THE HEALTHY NEWBORN
At birth, your baby leaves the protective world of your womb, where warmth, oxygen, and nourishment were always available. The newborn is suddenly exposed to all sorts of new and changing conditions. There will be different temperatures; various sights, smells, and sounds; exposure to infections; and a range of new processes within his or her little body.
Dramatic changes will be happening in the respiratory system, circulatory system, and digestive system. So, it’s natural that some time will pass before everything is fully functional and in balance. Your baby will make a lot of adjustments to the “outside world” over the first few months, and development will continue throughout life! But these developments occur naturally and without problems in most babies, and you don’t need to be a professional to be a good mother.
One of the most dramatic changes a newborn experiences is breathing air. Most babies take their first breath within 30 seconds of being born. Others may take a bit longer, because during birth they received little oxygen or their mother took certain medications.
Young infants often have an uneven breathing pattern. Fortunately, newborns can cope better with short periods of oxygen deficiency than older children and adults can.
When the umbilical cord is cut, the blood flow from you to your child ends. When your baby takes that first breath, the blood flow in his or her heart and blood vessels changes, and circulation of blood to the lungs begins.
The liver has several functions. One of its functions is to break down and secrete bilirubin, the yellow coloring made when red blood cells break down as a normal part of living. Before this process starts, bilirubin accumulates in the body, so many newborns develop jaundice (yellow skin) during the first week of life. The jaundice may go away on its own. Feeding the baby 8 or more times in 24 hours also reduces it. Alternatively, some children are treated on a “light bed,” where they lie under special ultraviolet light bulbs or in sunlight.
A baby’s kidneys start producing urine toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. Before birth, your baby’s waste products were discarded mainly through you or became part of the amniotic fluid. At birth, the kidneys become fully active, and the first urine is usually excreted shortly after birth. There might not be much urine during the first few days, but it increases as your child starts feeding.
The umbilical cord
The umbilical cord stump usually dries up and falls off in the first 1 or 2 weeks after birth. Once the stump falls off, it takes a few days before the navel (belly button) area is
covered by new skin. Infections can get into the new navel. If it oozes, it should be cleaned carefully— your doctor will tell you how.
The belly button usually heals without any problems, although a “plug” sometimes forms. This looks like dead skin and may leak a tiny amount of bloody liquid. Don’t worry, this is not usually dangerous and it is easily treated.
Most newborns lose 5% to 10% of their birth weight in the first 3 days. Their weight usually starts to go up after that, when you- breast milk production is fully established. 1: your baby feeds well, his or her birth weigh: may be regained in 7 to 10 days. This could take longer, however, and the weight gain may not follow a steady pattern. Talk to your doctor if your child doesn’t seem to be gaining enough weight.
The body temperature of newborn children is about 98.6°F. For some babies, the temperature increases to 99.5°F to 101.5°F as the body weight starts to climb. This rise in temperature may be due to lack of fluids. not infection.
It’s important to know that infants can’t control their body temperature. Young children may display a fever without being ill,
and they may be ill without getting a fever. Measuring the temperature is an unreliable measure of illness during infancy …. Behavior is a better indicator. That said, a persistent or very high fever should be checked by the doctor.
Babies tend to lose a great deal of heat. Being underdressed can make their temperature sink too low, and they can’t increase their body temperature by shivering. (Crying is one way infants can generate heat.) Conversely, an “artificial fever” can be produced by wrapping the baby in too many clothes and covers.
During pregnancy, both boys and girls are affected by their mother’s hormones. It may take a little time for newborns’ hormones to adjust. During the first few weeks, some gray-white mucus may come out of the vagina of baby girls. After 5 or 6 days, some bloody mucus might also be there.
Both boys and girls may, towards the end of the first week of life, get swollen breast glands. Some liquid resembling breast milk may even leak out. This breast swelling usually goes away after a few weeks.
Birth swelling and head molding
Many children develop swelling on the part of the body that first emerged at birth. Because most babies are born head first, this
birth swelling is most commonly on the head. This does not usually mean that the area is damaged. The swelling normally disappears on its own.
Because the baby’s head needs to fit through the birth canal, it may be somewhat misshapen at birth. This usually goes away soon.