Category Archives: Health and Hygiene

Common Newborn Conditions and when to see a Doctor

These conditions are very common in new born babies. Should you notice any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice.

Abdominal Distension

If in between feeds your newborns tummy sticks out and is quite hard when you touch it or he is vomiting or hasn’t had any bowel movement for 2 days, it may be a sign of an intestinal problem. It could just be that he has bad wind or constipation but you should get him checked by a doctor.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries happen and can often go unnoticed. The most common birth injury is a broken collar bone or muscle weakness. A broken collar bone will heal reasonably quickly, particularly if you are made aware of it and have kept it as motionless as possible. In some cases, a small lump is spotted a few weeks after birth at the site of the injury. This is the new bone forming and is evidence your newborn is healing.

Muscle weakness is caused by stretching of the nerves attached to your little ones muscles during labour/birth. If one side of your newborns body (usually an arm or shoulder) or face doesn’t appear to be as active as the other side you should seek medical advice, you will be given advice on how to handle, hold and feed your baby in order to promote healing. This usually corrects itself after a few weeks.

Blue Baby

Your newborn may have blue hands or blue feet when cold and may have a blue face, tongue and lips when crying excessively. Once your child has warmed up or has calmed down her skin colour should return to normal shortly afterwards. If your baby’s skin is blue more often than this it may be a sign of a heart or lung problem, particularly if this is coupled with breathing and/or feeding difficulties. Blue skin is a sign that your child is not receiving enough oxygen, this requires immediate medical attention.


Your child may cough and splutter when drinking too fast, when trying water the first few times or if your breast milk has a fast flow, however, if he coughs or gags routinely when feeding you should consult your doctor. This may be caused by a lung or intestinal problem.

Excessive Crying

Newborns cry for many reasons and you should firstly ensure she is clean, fed, not tired, burped and warm. If this, along with you cuddling and comforting her doesn’t work and her cry is different to her normal one such as shrieks of pain or it is prolonged for an unusual amount of time, you should seek medical advice. It may be your baby is in pain or is ill.

Forceps Marks

When forceps are used to help deliver a baby, they will usually leave marks or scrapes on your newborns skin. On some occasions there will be lumps, this is due to the tissue bring damaged under the skin. If you are concerned about the marks left by forceps you should discuss this with your midwife/health visitor but, on most occasions these marks and lumps will clear up within 8 weeks.


Many healthy newborns have a mild case of jaundice; a slight yellow tinge to their skin. However, in some cases it can be extremely serious and lead to brain or nervous system damage. Jaundice is most commonly caused by a newborns liver not yet functioning properly, the liver is responsible for removing bilirubin from the blood stream. Bilirubin is formed by the body’s natural breakdown of red blood cells. If your midwife is worried about jaundice in your newborn, tests will be arranged and appropriate treatment given if required (usually light therapy). Breastfeeding 8-12 times a day will also help a newborn suffering from jaundice (it seems to be more common in breastfed babies, possibly due to not feeding well). You should always check with your midwife or doctor if you are worried about jaundice or jaundice has developed/worsened since your newborns last check.

Sleepiness and lethargy

Newborns tend to sleep for the majority of the day to begin with, thus is completely normal. If your baby doesn’t wake for feeds, doesn’t seem interested in feeds when awake or seems uninterested or lethargic you should seek medical advice immediately, particularly if this is a change to your newborns usual behaviour.

Breathing difficulties

Three or four hours after bring born, your baby should have already developed carefully breathing pattern. If you notice a change in this pattern or if she is taking over 60 breaths per minute you should seek medical advice.
In most cases, breathing problems are caused by a blocked nose which can be easily fixed with saline drops and a bulb syringe, these are available from pharmacies. If however you notice any if the following symptoms you should seek medical advice immediately:

  • Breathing faster than usual (more than sixty breaths in one minute), although babies do breathe more rapidly than adults.
  • Retractions (sucking in the muscles between the ribs with each breath, so that her ribs stick out)
  • Flaring her nose
  • Grunting whilst breathing
  • Persistent blue skin coloring
  • Reference: AAP,

    Does my baby have reflux?

    What is reflux? What are the symptoms? How can it be treated? When should I contact my doctor? Reflux in babies is very common but in some cases can be a very serious condition.

    What is reflux?

    Reflux (gastro oesophageal reflux or GOR) is the name given to the condition that causes the contents of the stomach to involuntarily move upwards into the oesophagus and some times out of the mouth (the oesophagus is the tube that carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach). When the contents rise out of the stomach it can be painful for baby as it also contains acids. It is common in children under 2 years of age but most cases clear up between the age of 12-14 months. If the symptoms continue after 12-14 months or the symptoms are more severe, such as poor feeding and/or vomiting it may be that your child has gastro oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), this is a more serious, long-lasting condition that will need to be managed. If you suspect your child has GORD you should contact your GP immediately.

    What causes it?

    We all have a ‘valve’ at the bottom of our oesophagus that prevents food and stomach acids from rising, this valve is a muscle and takes time to develop. Whilst this valve (or sphincter) is still developing it may push stomach contents up the wrong way. This is why the symptoms of GOR usually stop at around 12-14 months. Serious cases of reflux (GORD) are often caused by the muscle becoming weak or relaxing when it shouldn’t.

    What are the signs and symptoms?

    Babies with GOR will commonly show only a few symptoms such as spitting up or display an obvious discomfort during (or shortly after) feeding. The symptoms of GORD are as follows:

  • Regularly vomits
  • Regularly coughs
  • Appears to gag or have trouble swallowing
  • Has had pneumonia or breathing problems
  • Wheezing
  • Is irritable, particularly after feeding
  • Arches her back during or immediately after feeding
  • Doesn’t feed well or refuses to feed
  • Poor weight gain – dropping below centile
  • Weight loss
  • Poor growth
  • Malnutrition
  • Colic
  • When should I see my GP?

    If you suspect your baby may have reflux or she is experiencing some of the above mentioned symptoms , you should discuss this with your GP immediately. On some occasions, further investigation will be required to determine if your child has GOR (gastro oesophageal reflux) or GORD (gastro oesophageal reflux disease).

    How can it be treated?

    If your child is only displaying a few of the above symptoms and is generally in good health, is gaining weight as expected and feeding well then making small changes can have a positive impact. These should be discussed with your GP but most commonly involve using a thicker formula or thickening the current formula (with gaviscon), feeding a smaller amount more frequently, positioning your baby in an upright position when feeding and keeping her upright for as long as time possible afterwards. You could also try elevating one end of your baby’s bed with bed blocks or a wedge. If the above doesn’t help you may be referred to a paediatrician for further tests where medication will most likely be prescribed and further monitoring scheduled.

    My first born had reflux and ended up having to be bottle fed a prescribed thick formula milk from 6 weeks old. She was also prescribed Domperidone and Ranitadine which we had to give before each feed. Fortunately it wasn’t so serious that she lost weight or didn’t gain weight properly but it was a worry. If you would like to discuss my experience of having a child with reflux get in touch on Twitter or Facebook. I hope you found this post helpful.

    References: US department of health babyreflux

    How to handle and hold a new born baby

    You may be shocked at how fragile your newborn looks particularly if you have little or no experience of holding a baby. You won’t necessarily know how to do it instinctively but it will help your confidence if you know you know the correct way of holding and handling your precious little newborn. Here’s how:
    The first cuddle
    Emotions are high and your baby will need reassuring. I recommend being propped up in a bed (usually a hospital one) and placing your newborn on your chest (on his tummy), particularly if you plan to breastfeed. There is nothing like skin to skin between mother and baby. I wouldn’t worry too much about the ‘how’s’ as there will be a midwife to help you, however, if skin to skin is important to you, ensure it is in your birth plan and you or your partner have told the midwife this.

    Picking baby up
    Your newborns head is large and heavy when compared to the rest of his body, his neck muscles aren’t strong enough to support the weight of it. When picking your baby up, slide one hand under his head and the other under his bottom, you can then manoeuvre him into the position you want. The most popular way of holding a baby is either cradling or placing him on your shoulder.
    If you have picked your newborn up as stated above and you want to cradle, you will want your newborns head to rest in the arm that is supporting his head. To do this, bring your little one close to your chest, slide the hand that is holding his bottom up to support his head (so your arm is under his back), at the same time, slowly move the hand that was supporting his head around his body to his bottom, his head should now be resting on your arm and your other hand can be free. This position is perfect for eye contact, talking and sleeping.
    On your shoulder
    Your baby’s head can rest on your shoulder but it will need supporting if you are walking around or going up and down stairs etc. one hand will always need to be under his bottom supporting his weight. This position is great for closeness as your newborn may be able to feel your heartbeat and is also good for winding (burping).
    Passing baby around Everyone will want to have a cuddle with your newborn and some will be more experienced than others, the safest way to pass a newborn to someone else is to have them sitting down with their arms in the cradle position, you then pick your baby up as stated above and gently place him into the other persons arms. This is particularly good for children or elderly people want a turn!

    Try to handle your newborn confidently, this will help to reassure him and make him feel safe and secure. This is fundamental to having a content happy baby. Remember, never shake your baby, never throw (in play or otherwise) or drop him and always support his head. If you do that, you won’t go far wrong. I hope you found this post helpful.

    Resources: kidshealth, wikihow

    How to cut your newborns nails

    Nails typically need cutting within a week of your baby being born, they grow whilst in the womb and can be quite sharp or jagged. It can be quite nerve racking cutting them for the first time and you will worry about hurting your little one. Here is how to cut your newborns nails in a way that mitigates against hurting her, cutting her skin or causing infection:

    Step by step guide to cutting nails

  • The best time to do it is after a bath when your newborn is asleep, the nails will be much softer and your newborn will offer less resistance.
  • For the first few times you may find it helpful to have someone else hold his/her arm steady so you can fully focus on what you are doing.
  • You can use baby nail scissors, a nail file or baby nail clippers – personally I prefer to use scissors.
  • For the first few times, rather than following the shape of your newborns finger tips, you can cut the nails straight.
  • You can then use a nail file to file away the sharp edges.
  • You should hold your baby’s hand so her palm is facing upwards and angle the scissors away from the skin.
  • Pull down on the pads of your baby’s skin to help you to avoid snipping it.
  • Never cut down the sides of the nails or cut them too short.
  • What if I accidentally cut the skin?

    First of all, don’t panic. You are not the first person who will have done this. Your little one will be in pain but the important thing is to keep it clean and stop the bleeding. You can do this with a clean, wet cotton wool ball, apply gentle pressure to the affected area until it has stopped bleeding. You should never put a plaster or bandage on baby’s fingers as this could come off in her mouth when sucking them and end up choking her.

    If you have a fussy baby, it could be a battle every time you try to cut her nails. Just remember, sometimes you have to be ‘cruel’ to be kind. 2-3 minutes of you cutting her nails is much better than her scratching her face several times throughout the day and night. Trust me, she will soon get used it.

    References: webmd,NHS Bradford

    How to care for the umbilical cord

    The umbilical cord, which once supplied your baby with oxygen rich blood and nutrients is surplus to requirements once you have given birth.
    Once the cord has been cut (clamped and snipped), your newborn will be left with a stump which is still connected to her navel (belly button). This stump of tissue needs to be cared for properly to avoid infection.

    Keeping it clean

    You should keep your newborns umbilical cord stump clean but also ensure it is kept dry and aired regularly. I personally recommend only top and tailing (avoiding baths) until the stump had fallen off.

  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or soaps to clean your baby’s umbilical stump unless you have been specifically instructed to by a GP or health visitor/midwife
  • Use clean warm water and some cotton wool balls
  • Gently rub the wet cotton wool ball around the stump, removing any dirt or grime
  • Dry the area by gently patting it, placing an absorbent cloth on it or by fanning it with a piece of paper
  • Day to day care

    There are four things you can do to help the stump fall off naturally whilst minimising the risk if infection.

  • Ensure the area is completely dry
  • Allow plenty of air to it
  • Fold your newborns nappy under the stump so it doesn’t aggravate it
  • Don’t be tempted to help it along its way if it looks ready to fall off – even if it appears to be hanging on by a single thread!
  • What are the signs of an infection?

    If your baby has an infection in this area, you will need to get it treated as soon as you can to prevent it from spreading.The signs of an infection are:

  • There is a discharge which is quite smelly
  • It continues to bleed/li>
  • There is yellow pus coming out if it
  • The surrounding area is red and appears swollen
  • Always contact your GP if you are not sure
  • There has been a lot if misleading information over the years, “Use rubbing alcohol”, “Don’t bathe them”, “Do bathe them” “Wash it at least once a day” etc. The general consensus seems to be, keep it clean and keep it dry and touch it as little as possible. If you do this, you can’t go far wrong.

    NHS Choices