Growth and Development, Newborn - Common Concerns
Although you may feel prepared for your baby, the reality of the constant care a newborn needs can shock many parents. A newborn affects your life in ways that simply can't be anticipated. It is only through experience that you can fully understand the impact of these new responsibilities and how your expected roles change. It is normal to shift frequently between feeling confident and ecstatic one minute, and drained, scared, and unsure the next.
When you realize that your baby is physically completely dependent on you, you may worry whether you are giving your baby the best care. Common concerns in this first month include:
- Umbilical cord care. Basic care of your baby's umbilical cord is keeping it clean and dry. Gently clean the umbilical cord stump and the surrounding skin at least one time a day and as needed during diaper changes or baths. Gently pat the area dry with a soft cloth. The stump usually falls off within a couple of weeks.
- Your newborn's sleepiness. Especially in the first few days after birth, your baby may seem to be in a distant world, only pausing long enough in this one to wake you up for a little snack or a diaper change. Your baby will become gradually more alert throughout the month. By the end of the first month, your baby will likely begin developing sleeping and eating patterns. In general, your baby will likely have periods where he or she is awake for 2 or 3 hours straight. Around 3 months of age, the patterns will become more predictable.
- Your exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Although newborns sleep a lot, they also wake up a lot for brief periods and need feeding, diapering, and attention. Nights of long, restorative sleep can seem a foggy memory to parents. This may be especially true for mothers, who start with a deficit after the physical exertion of and recovery from giving birth. Be sure to ask for help when you need it. Don't hesitate to ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to help you with daily tasks, such as laundry, cleaning, or making meals. This can help you to nap while your baby sleeps instead of doing chores.
- Worry over whether your baby is getting enough to eat. This is especially a common concern among breast-feeding mothers. As long as your baby feeds regularly (every 1 to 3 hours in the first few weeks, then 2 to 4 hours over the next few weeks), he or she should be fine. Sometimes you may need to wake a sleepy baby to eat. It's good to check your baby's diaper for signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk. For example, your baby may have about 3 wet diapers a day for the first few days. After that, expect 6 or more wet diapers a day throughout the first month of life. During well-child checkups, the doctor will monitor your baby's weight gain and growth.
- Urine color. The urine should be yellow. Don't be alarmed, though, if you notice a pink color to the urine during your newborn's first 3 days of life. It is common for newborns to pass crystals in the urine (highly concentrated urine) which makes the urine look pink. If the pink color lasts, or if at any time your baby seems to be in pain while urinating, call your doctor.
- Newborn jaundice. Many babies get jaundice (also called hyperbilirubinemia) in their first few days of life. Jaundice is a condition in which the skin and the whites of a baby's eyes appear yellow because of a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a yellow-brown substance produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. Although jaundice should be monitored, it most often does not require medical treatment. Usually, increasing the number of feedings helps reduce jaundice. Phototherapy, in which a baby is placed under special lights or fiber-optic blankets, may be used if bilirubin levels are too high. Keep your baby's well-child appointments with your doctor, or call anytime if you are concerned about jaundice or your baby's skin. For more information, see Jaundice in Newborns.
- Skin care. In general, use mild shampoo or soap when you bathe your baby. Avoid lotions and other skin care products unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Newborns have sensitive skin, and healthy newborn skin doesn't need skin care products applied. For more information, see Newborn Rashes and Skin Conditions.
- A misshapen head. Right after birth, especially after lengthy vaginal deliveries, your baby's head may look misshapen. This is normal, and your baby's head will most likely take on a more normal shape within a few days to weeks after delivery. In rare instances, a misshapen head can be a sign of an abnormal condition, such as craniosynostosis. After your baby is born and during your baby's well-child checkups, your doctor will monitor your baby's head shape and skull growth. If you are concerned that your newborn's head has not returned to a normal shape within several weeks of delivery, talk with your doctor.