By Sarah Beeson MBE, author and health visitor
1. Learning to breastfeed and sore nipples
During the first week, when the milk comes in, sometimes women experience a toe-curling sensation for the first few seconds as the baby latches on. As long as your baby is properly attached, any discomfort should last for only a few moments. Nearly all babies have some frustration when learning how to feed: you're both doing something new for the first time.
- Take your time to get in a comfortable feeding position. Feeding takes time so make the most of it - have a snack, a drink and put your feet up whenever you can.
- Before you start check your baby's body is in a straight line. Bring them up towards the nipple with the baby's mouth wide open so they take all or nearly all of the areola.
- Keep calm and take a deep breath and exhale. It's normal for babies to thrash about a bit but the more relaxed you are the easier it will be for both of you.
2. Slow bottle feeding
Many babies seem to take ages to finish their bottle. 20-25 minutes is about right for your baby to take a feed.
- Check what flow teat is on your baby's bottle. They may need a faster flow to help them feed more easily.
- During the washing up test how well the teat squirts out the water. You want to see water from three or more holes or use a variflow type teat.
- Do you think your baby might have jaundice? If in any doubt talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor.
3. No-one is getting any sleep
When babies are new it can feel like life is an endless round of feeding, winding, nappy-changing and crying.
- Getting the right amount of nap time and milk during the day is part of the secret to a good night's sleep. Let your baby have a maximum of four hours between feeds during the day.
- Wrap your baby in the Happy Baby Half-Swaddle. Ensure the room is darkened and warm but not too hot after a feed.
- If your baby often wakes when you put them down to sleep. Once they are asleep you could try using a large muslin or blanket like a hammock and gently lower them down into their cradle. (There are some great products on the market for this).
It is upsetting to see (and hear) your baby crying with colic; they go red in the face, get distressed and angry, draw their knees up, arch their backs and sometimes try to push off you with their feet and seem like they are trying to jump out of your arms. It's part of their digestive system adjusting to life outside of the womb.
- It will be you who makes the real difference to how your baby feels. Soothe them with soft words, singing, giving cuddles and lots of sympathy.
- Stay as calm as you can. Take a deep breath in and breathe out slowly; your stillness will go a long way towards calming your baby and help reduce your levels of anxiety, too.
- Some Simeticone products can help to relieve trapped wind, and can be used from early days but take 48 hours to work. If you don't see any improvement after three or four days stop giving it. You can use gripe water from six to eight weeks which provides immediate relief for colic and wind. Try only one product at a time and follow the instructions carefully.
5. Sticky eyes
Many babies have recurring sticky eyes, which in nearly all cases are not harmful and can be cleaned by using cooled boiled water and cotton wool pads.
- Use one stroke from the inner aspect of the eye outwards.
- Be very gentle and repeat for each eye.
- Always use a fresh cotton pad for each eye.
6. Nappy Rash
Almost all babies get nappy rash at some time, and swift treatment usually clears it up quickly. Nappy rash is caused by your baby's wee and poo irritating the surface of their sensitive skin, as well as by rubbing or chafing and possibly by a particular soap, detergent or bath product. The skin might be hot to the touch or have spots and blisters.
- Use a nappy rash cream that you prefer or if it's not working get your doctor or health visitor to check it out and prescribe a product for you.
- When babies are teething they often get an alkaline wee that burns the skin. You may notice tiny little red spots over the nappy area, which are small burns and are often mistaken for nappy rash.
- Help prevent rashes on the bottom by using a greasy layer of bottom butter or petroleum jelly as a barrier.
7. Thrush in you and your baby
If your baby has a persistent rash ask your health visitor or doctor check for signs of thrush as this is a fungal infection and will need prescribed treatment. Thrush easily passes between mother and baby and so it is likely you will both need to be treated.
- If your baby has oral thrush they might have a white coating on their tongue or white patches elsewhere in the mouth that do not rub off easily like a milk coating does. Give your baby an ounce or so of cooled boiled water in a sterilised bottle. If the white area goes, it is not thrush.
- It may be that you had vaginal thrush in pregnancy and it transferred to the baby during delivery. It makes sense to treat a baby with oral thrush and also to check bottom thrush, and ensure the vaginal thrush is treated in you to break the cycle.
- Do not blame yourself or worry about this, as it is very common in babies and no reflection on you, and is easily treated. Your health visitor or doctor can give you a prescription.
8. Tummy Button
Your baby's umbilicus can become brittle and have dried blood on it which is tough to remove, or may be oozing fluid and become sticky, or bleed a little which is all quite normal.
- Clean the tummy button two or three times a day using a fresh cotton pad soaked in cooled boiled water and then squeeze out. Wipe gently but firmly round the tummy button to keep it clean.
- There is no feeling in the umbilical cord and even though the baby may flinch when cleaned it is just the coldness of the water. Usually the cord drops off between four to eight days after birth, but sometimes they stay a little longer.
- If there is a little tag of flesh protruding this may be a granuloma - your health visitor will discuss treatment and care of this, which is quite common and not serious.
9. Head Shape
Many babies have differently shaped heads caused by their delivery, and these can take some time to settle.
- The Fontanelle or soft spot which allows your baby's head to grow is checked for size and position and the shape noted by your health visitor, midwife or doctor.
- The measurement of the circumference of the head may also be taken and recorded.
- There may be some bumps and lumps on one or even both sides of the head; these resolve on their own but your health visitor should keep an eye on them over the coming weeks, and your doctor should take a look at the six to eight week check.
10. Posseting (throwing up milk)
Posseting is common in most babies because as they burp some undigested feed comes up. Many babies will experience symptoms of colic as well as posseting from birth to six months, so it is no wonder it makes many parents feel anxious, but unless you feel it is affecting your baby's weight gain and well-being it is nothing to worry about.
- Frequent smaller feeds (usually every two to three hours when very young and then three to four hours when a bit older) can help to minimise your baby being sick.
- Raise the head end of their crib by placing a folded blanket or muslin underneath their mattress so your baby can rest in a more upright position.
- Give your baby opportunity to be on their tummy during regular supervised 'Tummy Time'. Once they can sit up with support being upright may help lessen their vomiting reflex. Once babies start to wean and are having solid food and spend more of their day in an upright position, most parents noticed they posset less or not at all.
Sarah Beeson MBE is a health visitor and author. She writes with her daughter Mumpreneur and writer Amy Beeson. Sarah's memoir of training to be a nurse in 1970s London The New Arrival is a heartwarming true story. Their parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is published by Harper Thorsons and is available in paperback, eBook and audiobook.
Tagged in Babies