While most common newborn conditions are nothing to worry about, here’s what you need to know to decide if a trip to the doctor is necessary.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
The first few weeks of motherhood are overwhelming, and often fraught with anxiety. Newborns are especially helpless and that's why it’s really scary for mums when they are sick. Common newborn health problems include the common cold, fever, and skin rash. Most of the time, these problems are not serious. However, it's still important to know how to help your sick baby and to recognise the warning signs of more serious problems.
Regurgitating after feeds – or reflux – is also common in babies up to the age of one. If your baby is “throwing up” some of her feeds, it’s quite normal and experts say you shouldn't be too worried, so long as weight gain remains normal. Your baby will naturally outgrow this condition by the time she is a year old.
“Some lifestyle measures can help reduce reflux symptoms – you could try feeding in smaller volumes but more frequently, burping regularly after feeding, positioning your child upright after feeding and inclining the crib and diaper changing tables at about 30 degrees. If the baby is irritable or is vomiting bright greenish or bloody fluids, or if his or her weight gain is poor, this is when a doctor’s visit is warranted,” says Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in paediatrics at Raffles Holland V.
According to Dr Tan, tongue-tie is a “structural abnormality”, in which “the skin connecting the floor of the mouth to the tongue – the lingual frenum – is short and tight, thus restricting the tongue’s movement, especially during activities like sucking, swallowing or talking”. The condition is surprisingly common and affects up to 11 per cent of babies.
The condition is also called ankyloglossia, and can sometimes affect the way your newborn breastfeeds. It may potentially also affect speech in the future.
If you suspect your child has the condition, fret not. See your doctor as soon as possible
as a simple procedure of snipping the lingual frenum can be easily done in newborns.
“As they grow older, the procedure may have to be done under general anaesthesia,” adds Dr Tan.
Erythema Toxicum (Rash)
It is incredibly likely that your newborn will experience this rash that appears all over the face, body, and limbs; according to Dr Tan, the condition affects up to 70 per cent of newborns.
“The rashes are usually blotches of red but can also appear as tiny pustules that come and go. Parents usually start noticing it after the second day of life. These rashes are neither itchy nor painful. This condition does not require any treatment and will resolve in two weeks,” says the doctor.
Also known as prickly heat or miliaria, Dr Mark Koh, head and senior consultant at the Dermatology Service at KKH says that this is another extremely common newborn condition. Heat rash presents as small, pin-point, red to clear bumps, usually over covered areas like baby’s back and bum.
“This is because their sweat glands are not fully developed and are easily blocked. Treatment is to avoid heat and humidity by putting newborns in light clothing, giving cool baths, avoiding swaddling or thick moisturisers, and using air-conditioners and fans. A mild topical steroid, like hydrocortisone 1%, desonide lotion, may help to decrease the inflammation.”
Nappy rash affects up to 35 per cent of infants, most commonly between nine to twelve months of age, says Dr Koh.
“It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as prolonged contact
with urine and stool in diapers, friction, or a secondary infection from bacteria,
fungus or yeast,” adds the doctor.
“It presents as a red, scaly rash over the areas covered by diapers, and treatment includes frequent diaper changes, using plain water to clean the area and using a barrier cream or moisturiser. Depending on the cause, your doctor may prescribe creams or oral medication if it is severe,” he finishes.