Leaving the hospital and taking your newborn home is often both exciting and terrifying for parents. Finally having your bundle of joy is certainly wonderful, but taking care of this new, fragile being can be a steep learning curve for most new parents. They don’t come with a manual, after all! It is often not discussed, but these fears of new parents are a much shared experience. Here is a list of questions that almost everyone asks me about newborns and answers that hopefully can assuage your fears.
My baby hiccups all the time, is that normal?
Yes. You may have noticed that your baby did that before being born as well. Hiccups are a result of irritation of the esophagus and it is normal for all babies to reflux. This can lead some babies to spit up a lot, some not. But almost all babies get frequent hiccups because of this.
My baby sneezes constantly and sounds very congested. Does she have a cold?
Most likely not. Babies sneeze in order to clear mucous from their nose. They also have very active mucous glands. I had one patient compare babies to pug dogs, which I think is accurate! The best thing you can do is to help her clear the mucous. You can use the blue bulb given to you at the hospital or a Nose Frida. Instill 1-2 drops into each nostril and then suck it out. Doing this prior to feeding times will help the most. You should let your doctor know if the baby ever has blue lips or stops breathing for more than 15 seconds.
My baby seems to be very sleepy during the day and up all night. I’m exhausted. Help!
This is day-night confusion. You may have had the experience during pregnancy of the baby being very calm while you were walking around all day and then flipping in circles while you were trying to sleep at night. Babies generally emerge this way. They require light cues to adjust to the circadian rhythms that we all follow. Day-night confusion usually takes a couple of weeks to correct, but to help correct it faster, I usually suggest that you make the room very bright during the daytime. It’s okay to allow visitors and go about your usual activities. Try to keep your baby feeding every 2-3 hours. At about 7pm or so, make your living space darker and avoid further stimulation. Babies will often get one slightly longer stretch of sleep (i.e. 3-4 hours) in the 24-hour cycle, so do what you can to make that stretch at night so you can take full advantage of it.
There are periods when my baby is just wanting to feed all of the time and never seems satisfied, what do I do?
This is called cluster feeding. Babies will go through periods of cluster feeding when they are going through growth spurts and trying to increase your milk supply. Common growth spurts are birth-1week, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months. Allowing the cluster feeding to happen is brutal but important. Just know that it is short lived, generally lasting less than 1 week and then your baby will get back to her routine.
My baby does not like to lie flat on her back. In fact, she doesn’t like to sleep off of me at all.
We recommend all babies to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). This campaign, called Back to Sleep, was incredibly successful, but babies do not naturally love to sleep on their backs. An unintended consequence is that we see much more flattening of the posterior skull than previously. A tight swaddle of the arms can be all your baby needs to sleep soundly. Finding a way to angle your baby’s sleep environment, either with a wedge or a bassinet like a Rock ‘n Play, is another solution. You are not going to create bad habits in your child by carrying her to help her sleep during the day in the first couple of months. Parents need to sleep, however, so you will likely need to do some troubleshooting to help you figure out how you can put her in her own sleep space at night.
I answer poop questions on a very regular basis. Here are the most common:
My baby’s poop was yellow, but today it’s green. What does that mean?
The intestinal environment is constantly maturing and changing in newborns. Despite only breast milk or formula entering the baby, stool color will change. Yellow, green, and brown are colors I never worry about. Red, black, or white should prompt you to call your doctor.
My baby was pooping 10 times a day, now she’s only pooping once. What’s wrong with her?
Nothing at all! Stooling patterns are extremely variable and almost all normal in babies. Some babies stool 10 times per day, some only stool once every few days. As long as the baby is eating well and gaining weight, either one is an acceptable pattern. If the baby doesn’t stool for more than 5 days, the stool is hard, or has any of the bad colors mentioned above, speak with your doctor.
My baby seems to be in pain when she is trying to poop or pass gas.
Most likely, this is not true pain. Babies certainly do not like to stool or pass gas. My favorite analogy is this: try to picture defecating on your back without any abdominal tone. Doesn’t sound pleasant, right? Babies also tend to be extra gassy in the first few months of life, which doesn’t help. Parents often report that their baby can really let one rip like a teenager! Please know that while gas pain is unpleasant, it is not dangerous or damaging and babies grow out of this issue generally after the first few months. It is fine to try gas drops like simethicone or gripe water, but keep in mind that while safe, these are not miracle medications. There are infant probiotics available as well, and there is some soft evidence that this may help. You can try abdominal massage or bicycle kicks to help things pass. Probably the most important thing you can do is smile at your baby and let her know that you are there for her.
Lauren Brave, MD