Jaundice, a yellowish discolouration of the baby’s skin and eyes, is a common problem. It results from the breakdown of the baby’s red blood cells which is part of the normal adaptation process in the newborn and is not a sign that the baby is ill. However, jaundice may be associated with other problems particularly if it presents within 24 hours of baby’s birth, or lasts for more than 3 weeks. If this happens to your baby, the midwife or doctor will discuss it with you.
Jaundice usually appears when a baby is three to four days old and fades on its own after about ten days. In breastfeeding babies, jaundice may last slightly longer. You may notice that your baby is more sleepy than normal. If the doctor or midwife thinks that the level of jaundice is high they may take a blood test to see if the baby needs treatment. Some babies may require special light treatment (phototherapy) to help reduce the jaundice level.
Your baby’s skin will continue to mature after birth. The skin may appear dry, blotchy and you may notice spots or areas of discolouration. The majority of these are very common and disappear within the first few weeks and do not require any treatment. As your baby’s skin is immature, we do not recommend using any skin care products in the first few weeks. If your baby’s skin is cracked, the midwife will advise on the appropriate treatment. Do not worry if your baby’s skin is dry, as it will be rapidly replaced with new skin.
The cord stump will dry and fall off between day 5 and day 12. As part of normal skin care we recommend that you clean around the stump with tap water only and dry the cord. Powders or other lotions are not recommended any more.
Your baby should have opened his/her bowels within the first 24 hours. The first motion is called meconium, which looks tarry and sticky. Over a period of three to five days, the colour of your baby’s motion changes to a yellowish colour.
Breastfed babies’ motions are more liquid than bottle-fed babies. Babies have frequent bowel movements in the first two weeks of life.
Babies should pass urine in the first 24 hours of life; however, it is often difficult to tell if this has occurred as the amount of urine produced is very small. Once feeding is established (day three to day four), you should notice that your baby has frequent wet nappies.
To reduce the risk of your baby getting nappy rash, it is important to change your baby’s nappies frequently and to clean the area with water and dry it well.
No barrier creams or baby wipes should be used. If you feel your baby has nappy rash, speak to your midwife, doctor or health visitor. Signs of nappy rash include redness and inflammation of the skin around the buttock region.
All babies cry and some babies cry a lot. Sometimes you will know the reason; perhaps your baby needs a nappy change, a feed or a cuddle, or is not feeling well. However, sometimes parents can try everything to stop their baby crying and nothing seems to work. This can be very distressing for parents.
There are many things you can do to comfort a crying baby: letting your baby suckle at your breast (if you are breastfeeding), holding a baby close to you, rocking, swaying, singing and stroking them. Rocking your baby to and fro in the pram or taking your baby for a drive in the car may be of help.
Find things for your baby to look at and listen to. Massaging your baby or giving him/her a warm bath may also be of benefit. If your baby’s crying is upsetting you, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP about it. You could also contact Cry-Sis, a national charity that offers support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies: www.cry-sis.org.uk
Some babies can get trapped wind and many people refer to this as colic. Babies who have colic can have difficulty settling and appear distressed. Speak to your midwife or health visitor.