Cradle of Love: Expert Advice on Newborn Baby Care

Expectant parents can take classes to learn how to change a diaper, understand breast- or bottle-feeding and burping, learn the ins and outs of giving their baby a bath, and gain techniques to soothe their baby when they are fussy or just having a good old cry. However, as Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn knows, “No matter how well you’ve prepared when your baby arrives, you really do have to learn all over again. We hear many questions in the first few weeks after Baby arrives, but some are more common than others. There are six topics we most frequently address.”

Expert Advice on Newborn Baby Care
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 Newborn Genital Care

“Most parents are concerned about cleaning the diaper area properly to prevent rashes, discomfort or infection. To clean your baby’s genitals, use a soft, clean cloth, gentle soap, and lukewarm water when bathing your baby,” says Dr. Alzein. Carefully wipe baby’s buttocks with a cloth and gentle soap, just like you when you’re doing a diaper change. When changing diapers, be sure to use gentle and unscented wipes.

When you have a girl, wash the genital area from front to back, to avoid moving bacteria into the vaginal area, and gently wipe between skin folds. When your baby boy has been circumcised and the incision has healed, simply wipe his penis clean. When your baby boy has not been uncircumcised, do not pull back the foreskin when you clean his diaper area as this can cause tears, bleeding and infection.

The Many Shades of Poop

Dr. Alzein says, “Your baby’s first few bowel movements be a gooey, dark-green, tar-like substance with hardly any smell. This is called meconium and is the first stool expelled by your newborn.” Dr. Alzein says it’s also common to find mucus in baby stool. When you breastfeed your baby, stool may look yellow and runny like mustard, but if you feed with formula, your baby’s bowel movements may be tan and pasty like peanut butter. “When Baby starts eating solid foods, bowel movements will smell foul and may appear in a whole range of colors, depending upon what foods your child has eaten,” says Dr. Alzein.

“While very rare, certain colors of stool can be a sign of a possible health issue. Always call your pediatrician if your baby’s stool is red, black, white or gray,” says Dr. Alzein.

Red. Visible amounts of bright red can be due to blood in your baby’s stool, so absolutely necessary to call your pediatrician to find out the cause – but don’t freak out.“There are plenty of harmless reasons for red bowel movements,” says Dr. Alzein. “Your newborn baby may have swallowed a little blood during delivery. If you’re breastfeeding, it might be that your nipples are bleeding slightly, and blood is mingling with breast milk. If your baby is eating solids, it could be a certain food, such as beets, coloring stool red. But always – always – check with your pediatrician to be sure.”

Black. A confirmed tarry black stool could, in some cases, be caused by blood, which may turn from red to black inside the intestines. “Very dark green stool can sometimes appear black,” says Dr. Alzein. Green baby poop—even a dark shade of the color—is usually nothing to worry about. Meconium can also look black, and this isn’t a problem.

White or gray. “Very pale white or clay-colored stools are very rare, but if you see stool this color in your baby’s diaper, call your pediatrician immediately, as it could be a sign of a liver or enzyme condition that needs immediate diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Alzein.

Baby Manicures

“Your baby’s nails grow very fast and without proper trimming, they can scratch their face and head,” says Dr. Alzein. “Your newborn’s fingernails grow so quickly that you may have to trim them more than once a week. Toenails grow more slowly, so they won’t need trimming as often.” Never bite or tear your baby’s nails, as this can cause pain and a severe infection.

 Cutting a baby’s nails is easier when two adults work together.  One adult should gently hold the baby, while the other trims their nails. If your baby moves and wiggles a great deal, try cutting nails while baby is feeding or sleeping.

 Press Baby’s finger pad away from the nail to avoid nicking the skin, and keep a firm hold on their hand as you cut or clip. Cut the nail around the curve of the finger, and the toenails straight across.If you accidentally nick the skin, don’t feel badly. Gently hold a piece of clean, damp cotton wool to the fingertip and apply pressure. The bleeding will soon stop. Don’t put a bandage on the cut, as this is a choking hazard.

 “When your baby is about 4 weeks old, their nails will begin to harden; they will have a firmer free edge,” says Dr. Alzein. “This will make it easier to use baby nail scissors or clippers to trim their nails. Select tools with rounded ends, though you’ll still need to trim carefully. You can also try using nail files made specifically for infants.”

Cradle Cap

“Cradle cap is typically yellowish patches, which can be greasy, scaly or flaky.  Cradle cap usually appears in folds of skin near the neck, behind the ears, or on the top of the head,” says Dr. Alzein.

“Cradle cap can also show up on your baby’s face, on the ears, eyelids, eyebrows, and nose, or on the body on the neck, armpit, belly button, legs, and groin,” says Dr. Alzein. “The good news is cradle cap isn’t contagious, and it generally isn’t painful or itchy and it doesn’t scar.”

“Cradle cap usually clears up without medical intervention within weeks or a few months, almost certainly by your baby’s first birthday. You can usually treat cradle cap yourself at home and help remove the scaling skin.”

Wash your baby’s hair frequently, even daily, with a mild, unscented baby shampoo.

Gently brush over hair and scales with a soft bristle brush to loosen the flakes of skin. Don’t scratch or rub the skin affected by cradle cap. Wash loose flakes away with water.

“If these treatments don’t improve cradle cap, ask your pediatrician to recommend a medicated shampoo,” recommends Dr. Alzein.

Baby Acne

“Your newborn baby may suddenly have small pimples on their face, usually on their cheeks, nose, eyelids, chin, or forehead. This is baby acne, also called neonatal acne. It’s common in newborns; about a third of babies will experience it. The acne may also appear on your baby’s scalp, on their neck, or on their chest and back. Unlike acne that teens and adults can experience, baby acne does not have blackheads or whiteheads,” says Dr. Alzein.

“There are no medications to treat baby acne as it resolves by itself within a few months. However, there are a few things you can do to help relieve the symptoms and severity of baby acne.”

Wash your baby’s bed sheets and clothing in a detergent made for sensitive skin or for infants.

Gently wash your baby’s face with warm water and pat it dry every day.

Do not pinch or scrub the pimples as this may lead to an infection and scarring.

Ear Infections

Ear infections usually show themselves first when your baby is napping or sleeping at night. “Your baby will cry as if in pain, but you won’t see any signs of injury,” says Dr. Alzein. When your child can’t communicate where the pain is,they could have an ear infection if you see:

  • Tugging or pulling the ear
  • Crying and irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fever, especially in younger children
  • Fluid draining from the ear
  • Difficulty hearing or responding to auditory cues

The most common type of ear infection occur when fluid builds up behind the eardrum and parts of the middle ear become infected and swollen. Treatment is relatively straightforward.

“When your baby is younger than 6 months and the infection is bacterial, your pediatrician may prescribe antibiotics as your infant’s immune system is not yet strong enough to fight the infection. From six months to two years old, your pediatrician will likely recommend a wait-and-see approach for several days as the infection is likely to clear on its own.  If the infection doesn’t clear, antibiotics may be prescribed.  If an ear infection happens after your child is 2 years old, your doctor will likely recommend over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve the pain,” says Dr. Alzein.

If your child has chronic recurring infections or a very long running infection, says Dr. Alzein, your doctor may recommend a procedure to put tubes in your child’s ear to improve airflow and prevent fluid buildup. “The tubes are about the size of a piece of rice and usually fall out on their own after 6 months. The placement of ear tubes is a very common procedure that helps thousands of kids each year avoid the pain, complications and possible hearing loss of ear infections.”

“Whenever you have a question about your infant’s health – from bathing to acne to oddly colored bowel movements, your pediatrician will be happy to help. They will give you evidence-based answers and techniques to help your growing child.”

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