GUEST POST BY: Dr. Kathrym Espana
Don’t we all wish babies came with an owner’s manual where we could easily find how to “troubleshoot” them? Unfortunately, they don’t. However, your pediatrician could and should be your guide through all your worries and concerns. There is no “dumb” question when it comes to a newborn baby, and when searching for a pediatrician you as a mother needs to make sure he or she is accessible and open to all questions.
For example, the feeling of feeding your baby 24 hours a day is normal. Yes, babies do have to eat every 2-3 hours so by the time you are done with the first feeding it is quickly time for the next one. They also mostly just sleep between feeding which for some mothers it feels like they are sleeping all day long and for others it might feel like they are not sleeping enough because they are waking up for feeds. But it is a fact that it is normal for babies to sleep short periods at a time for a total of 16-18 hours a day and feed every 2-3 hours.
Babies breathing is also a common concern for many parents. You might find yourself obsessing over your babies breathing whether it is too fast or whether he/she is breathing at all. The truth is we as adults breathe about 12 times a minute and for babies it is considered normal to breathe 30-40 times a minute. It is also very normal to have “periodic breathing” for the first few months of life. These are periods of regular breathing interrupted by a brief less than 10 seconds period of no breathing and then a big gasp of air as they start to breath normal again. However, if the episodes last more than 10 seconds or baby turns blue he/she must be evaluated by a pediatrician.
Noisy breathing is always another concern with newborn babies. It is usually caused by congestion which is normal in all newborns for the first 4-6 weeks of life. Most of the time is due to mucous created to clear their nasal passages. It is not allergies or a cold, and the best way to help your little one is with drops of nasal saline 2-3 times a day in order to “flush” those secretions that are keeping them congested.
Just like the congestion is not due to illness or allergies neither is the babies sneezing. A newborn’s nose is simple very small and also not used to breathing our air that is full of tiny particles. Any of those particles that gets into their nose can cause a “tickle” which causes them to sneeze in order to clear their airway. So you can say they are “allergic” to the “world” since they have never been in contact with it until birth.
Other normal behaviors commonly seen in newborns are hiccups and jerks or twitches. The hiccups is not caused by improper feeding and they tend to happen quite often. Some babies have it more often than others and it is just the immature nervous system control of the diaphragm. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent them or cure them. They will outgrow it and it usually bothers us more as mothers than our babies. Now, as far as the twitches it is usually a brief one to two second jerks of arms and legs, which is called the startle reflex and it happens more often during sleep or right before they go to sleep. If the movements involve all extremities, flexing of the neck or last more than a few seconds then it should be evaluated.
The stool pattern also causes a lot of obsession with parents. Going from checking and comparing every diaper to even posting on social media to get advice from other mothers. Any shades of yellow, green, or brown in the newborn period is considered normal and it is usually watery and seedy, which is not considered diarrhea. Also some babies have a bowel movement with each feeding while others every 3 days and it is still considered normal as long as they are soft in consistency. Constipation has nothing to do with the frequency, the most important thing to determine constipation is the consistency of the stools. It is also normal for babies to strain and turn red when having a bowel movement as well as when passing gas. Their stomach muscles are not strong enough for pushing, as well as it is hard to have a bowel movement while laying down, therefore it is a “big deal” for them, but it does not mean they are constipated or in pain.
Bringing home your new baby will be one of the happiest days of your life but it also can turn into anxiety since once you get home there may not be anyone right there to ask what is normal and when is cause for concern. If you are ever worried the best thing to do is to call you pediatrician’s office. There is never a “silly” question when it comes to your newborn. We realize babies do not come with a manual and our goal is to give personalized care to all our patients in order to make the care of your baby less intimidating.
For more info on Dr. Kathrym Espana and Concierge Pediatrics of Houston click here.