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Babies: What to Expect When They Are Born

Thursday, April 04, 2013 - Campus News - Contact Theresa Green, (405) 833-9824

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:

- Begin to establish a routine
When you first bring a newborn home, life can seem a bit chaotic. Your baby may have her days and nights mixed up, may have an erratic eating and sleeping schedule, which means you also find it difficult to eat, sleep or even shower.  But it's never too soon to begin trying to establish some routine. In fact, babies thrive on routine.  Because newborns will need to nurse on demand, it is nearly impossible to establish a mealtime routine.  Instead, begin to work on a simple bedtime routine. Pick a reasonable time – perhaps 7p.m. – and then choose just a few things you'd like to do every night. Put baby in pajamas, read or sing to baby, say a prayer or rock in the rocking chair. Keep the activity, your voice and the lights low. Soon your baby will begin to understand that nighttime is for sleeping and not playing.
- Realize that babies cry a lot
It's sometimes trying when you are faced with what may feel like non-stop crying at times, but remember crying is your baby's only way to communicate to you that he or she is hungry, cold, has a dirty diaper or simply wants to be held. If you find yourself getting frustrated, ask a family member or friend to give you a break. 
- Dry skin and other skin problems are not unusual
Many babies will have a bout of dry, flaky skin. Don't panic. It usually will be short lived. However, if it really bothers you, you can use some hypoallergenic, fragrance-free baby lotion. Other skin issues that can crop up in newborns include little pink bumps, diaper rash and baby acne. Most of these will also clear up on their own with time; but if you are concerned, talk to your pediatrician.

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 this Friday,  April 5th at 10 a.m.


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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