During the seemingly long pregnancy months, you long to bring your new baby into the world. You plan and prepare, but most new parents still find themselves somewhat overwhelmed when they first arrive home with their newborn baby boy or girl.
Pediatricians with OU Children's Physicians offer some simple tips to help you through those first few months.
"Before you and your baby leave the hospital, doctors will look for some key factors to ensure he or she is healthy and ready for home," said Casey Hester, M.D., a pediatrician with OU Children's Physicians. "We want to know that your baby is breathing well and able to maintain an appropriate body temperature. We also want to be sure he or she is feeding well."
Hester said it is important not to let your baby get dehydrated. Whether breastfed or bottle-fed, your baby should be eating every two to three hours and should have at least three or four wet diapers every 24 hours. Hester said some new parents find it helpful to keep a journal tracking the baby's feedings and diaper changes in those first few days.
Jaundice can be an issue for some children and is often evaluated before your baby leaves the hospital, but sometimes it shows up after your baby is home. It usually appears as a yellowish tint to the skin.
"Jaundice is not uncommon in newborns. Often their bodies have not yet acquired the ability to excrete the yellow pigment called bilirubin in their stools. The bilirubin level generally peaks by about 5 days for full term babies and about a week for those born prematurely. However, if your baby continues to have very yellowish skin and eyes after about four days, talk to your pediatrician," Hester said.
New parents also need to be aware of warning signs of infection, she said. Infections may be picked up during birth or from people handling the baby. While you don't have to hole up at home like a hermit, it is important to use some common sense when going out in public.
"Try to avoid crowded, enclosed spaces," Hester said, "and teach visitors and siblings to wash their hands before touching the baby. You might also encourage them to touch the baby on his or her feet as opposed to hands or face."
Warning signs of infection can include fever or low temperature, poor sucking during breastfeeding, rapid breathing, a lack of appetite, poor weight gain, weak crying and increased irritability. Hester said if you notice changes in your baby that concern you, call your pediatrician's office right away.
Here are a few other helpful tips from OU Children's Physicians:
Bringing up baby can leave you feeling exhausted, emotional and a bit lonely, but remember those difficult early days will soon be behind you.
"Most first time moms and dads worry a lot. I think we all do a little better when the second child comes along," Hester said. "So try to enjoy those early days as much as you can. They will be gone before you know it."
If you have questions about caring for your newborn child or grandchild, Dr. Hester will be available for a live webchat at www.OUMedicine.com/chat this Friday, April 5th at 10 a.m.
QUICK NEWBORN TIPS
Time to Call the Doctor
Watch for these signs that it's time to call your pediatrician:
- Your newborn's breathing is faster or irregular
- You notice blueness or a darkness on the lips or face
- Your newborn has a fever
- Your newborn's body temperature has dropped
- You see signs of dehydration (less than 3 to 4 wet diapers in a 24-hour period)
- Your baby's belly button or circumcision area looks infected
- Your newborn's jaundice does not decrease by the fifth day
- Your baby is crying a lot or appears sluggish
- You think your baby is not looking or feeling well
Choosing a Pediatrician
The following are a few questions to help you select a pediatrician:
- What are the office hours? Is emergency coverage available 24/7?
- Which hospital does the pediatrician use?
- Do they accept your insurance plan and how does the office process billing and claims?
- What are the qualifications of the pediatrician? Is he or she an AAP member (i.e., "FAAP," a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics)?
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