplasia is not always painful, but can cause joint abnormalities and long-term complications such as osteoarthritis. Severe cases can eventually require hip replacement.

    Does it increase the risk of SIDS?

    As there are only risk factors for SIDS and not causes, it is difficult for any study to pinpoint one action as reducing the risk. You should create a safe sleeping environment which includes not allowing your baby to overheat, putting him on his back and don’t allow anything to cover his face. Swaddling is a risk factor – it can result in baby overheating, the blanket coming loose and covering her face and may also stop baby’s natural survival reflexes from waking her during the night. If after reading this you still decide you would like to swaddle, you should follow these recommendations:

  • Be aware of the risks, particularly of the use of heavy materials and the risk of the blanket coming loose.
  • NEVER be placed your baby on her stomach when swaddled.
  • If you are going to swaddle, research suggests it is safest to swaddle from birth and not to change bed time practices at 3 months of age, this is when SIDS risk is
  • Always make sure Secondary caregivers (childminders/nannies/nurseries/family members) are aware of your child’s usual sleeping environment and
    practices and they stick to this ie they don’t decide to start swaddling or allowing baby to sleep on her tummy.
  • There has been a lot of research in to the cause of SIDS and as a new parent it is the thing we worry most about. I always like to play on the safe side. I used a fitted sheet, had nothing else in her bed, my baby had a sleeping bag (that fits) and I also had a sensor pad with an alarm. We also co-slept – I always made sure this was made safe and we never slept on the sofa. It can seem like a bit if a minefield but the safest advice is to follow the advice. No one is telling you how to parent, just helping you to make sensible, informed decisions. The more we know about the risks, the better decisions we can make about our babies sleeping environment. The most important new information for me in this post is the advice not to change your little ones sleeping habits at around 3 months of age. This is where the risk of SIDS is at its highest – this may be due to secondary caregivers not being properly informed. I hope you found this post useful.

    Do you swaddle? Were you swaddled as a child? Did you inform your child’s carer of his sleeping habits/environment?

    Resources: NHS