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5 Common Newborn Worries That Parents Face

14 August 2019

The first few months of parenthood can be equally thrilling and terrifying – a unique combination of joy and happiness on one hand and fear and frustration on the other. This is especially true if you are a first-time parent who has not gained enough self-confidence to trust your instincts.

Newborn babies are vulnerable to a wide range of health problems as they make a transition from the safety of the womb to the external environment. In a matter of days or weeks of becoming a parent, you may start finding yourself overly concerned about the growth and development of your little one. 

Some of the questions you could be asking yourself are: Is my baby breathing normally?  Is he/she crying too much? How many hours is he/she supposed to sleep in a day? 

In this article, we address the five common newborn worries that parents face and give you helpful tips on managing them. We are here to tell you what is normal, and not to be worried about. 

Common Newborn Worries and Fears that Parents Face

Is my baby sleeping too much?

Newborns spend most of their time sleeping. Typically, they spend between 14 and 17 hours of their day sleeping. Some of them may sleep for up to 18 or 19 hours a day. Babies may sleep more or less than usual when they feel unwell or experience a disruption in their regular sleeping routines.

Newborns wake up every three to four hours to feed before going back to sleep, and they are typically not awake for more than three hours at a time. Do not be afraid to wake him/her up to feed if your baby tends to sleep for longer stretches. As babies grow and adapt to the external environment, they start to develop a more regular sleeping schedule.

Do not worry if your baby tends to sleep more than usual unless there are other symptoms such as being lethargic, fussy/irritable, and having trouble eating. Your newborn may sleep more than usual when he/she has a minor illness such as cold, receiving immunisations, or experiencing a growth spurt. Here are a few sleep tips for babies to help you:

  • Encourage nighttime sleep
  • Study your newborn’s sleep pattern and know how to identify  their signs of sleepiness
  • Develop a calming evening routine that includes a warm bath, massage, and nursing
  • Take your baby out for walks during the day so that they can be exposed to natural light

Is my baby crying too much?

Newborns could cry for many reasons since it is their only way of communication. It is also their way of capturing your attention and expressing their needs. They may cry when they are hungry, fed too much, sleepy, too hot/too cold, need a diaper change, colic, anxious, overstimulated from noise, or sick. 

Intense crying may also follow a developmental pattern during the first few months. Crying tends to increase at two or three weeks, peaks between six and eight weeks, then starts to slow down afterwards. 

If your baby is younger than five months and he/she cries for more than three hours in a row on three or more days in a week, then he/she may be colicky. Colic can be defined as a state of intense and inconsolable crying in a healthy baby.

Colic is not a disease, and it will not cause harm to your newborn, but it is a difficult condition to deal with for parents. It is not easy to cope with a crying baby, especially when they do not respond to you. Follow these tips to avoid feeling frustrated and angry at your little one:

  • Reach out for support: Do not be afraid to seek assistance from your partner or friends during the fussiest times of the day. At appropriate times, say yes when your friends and relatives offer to help with babysitting, meals, or housework.
  • Recognise your limits: Pay close attention to internal warning signs whenever you feel overwhelmed. The sooner you recognise your limits, the easier it is to plan for help or a break. The small steps that you take will help you to get in the best frame of mind to better care for your newborn.
  • Do not strive to be perfect: You need to keep in mind that parenting is not about perfection. It is almost impossible to be fully attentive to a crying baby throughout the day. Meeting your newborn’s needs at least one-third of the time is enough to support healthy bonding.

Is my baby developing normally?

Each newborn tends to follow a predictable sequence of events during his/her development. However, the rate at which this development occurs varies greatly and is affected by a wide range of factors such as genetics, medical history, and environment.

Having a basic understanding of the critical developmental miles can reassure you that your newborn is developing normally. A baby’s development journey can be divided into three broad areas, namely; movement and handling skills, language skills, and social skills.  

During the first month, your newborn may exhibit a limited number of primitive reflexes. Your child will display a tendency to suck any object that is placed near their mouth and grasp hold of objects. He/she may respond to sound and move their head to one side when placed down on their stomach.

At 3 months, your baby should start to become more sociable and even smile when you speak to him/her. Their eyes start to follow moving objects and search for sounds.  By 5 months, your baby may have discovered their hands and started playing with their fingers. He/she is also able to roll from front to back and vice versa.

Many babies start to produce consonant sounds at the age of 8 months. Crawling starts at 9 months while walking can start anywhere between 10 and 12 month. At 14 months, your child should be able to drop objects voluntarily, have preferences, and react to sound.

Why does my baby keep sneezing? 

Sneezing is a healthy thing to see your baby doing. It is a sign that their nervous system is working perfectly because sneezing is a reflex process that is controlled by the nervous system. It is completely normal for newborns to sneeze, along with hiccups, spit-ups, and burps. 

In most cases, newborns sneeze when their nasal passages are irritated. They tend to sneeze more because they have smaller nasal passages and need to clear their noses more often. Your newborn sneezes to get rid of anything from mucus to breast milk, and dust particles in the air. 

However, in some cases, sneezing can be a sign of sickness. Frequent sneezing could be an early symptom of a respiratory infection.

Consult a paediatrician if your baby is constantly sneezing and has additional symptoms such as fever, cough, refusal to eat, excessive tiredness, and trouble breathing.

Sneezing in newborns can also be a sign of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) that occurs when a mother abuses addictive opiate drugs during pregnancy. The common symptoms of NAS, in addition to sneezing, include unsustained suck, abnormal nipple latch, tremor, and nasal stuffiness.

Why do I see a pulse at the top of my baby’s head?

Your baby’s skull is usually made up of soft bony plates that compress and overlap to fit through a mother’s narrow birth canal. The result of this process is usually a head shape that closely resembles a cone than a perfect round ball. Luckily, the bones of your baby’s skull round out and the ridges disappear a few weeks later.

You may notice one or two areas on your baby’s head that seem to lack bone protection. The soft spot is referred to as fontanelle. This is normal, and the fontanelle creates room during your newborn’s brain growth.

Many new parents feel nervous about the soft spot on your child’s head, especially if you have noticed that it pulses. But the truth is that it is well-protected by a sturdy membrane and is not a cause for worry.

There is no harm in touching the spot gently while taking care of your little one. Typically, the soft spot should be closed by the time your baby turns 19 months old. However, you should be concerned if you notice these two signs:

  • A dramatically sunken fontanel: It could be a sign of dehydration
  • A bulging fontanel: This could be a sign of increased pressure in your child’s brain due to head trauma, a build-up of fluid around the brain, or an infection in the brain.

Conclusion

It is every parent’s dream to have your newborn came home from the hospital with a set of detailed instructions to tell you specifically what you need to do to keep him/her in good health. Unfortunately, every newborn is different and you need to take time to understand your baby and how he/she reacts to different environments and conditions.  

During this process, it is normal for you to experience anxiety and fear in the process. Take time to learn how to cope with your new situation but most importantly, speak to an experienced paediatrician whenever you feel that something may be wrong.

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