It’s been said by new parents that when they bring baby out of the hospital, they should get a user manual on how care for their newborn baby. About Our Children magazine consulted with Irene Wong, DO, a family physician with Atlantic Medical Group, Primary Care at Totowa, who is also on staff at Atlantic Health System’s Chilton Medical Center.
What are some of the most important things a parent can do in caring for their newborn?
Newborn care can be a scary thing, particularly for first-time parents. It takes time to get to know your baby and his or her habits. Parenting is something you learn over time and no one is instantaneously an expert at taking care of a child. Not every child is the same, so do not be worried if your baby is not doing everything someone else’s baby is doing. This is normal. The most important thing is to stay calm. You are the decision maker for your baby, so it helps that you have a clear head to make the best decisions.
What is “normal newborn behavior?”
Babies require an enormous amount of time and attention. Initially, they require very frequent feeding of small amounts of breast milk or formula, usually about an ounce every hour or two. Their stomachs are very small when they are born. A baby’s stomach is only the size of their fist. It is easy to overfeed an infant, which can cause a lot of spitting up or vomiting. They also have very immature intestines, so they will often feed and then have a bowel movement. This is called the gastrocolic reflex and is a normal phenomenon. This results in a lot of dirty diapers, so be prepared. Newborns sleep a lot. They require all this sleep to help them grow. They will wake up to be fed, changed, or if they just want to held. It may be necessary to wake them up for feedings. Newborns will sneeze and hiccup a lot. They have an immature nervous system, so this is normal for them.
When would it be necessary for a parent to call the doctor?
You can call your pediatrician or family doctor at any time if you have a question. We are here to help and support your journey. The following problems should be brought up with your doctor urgently: bloody bowel movements; refusal to feed; projectile vomiting; fever (temperature of greater than 100.3°F); lethargic behavior; seizure-like activity (sudden shaking and jerking of the baby’s body); swollen or sunken-in soft spot on the baby’s head.
What myths from the past are retired and no longer hold true about caring for a newborn?
It is impossible to spoil your baby when they are newborns. Hold them as much as you can. Pick them up when they cry. Soothe them when they need it. They will not be newborns forever, so enjoy it as much as you can. Make sure that you have appropriate bedding for your newborn. Newborns should be put down to bed on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Make sure that their bedding is firm and that there aren’t any loose sheets or excessive blankets around the baby. You want to avoid anything that can obstruct their breathing.
Anything else you would like to add?
Take a class for infant CPR so that you are prepared for emergencies, should they arise. Have your pediatrician or family doctor’s phone number readily avail-able in case you need assistance. Know which hospital is closest to you and if they have the capability to treat newborns. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Remember that sleeping is just as important to you as it is for your child. When in doubt, contact your doctor. Even if you think it may be a silly question, it is better than you know than not know. We are here for you. Enjoy this time with your baby.