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Understanding common newborn ailments

Having a baby brings so much joy to family life, but the newborn’s health can be a source of anxiety to parents. Time Out Shanghai Family look at some common ailments, and when to seek help.

Understanding common newborn ailments

Bringing back a baby from the hospital can be an exciting but anxious time for new parents. Time Out Family asks Dr Nelia Malubay from Parkway Health to explain common newborn ailments.

Dr Nelia Malubay has more than 15 years of experience in paediatrics. She sees patients at Parkway Health, Jinmao Medical Center and Parkway Health Specialty & Inpatient Center.

Jaundice

What should I expect in my newborn?

Jaundice is the yellowish discolouration of the skin, sclera and mucous membrane. Jaundice in newborns is quite common and in most cases it’s a benign problem.

Babies often get jaundice because of an accumulation of a substance called bilirubin in their blood. With their livers not being mature enough to filter the bilirubin from the blood, increased amounts of the substance in the blood case jaundice. Newborns will typically first show signs of jaundice in their faces, then their chests, abdomens, legs and feet. These symptoms usually take place 24-hours after delivery.

Jaundice that occurs in this time frame is called pathologic jaundice and it will subside after two weeks. During this period, your baby’s overall health shouldn’t be affected and he should be able to remain active, with a normal appetite. Be sure to keep them constantly hydrated with breast or formula milk.

When should I seek medical advice?

Non-physiological signs of jaundice include a poor appetite, with your baby refusing to breast or bottle feed, in addition to vomiting and lethargy. He may also be irritable and fussy and unable to sleep properly. If your newborn’s stools are light-coloured, if they have any problems with breathing or if they are experiencing a slower heart rate, contact a paediatrician immediately. If your child is suffering from any of these symptoms, they may have a viral or bacterial infection, internal bleeding, liver disease or abonormal red blood cells. In this case, it’s best to consult a paediatrician at once.

Diarrhoea

What should I expect in my newborn?

Newborns experience diarrhoea for a few reasons: they may have a sensitivity to something in the breast or formula milk they’re consuming or it may be a reaction to any antibiotic medication they’re being treated with. Diarrhoea can also be a symptom of overfeeding. If you want to be sure your child is suffering from diarrhoea, look out for watery, runny or liquid stools. You should still keep up with regular feeding times if your newborn has diarrhoea but make these feeding times more frequent and with a smaller amount of food, particularly if your child has been vomiting. If you suspect the diarrhoea is down to formula, change the type of milk powder you’ve been using.

When should I seek medical advice? If your baby has had diarrhoea for 24 hours or if they’re displaying other symptoms like fever, lethargy, irritability or if their stools contain blood, seek the advice of a medical professional. Diarrhoea in a newborn can lead to more serious conditions, as the infection can become more severe in a short time. Dehydration can then become an issue. Babies may need even intravenous fluid to help with this. Be sure to take your child to a paediatrician immediately if any of these symptoms persist.

Constipation

What should I expect in my newborn?

Unlike diarrhoea, where babies frequently pass stools, constipation is when newborns have difficulty or experience pain when passing stools. A baby with constipation will groan or cry when attempting to complete a bowel movement. Their stools may also be streaked with blood, due to anal fissures or cracks in the anus caused by the passing of very hard stools. If your baby is formula-fed, you can try to offer them extra water in between feedings, to reduce constipation. Do not dilute milk formula, as doing so reduces the milk’s calorific content. In addition, parents can try to gently stimulate their child’s rectal movement with a rectal thermometer or with a cotton bud doused in petroleum jelly. Doing so may help your newborn to relax their bottom.

When should I seek medical advice?

If the baby continues to have hard stools, blood in the stools or experience pain or difficulty passing stools, bring them in for an appointment where you can talk to a doctor and see if it’s necessary to give them oral laxatives. If administering laxatives isn’t an option, your doctor will help you find the best way to relieve the constipation and calm the newborn.

To read more common ailments, there is a full version of this article on /www.timeoutshanghai.com/family/features/Family-Family_health/36929/Understanding-common-newborn-ailments.html