Newborn Survival (For Babies & For Moms!)

{Disclosure: Our partners at Fairview Health Services understand that when you have a newborn baby, it can be a time of questions and uncertainty. Is this normal? Am I doing this right? How do I best take care of the baby and myself? Learn from Christine Schmitz, MD, a pediatrician at Fairview Clinics – Eagan, about how to survive life with a newborn while taking care of you, too!}

Newborn Survival (For Babies & For Moms!) | Twin Cities Moms Blog
I remember bringing my newborn home from the hospital. Despite being a pediatrician in training, once we were home, I didn’t know what to expect and had lots of questions. Now as a pediatrician for Fairview Clinics, I enjoy helping parents understand what is normal, and what things would worry me.

I believe the first two weeks of the baby’s life are all about survival – and it’s not the baby’s survival I worry about. In order for baby to be healthy and thrive, you must take care of yourself. What self-care looks like is different for each new mom, but please ask for help. Dad, grandparents and friends can all be good sources of support. You need to rest as much as you can.

I find one of the things new moms worry about the most is breastfeeding. My own experience was very difficult, but feared I’d be a failure if I didn’t breastfeed. I struggled a lot for two months and it delayed our bonding. We eventually got the hang of it and my son nursed for a year, but I still remember that rocky start. I know I’ll upset some lactation consultants, but if you’re exhausted and need to skip a feeding and give the baby a bottle, that’s ok. I think you have a much better chance of continuing breastfeeding if you’re rested and not overwhelmed. If you’re having trouble, please call your pediatrician and ask for a referral to a lactation consultant who can help. Breastfeeding is best for the health of the infant, but your needs also matter.

Remember that doing it all does not make you a good mom, breastfeeding or not doesn’t make you a good mom, working or staying home doesn’t make you a good mom. Doing your best to take care of your child in the way that works for you and your family makes you a good mom. Please don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician questions. I would much rather have my parents bring the baby in and ask if they have questions or concerns, rather than stay home and worry. That’s what we’re here for!

Speaking of questions – here’s some of the most common ones I get asked.

Newborns should eat every 2-3 hours in the first 2 weeks of life. Expect your baby to lose weight initially, but they should be back at their birth weight in two weeks. Generally, we don’t want newborns to lose more than 10% of their birth weight, so you should wake your baby to feed them, even at night, those first 2 week. After that, you can let them sleep longer if your baby’s weight is ok.

Poop: If you feed them they will poop. Baby poop is a unique substance. It starts out very thick, black and sticky then transitions to a yellow watery stool. Baby stool is very watery; this does not mean they have diarrhea. A normal baby will have stools that leak out the diaper, drip into their socks and go up their backs. Although not fun to clean up, this is very normal.

Back is best: Babies should be put on their backs to sleep to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. Many parents worry about the baby choking on spit up, however, babies cough better and keep from choking if they are placed on their back rather than their sides or stomach to sleep.

Sneezes and hiccups: Sneezing is normal. Babies’ nasal passages are small, and sneezing is the only way they have to clear mucous. Hiccups are also normal, and will usually occur frequently in the first few weeks of life and then gradually decrease in frequency. Neither of these hurt the baby.

Spitting up: All infants reflux, or have stomach contents move into their esophagus or mouth. Spitting up is normal. It becomes a problem if the baby is losing or not gaining weight, develops pneumonia or is very irritable with feedings. Vomiting is not normal; in an infant we would describe vomiting as being forceful and “projectile.”

Coughing and fevers: Coughing is not normal – if your baby is less than 2 months old and develops a cough, see your pediatrician. Fevers in an infant 2 months or younger are also not normal. Your pediatrician will consider a fever anything over 100.4 F. Your doctor will prefer you take a rectal temperature for a child that young. If the baby feels warm but the temperature is under 100.4, try unwrapping the baby, sometimes they get a little warm just from being well swaddled. Check the baby again in 30 minutes. If the baby’s temperature is 100.4 or higher, call your pediatrician and plan to go to the emergency room. A fever in young infants can be a sign of serious bacterial infection.  

Your healthcare partners: It’s normal to have a ton of questions and experience a wide range of emotions after the birth of your baby. It’s ok to ask for help. And it’s definitely ok to ask your doctor questions. I work with an amazing group of pediatricians and family medicine doctors at Fairview Clinics who really care about their young patients and their parents. I encourage you to find a doctor you feel comfortable with to partner with to help your child’s health thrive.

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