A parent’s guide to common newborn problems
Bringing home a newborn can be both exciting and intimidating for parents. As much as we plan, prepare and read up on what to expect, there will always be some curveballs that catch us off guard. From reflux to feeding difficulties, the first few weeks of a baby's life can present a range of challenges. That's why we've put together this parent's guide to common newborn problems - so you'll feel more equipped to handle whatever comes your way.
There are so many things to think about and keep track of, and it’s hard to know what to expect. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your new baby is to educate yourself on some of the most common problems that newborns face. That way, if something does come up, you’ll be prepared and will know what to do.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common newborn problems, including colic, tongue tie, and reflux. We’ll also give you some tips on how to prevent and treat these problems. By the end of this article, you’ll feel more confident and prepared to take on whatever comes your way as a new parent.
Colic in newborns
Colic is one of the most common problems experienced by newborns and therefore parents. It is characterised by prolonged and inconsolable crying, which can be very upsetting for everyone at home. Although colic can be difficult, it is important to remember that it is usually not a sign of a serious medical problem. In most cases, colic will improve on its own over time. The most common reason for colic is an immature digestive system.
There are a few things that you can do to help your baby through this challenging phase:
- Try to stay calm: this can be difficult when your baby is crying so much, but it’s important to remain calm. If you are struggling to do this at times, which is normal, hand your baby over to a trusted person and allow them to take over for a little while.
- Hold or rock your baby: most babies love being walked around and rocked. Holding or rocking them can help soothe them and make them feel more comfortable. If this doesn't work, have skin-to-skin and hum in dim lighting as you rock your body with them. Letting them know they are loved and safe in your arms through this difficult experience can really help.
- Use white noise: White noise can help drown out other sounds that may be upsetting your baby and making their crying worse. You can find white noise machines specifically designed for babies, or simply download an app on your phone.
Get advice and support from a healthcare professional - always reach out when you feel the need to. Aine Homer also known as The Baby Reflux Lady is a great source of information online.
A tongue tie (ankyloglossia) is where the tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth by a thin strip of tissue. This can make it difficult to move the tongue and can interfere with breastfeeding. A more severe tongue tie can also cause problems with speech development later on.
Tongue ties are not always obvious at birth, but may become more apparent as the baby starts to feed. If you think your baby has a tongue tie, talk to your healthcare provider. They will be able to examine your baby by inspecting, feeling and observing a feed. They can then confirm whether or not they have a tongue tie.
If your baby has a tongue tie, there are treatment options available. The most common treatment is a procedure called “frenectomy”, which involves snipping the tissue that is attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth. This procedure is usually quick and easy. After the procedure, your baby should be able to breastfeed without difficulty.
If you think your baby may have a tongue tie, talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options. After treatment, most babies with tongue ties will be able to breastfeed without any problems.
Reflux in infants
If your baby is regurgitating milk, spitting up after feeds, or crying a lot they may have reflux. If you are worried about your baby's reflux, be sure to speak to your healthcare provider or an expert.
There are a few things that you can do to help ease your baby's discomfort from reflux:
- Burp them frequently during and after feedings
- Hold them upright for at least 30 minutes after feedings
- Avoid overfeeding (this is important for all babies, try not to get them to finish a bottle if they've had enough)
Know that in most cases it will self resolve by 12 weeks of age, it is important to get support from a specialist to help during these weeks. Aine, also known as 'The baby reflux lady', is a great source of support and has a lot of free information on her site and social media.
Constipation in babies
There are many different issues that can arise during a baby’s first few months of life, and constipation is one of them. It’s important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of constipation in babies so they can seek treatment if necessary.
The most common sign of constipation in babies is infrequent or hard stools. If your baby is straining or having difficulty passing stools, this may also be a sign of constipation. Other signs include crying during or after a bowel movement, bloody stools, and abdominal pain.
With newborn babies it is best to seek advice as soon as possible. But once out of their newborn phase, you can try to relieve this at home at first. Very gentle baby massage may help get the gut moving. If this does not work ensure you speak to your health visitor or GP.
Newborns are precious and special, but they do come with their own set of problems. As parents it is important for us to understand what these common newborn problems look like so that we can identify them quickly and take the appropriate steps to address them.
It's not always easy to know what the proper course of action should be when our little ones seem to be in discomfort, so if you ever have any concerns over your baby, their behaviour, feeding etc it's always best to speak to a healthcare professional for reassurance and advice.
As your baby grows, things will get easier and many symptoms do tend to self-resolve. Hang on in there, you're doing great!