With Andrew Watson, Good Measure Pharmacy
Spring is a time for welcoming new life and new beginnings so what better time to look at the health of babies and newborns.
Having a baby at home or returning from hospital as first-time parents can feel like a daunting responsibility. Babies don’t come with instructions so time is needed to understand their needs and wants.
All babies cry; it is their only way to communicate something isn’t quite right. The obvious reasons are hunger, a wet or dirty nappy, temperature, tiredness and needing cuddling.
But when it doesn’t stop it can become quite the cry-sis.
Excessive crying, known as colic, lasts for more than three hours a day or for more than three days a week. Upsetting and hard work, you often feel helpless and driven to tears of your own, desperate for a way to relieve it.
Colic is thought to be caused by stomach cramps from an immature gut, an allergy or intolerance, or excess air passing into the stomach while feeding. Common in late afternoon or evening, your baby may clench their fists and bring their legs up to their tummy when crying.
It should pass often after an hour or two, but try holding your baby over your shoulder whilst rocking and rubbing the back to burp them. Pushing them in the pram or going for a drive can soothe a crying baby –the only time potholes are a godsend.
There are medications you can try from the pharmacy to soothe colic but remember to use them separately to see which works best. Infacol drops (simethicone)work by breaking up trapped wind in the baby’s gut whereas Colief drops (lactose enzyme) digest the lactose in the milk. Normally, by three months, the problem thankfully disappears on its own.
Soft and pure, a newborn’s skin is delicate but one of life’s natural delights. It is best to bath them using plain, warm water with no additives, starting with the hair then using damp cotton wool for the face, before removing the nappy and placing the baby in the bath. After one month, mild baby soap, baby bath and shampoo can be used.
The skin on the fingers and toes may peel, especially if the birth was overdue, but this will clear up. Sometimes, further conditions can develop that may seem worrying.
A few days after birth, some develop a blotchy, red rash called Erythema Toxicumwhich is harmless and disappears after a few more days.
After about a month, cradle cap can appear in yellow scales which flake like dandruff. Although it looks unpleasant, this doesn’t upset the baby and will resolve itself. A mild baby shampoo or special cradle cap shampoo can be used, or gently massage the crusts with olive oil to soften them before brushing out; never pick the crusts off as this can cause an infection.
Baby acne is a less troublesome skin condition that appears as pimples on the face at about one month old. Similar to teenage acne, it arises in babies due to the mother’s hormones still circulating their system. Don’t touch or squeeze the spots – they will subside themselves. Any new pimples developing after three months may need examining by your GP.
Eczema in babies normally develops after two months and is more common with a family history of asthma, hayfever or eczema. Red, itchy patches develop in the creases of the elbows and knees, on the face or behind the ears. Little mittens can be used to try to limit the damage caused by scratching.
Ask your pharmacist for a suitable emollient cream, using frequently to keep the skin moisturised. Cotton clothes and bedding are less irritating to the skin and try changing to a non-biological washing powder. Many children grow out of it, but if eczema doesn’t improve, a mild steroid cream can be prescribed by your GP.
While fevers can raise alarm bells, a temperature rarely causes harm and is a natural defence against infections like cold and flu, croup, or common viruses.
If skin is hot to touch, be sure to keep your baby hydrated with regular bottle feeds or cooled, boiled water. For discomfort or upset, you can give them recommended dosages of infant paracetamol from two months (9lb), or ibuprofen from three months (11lb) – but never together.
A high temperature is more unusual under six months, so visit your GP with readings of 38c or above.
In the last three months of pregnancy, antibodies from the mother are passed into the baby’s blood stream through the placenta, protecting the baby from any diseases that the mother has had. However, unless the baby is breastfed, this protection diminishes slowly during the first two months.
After this time, a vaccination programme should be started to prevent whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and Haemophilus influenzae type B. Throughout infancy and childhood, several vaccines are recommended which may vary from time to time depending on ongoing research results.
Your baby’s development is monitored by healthcare professionals and shortly after the birth you will be given a red book; this is a personal child health care record and details of baby’s height, weight, hearing and other important milestones will be monitored and recorded for your peace of mind.
But most of all, enjoy the new addition to your family and know you can obtain advice from healthcare professionals if you need it.
For further health advice, email Andrew at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the GoodMeasure website