Health and Wellness: Three newborn health risks everyone needs to know about
About a quarter of parents have low confidence in their ability to care for their baby two months postpartum, found a 2018 study in Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare. All too aware of what can go wrong, new parents often find themselves second-guessing their every choice. As a father of four, I’ve experienced that firsthand. As a pediatrician, I see it every day.
To keep the stress at bay and truly enjoy the early stages of your little one’s life, it’s crucial to arm yourself with education and support. You can attend events like Utah Valley Pediatrics’ Talk with a Doc, or read articles like this one! Keep reading for three newborn health risks everyone (but especially new parents) should know about: weight loss, fever and jaundice. By arming yourself with knowledge, you can help your little one stay safe and give yourself a much-needed confidence boost.
You probably know that when you give birth to your perfect 7 lb 8 oz baby, that little one is going to be a bit smaller over the next few days. It’s typical for babies to lose up to 10% of their birth weight and then gain it back as mom’s milk comes in or formula feeding becomes better established.
To get feeding nicely established, here are a few tips that might help:
- When you first bring your baby home, feed them every two to four hours around the clock.
- Make sure the baby is good and awake for their feedings. If they’re having trouble staying awake to get a full feeding, undress them down to their diaper, do skin-to-skin contact and put a little milk into their mouth with your finger.
- After the first couple of weeks, consider still feeding them (even if you have to wake them) every two to four hours during the day to eat so they get all their calories in, but let them wake you during the night.
During your pediatrician visit when the baby is a few days old and then again at two weeks old, we’ll weigh them to ensure their weight is following the appropriate pattern. If not, we’ll figure out why. It could be a production or supply issue on mom’s end, or perhaps there’s a demand issue on the baby’s end.
Your pediatrician can help you work out these issues or refer you to another expert — like a lactation consultant or occupational therapist — to get you the support you and your baby need.
High (or Low) Temperature
Just as babies need to learn to regulate feeding, they also need to learn to regulate their temperature. A temperature outside of the normal range (96.8°F to 100.4°F) in a newborn should prompt a medical evaluation because it may indicate an infection. And while older babies can better contain their infections to one area (e.g., urine), newborn infections are more likely to spread to other areas of the body (e.g., from urine to blood).
How can you prevent infection and fever in your baby? All the things we’ve been doing over the past 18 months to prevent COVID can help prevent illness in your baby, too. Last winter, we hardly saw any cases of RSV and flu! Keep washing your hands, don’t let people kiss your baby’s face and limit your baby’s contact during their first month of life.
Jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin, often occurs in newborns. Since very high bilirubin levels can affect the brain, each newborn’s bilirubin is checked in the hospital, with follow-up levels being checked if needed. After discharge, yellow whites of eyes and a yellow-tinted face are common. However, if that yellow hue reaches nipple level, your pediatrician will want to repeat your baby’s bilirubin level. Ultraviolet phototherapy can be used to decrease high-risk bilirubin levels, but as you continue to feed your baby, they will usually excrete the bilirubin down to normal levels on their own after several days.
To be better prepared to keep your little one healthy and strong, consider going to Talk with a Doc — a free, one-hour-long discussion led by local pediatricians. You’ll get to ask your first-time parent questions and take home a free diaper backpack.
Being a first-time parent brings a lot of worries with it. But you don’t have to worry about everything. Keep an eye out for weight loss, fever and jaundice, and call your pediatrician if you have any concerns. In the meantime, check out resources at http://utahvalleypediatrics.com/health-topics and http://healthychildren.org. Education is a crucial part of confident parenting, and today, it’s easier than ever.