Care at Birth: The First Cry of a Baby
The first 24 hours after birth are crucial. A newborn’s crying at birth indicates that the baby is able to breathe. It clears the respiratory passage and strengthens the lungs. Newborns who do not begin to breathe on their own within a minute after birth are administered positive pressure ventilation with room air by a self-inflating bag and mask. After the baby begins to breathe normally, they should be assessed for birth weight and any signs of illness. Special care is given for preterm, low-birthweight and sick babies.
Caring for Newborn at Home
The arrival of a newborn brings immense happiness in the parents’ life, but also a new set of responsibilities. This article will guide you through some of the important aspects regarding care of a newborn baby.
Important Note: Always practice good personal and hand hygiene when dealing with newborns - especially when holding, feeding, changing nappies or dressing them - to prevent any infection.
Holding a Newborn
Newborn babies feel delicate and fragile to hold. However, holding a baby helps with bonding and reduces the frequency of crying. Whenever you hold a baby, always support their head and neck, as their muscles are soft. If you have to hold a baby for long, you can support the baby’s head on your shoulder.
Feeding a Newborn
For an infant, breast milk is the recommended source of nutrition in the first six months. It contains all the vital nutrients required for the baby’s growth and development. The baby should always be held in the arms or lap while feeding. This helps to build a strong and loving bond between baby and mother.
However, if the mother is sick or unable to breastfeed the baby, then she may consult a paediatrician for an alternate source of nutrition appropriate for her baby.
Hygiene - Changing Nappies and Bathing a Newborn
Newborn hygiene is critical to prevent infection and rashes.
- Keep a stock of nappies at home as newborns usually require many changes in a day.
- You should remove the used nappy carefully, then wrap and throw it in a bin. Do not flush it.
- Always wash your hands before changing a new nappy and after removing a used one.
- Some newborns may develop nappy rashes in the form of skin redness in the area covered by the nappy. For such babies, you may apply a medicated cream as per the doctor’s recommendation.
- You may also apply medicated powder on the baby’s skin to keep it dry.
Bathing a Newborn
Before you begin bathing your baby, have soap or baby bath, shampoo and water temperature ready. Use mild products as recommended by your paediatrician to avoid tears and irritation. Use gentle pressure when bathing and drying your baby.
You may use baby wipes to keep your newborn feeling fresh. Always ensure that baby products have minimum chemicals. This information will be on the product label. If a product causes allergic reactions in your baby, you should avoid using it again.
Soothing a Newborn
A common thing among many newborns is crying for 2-3 hours every day during the first 3 months. However, to soothe your baby, you must understand the cause of their discomfort. Depending on whether it is for hunger, stomach upset, time for a nappy change, fear or sleepiness, you should be prepared with the relevant solution.
In addition, you may comfort a baby by taking them in your arms or lap and singing a song or gently patting their back. Rubbing the baby’s head, back, feet or palms gently may also help in calming them.
Swaddling a Newborn
Swaddling is a kind of soothing technique used for babies until the age of 2 months. It involves wrapping the baby snugly into a soft cloth or blanket to keep the arms close to the body, while still allowing some leg movement. Swaddling provides warmth to the body, gives a feeling of comfort and reduces the chances of baby waking up in the middle of sleep, especially at night.
Massage helps in soothing the newborn. It also helps them sleep better and is a great bonding exercise. For baby massage, you should use mild baby oil with very gentle pressure to make your baby feel comfortable.
Putting Newborn Baby to Sleep and SIDS Prevention
Gently hold your newborn in your arms and place them on the bed or in the cradle, keeping them face-up. Do not let the baby sleep on their stomach as this may lead to crib death, also called sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby below 1 year of age. Always keep the baby's head and face uncovered during sleep.
Maintain an ambient temperature - neither too hot nor cold. Ensure proper air circulation and do not disturb your baby while sleeping. Keep the room noise-free. Newborns tend to sleep a lot and may wake up late at night.
Measuring Newborn Body Temperature
Newborn body temperature can be taken either through the rectum or the armpit (axilla).
To record rectal temperature, place the baby on their stomach or back, whichever is convenient. Then, take a clean thermometer, apply some Vaseline to prevent discomfort while inserting the thermometer into the rectum. Insert only half an inch of the thermometer into the rectum for a baby younger than 6 months and up to an inch for a baby above 6 months of age. Wait for two minutes with the thermometer in position to record the reading.
To record axillary temperature, place the baby on the couch or bed. Then place the thermometer under your child's armpit ensuring it touches the skin. Keep the thermometer tightly in place until the thermometer gives a stable reading.
How to Know Your Baby is Sick?
You may be required to take your newborn to a paediatrician if your baby shows the following signs:
- High body temperature/fever
- Inability to swallow food or excessive vomiting
- Watery stools, or stools with abnormal colour or odour
- Not eating and sleeping properly
- Weakness and excessive crying
Vaccination/Immunization for Newborns
Newborns should be administered important vaccines according to their age to guard against infections and boost their immunity. These include:
Hepatitis B vaccine: The first dose is ideally given within 24 hours of birth. The second dose is given 1 to 2 months after the first dose.
These vaccines are given at 2, 4 and 6 months:
- Hib: Haemophilus influenzae type-b vaccine
- DTaP: Diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine
- PCV: Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
- RV: Rotavirus vaccine
- IPV: Inactivated poliovirus vaccine
The exception to the above is that polio vaccine is not given in the 6th month.
The flu vaccine for influenza is administered for babies aged 6 months and above at regular intervals.
You need not worry about doing things perfectly. Just enjoy the moments. Concentrate on spending quality time with your newborn as much as possible. If you notice any unusual habits or would like to know more about vaccination, visit your nearest paediatrician today.