Newborn Babies: Common Conditions

Newborn Baby problems 

Newborn Baby problems : Some physical conditions are quite common during the initial few weeks after birth. Several of these symptoms will go away on in due course of time without any medical intervention while, in some cases you may need to contact your paediatrician.

Abdominal Distension

Normally, most baby bellies stick out after a big feeding, but between feedings their tummies should feel quite soft. In case your baby’s abdomen feels hard and swollen, and if she hasn’t had a bowel movement for more than a day or she is vomiting, call your paediatrician. Most likely the problem is gas or constipation; however, it also could also be a more serious intestinal problem.

Birth Injuries

Infant injuries are quite possible during child-birth, especially if the labour is particularly difficult or long, or if the baby is very large. Newborns recover quickly from most of these injuries, while some persist for a longer term. The most common injury is of a broken collarbone, which will heal soon if one can manage to keep the arm on that side relatively motionless. However, after a few weeks, a small lump may form at the exact site of the fracture, but it shouldn’t be the cause for an alarm; this is a positive sign showing that new bone is forming and the injury is being healed.

Muscle weakness, another common birth injury caused during labour due to pressure or stretching of nerves attached to muscles. These muscles get weakened on one side of the face or on one shoulder or an arm; and generally become normal after some weeks. Meanwhile, ask your doctor to show you how to hold and nurse the baby for speedier healing.

Respiratory Distress

It may take the newborn a few hours after birth to get into a normal breathing pattern, but after that she should have no further difficulties. In case she seems to be breathing in an unusual way, most often it is from blockage in the nasal passages. Use of saline nasal drops, followed by use of a bulb syringe, is all that may be needed to get rid of the problem. Both these things are available over the counter at all pharmacies.

In case your baby shows any of these following warning signs, notify your doctor immediately:

  • More than 60 breaths in a minute (it should be kept in mind that normally infants breathe more rapidly than adults)
  • Grunting while breathing
  • Retractions (or sucking in of the muscles between the ribs with each breath, so it makes her ribs stick out)
  • Persistent blue skin colouring
  • Flaring of her nose

Blue Baby

Some babies may have mild blue hands or feet at the time of birth, but this may not be a reason for concern. If their hands and feet turn bluish from cold, they would normally return to pink as soon as the baby is warmer. Occasionally, when the baby has been crying hard, the face, lips and tongue may turn a little blue, but once she is calm, the colour of these body parts should quickly come back to normal.

However, if blue skin colouring is persistent and if it is accompanied by breathing difficulties or feeding difficulties, it might be an indication that the heart or lungs are not functioning properly, and the baby is not getting enough supply of oxygen in the blood. In such a case, immediate medical attention is required.


When the baby drinks water for the first time or tries to drink water very quickly, she might cough and sputter a bit; but this kind of coughing should stop soon as she gets adjusted to a familiar feeding routine. This might also be related to how fast the mother’s milk comes down. However, if she coughs persistently or gags during feedings routinely, consult your paediatrician. These symptoms may indicate some underlying problem in either the lungs or the digestive tract.

Excessive Crying

All newborns cry. Very often the reason is not apparent. First ensure that your infant is fed and burped properly, is warm, and her diaper is not soiled. If she is still crying, she might want some attention; the best tactic is to hold her and talk or sing to her until she stops. You will not “spoil” a baby this age by giving her too much attention. If this too doesn’t work, wrap her snugly in a blanket.

You’ll get accustomed to your baby’s normal crying pattern. If it ever sounds different or peculiar—for e.g., like shrieks of pain—or if it continues for an unusual length of time, it could mean the baby is in distress and it might be a medical problem. Call your paediatrician and seek advice.

Forceps Marks

During the delivery, if forceps are used for help, they can leave reddish marks or superficial scrapes on the infant’s face or head where the metal pressed against the soft skin. These usually disappear within a few days. Sometimes a flat and firm lump develops in one of these areas due to minor damage caused to the tissue under the skin, but there is no need for worry as this too, usually will vanish within two months.


Most normal and healthy newborns have a yellowish tinge to their skin and eyes, known as jaundice. Jaundice is caused due to a build-up of bilirubin in the child’s blood (Bilirubin is formed from the body’s normal breakdown of red blood cells). This occurs when the infant’s immature liver has not yet begun to do its job of removing bilirubin from the bloodstream efficiently. Most babies have mild case of jaundice, which is quite harmless, but it can turn serious when the blood-bilirubin reaches a very high level. Although mild jaundice is treatable, however, if the bilirubin levels go very high and are not treated effectively, it can even lead to damage of the nervous system or brain damage in some cases. So, it’s wise to checked and treat the condition appropriately. Jaundice is more common in infants who are breastfed, most often in those newborns who are not nursing well. Breastfeeding moms should nurse at least 8 to 12 times a day, which will help produce sufficient milk and in turn keep the bilirubin levels low.

Jaundice progresses gradually. It first appears on the newborn’s face, then on the chest, then abdomen and finally it appears on the arms and legs. The whites of the eyes will also turn yellow. The doctor may physically examine the baby for jaundice, and if she suspects its presence—based on the amount of yellow in the skin and also on the baby’s age as well as some other factors—she might order a blood test to diagnose the condition definitely. If jaundice develops within the first 24 hours of birth, a bilirubin test is always required for an accurate diagnosis. The bilirubin level is highest at 3 to 5 days old, and newborns should be checked by a doctor or nurse around this time. Some newborns need to be checked even sooner, especially:

  • Those who have a high bilirubin level before discharge from the hospital
  • Those who were premature or born early (more than 2 weeks before the due date)
  • Those who have jaundice within the first 24 hours of birth
  • Those with a lot of bruising and bleeding under their scalp(associated with labour and delivery)
  • Those who are not breastfeeding well
  • Those who have a sibling or parent who had higher bilirubin levels and took treatment for it

Once the doctor determines the presence of jaundice and the need for treatment, the bilirubin levels can be brought down by light therapy or placing the baby under special lights when she is undressed. This can be done either in the hospital or at home. Her eyes should be covered to protect them during the light therapy. In breastfed babies, jaundice may last for more than 2 or 3 weeks; but in babies taking formula feed, it goes away by two weeks of age.

Sleepiness or Lethargy

All newborns spend most of their time sleeping. As long as she eats well, wakes up every few hours, seems content and is alert at least part of the day, it’s perfectly normal for her to sleep through the rest of the time. But if you find that she’s rarely alert, doesn’t wake up for feedings on her own or seems too tired/ uninterested to eat, you should consult your doctor. This lethargy—especially if there has been a sudden change in the baby’s usual pattern—might be a symptom of some serious illness.


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