Caring for your newborn: Myth-free Caring for your newborn: Myth-free

Being a parent for the first time is a responsibility that brings doubts about how to properly attend to the needs and development of the baby.

Medical Advisor Jaime Alberto Mesa Franco Pediatrician – Neonatologist

On the Internet, on social networks and by word of mouth, plenty of information is available with recommendations on how to take care of a newborn. Suggestions and facts sometimes end up overwhelming and confusing first-time parents, however. For pediatrician and neonatologist Jaime Alberto Mesa, “Children grow up, are raised and develop with common sense.” This is the first thing that the doctor explains to parents, so they may take on their new responsibility with ease. The specialist lists common questions that can often arise during this phase.

If the baby is intolerant to the protein in breast milk, do not stop breastfeeding. Instead, have the mother follow a diet that reduces her dairy intake.

Why breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is important from a nutritional point of view and due to the bond created between mother and child. “It provides complete nourishment and meets the nutritional requirements for proper somatic, physical and intellectual development,” the specialist says. During their first six months, babies should be exclusively breastfed; afterwards, fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins can be incorporated to help their digestion to develop. Foods such as eggs and fish can be introduced at nine months; and after a year, they can begin to follow a diet similar to that of an adult, developing healthy habits.

How should babies be held and burped?

Try to avoid putting pressure on babies’ abdomens if they have recently eaten, as this can cause gastroesophageal reflux and vomiting. When breastfeeding, try the “belly to belly” position, as it is not suggested to feed them when they are laying down. A good breastfeeding technique, where the baby latches on well to the breast, can help prevent them from swallowing air. Afterwards, hold the baby vertically for between 5 and 10 minutes until it burps naturally or passes gases.

When should babies get baths?

It is important to establish hygiene practices, but not exaggerate. According to the doctor, babies can take a bath after 24 hours of being born if they can regulate their own body temperature, are healthy, and weigh at least 5.5 pounds. Their first contact with water can be brief or can involve being wiped down with warm water and soap. Use a neutral soap, but do not use it every day to protect the layer of acid mantle on the skin. Dry the belly button well to prevent infection and clean their perianal area well. Premature or underweight children should wait longer before their first bath.

Can babies sleep with pets?

It is not recommended. There is no reason to prohibit the presence of animals in their company if the spaces of each are respected and good cleanliness and hygiene habits are practiced in the home. The pediatrician, however, stresses that there should not be smokers in the home, as smoking in a space with a newborn makes them more vulnerable to having bronchiolitis, a respiratory infection and the main cause of hospitalization, especially among premature babies. Last, try not to be too meticulous about leaving the baby in a closed space; while it is good to avoid drafts of air, it is okay for windows to be opened in the home. They also should not be covered in too many layers, as 24 hours after they are born they can regulate their body temperature.

How should they be brought home from the hospital?

After their birth, a protocol should be followed so that mother and child return home in optimal conditions. Twenty-four hours after childbirth, the baby should have had their first bowel movement, called meconium. Warning signs and certain conditions are checked for and a physical exam is conducted in order to dismiss birth defects or blood type and Rh incompatibilities. It is suggested to see a doctor again after 72 hours, or the first week after giving birth.

How often should we visit the pediatrician?

A baby’s first year is a period of tremendous development and growth that is only comparable with the growth of the fetus and the growth spurts of teenagers. It is important to visit your pediatrician monthly during the first year, then every three months until they are two, and every six months from age two to five. “A child is someone that requires a lot of care and assistance in order to encourage them to become autonomous and independent, which is why it is best to not exaggerate and take on the parent role with intelligence and common sense,” the pediatrician indicates.

Warning signs worthy of a doctor’s visit

If newborns exhibit any of the following behaviors, parents should talk to their doctor immediately:

  • Refuses to be fed or does not want to eat.
  • Has a fever and an axillary temperature of 99.5° F.
  • Shows signs of omphalitis, redness measuring over one centimeter that circles their belly button and may be a sign of infection
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing (when the ribs pull inward), known as retraction.
  • The mucous membrane of the skin turns a purple color, for example when they are feeding. This is known as cyanosis and is generally due to a lack of oxygen in the blood.
  • Shows significant or extreme signs of jaundice, which is when the skin and whites of the eyes turn yellow. Jaundice is caused by an excess amount of bilirubin, a liquid that secretes from the liver and helps digest food.