Some babies have a bit of trouble adjusting to their new world. Fortunately, most of the problems they experience are minor and soon resolved.
Jaundice More than half of all newborn babies develop jaundice, a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes. Signs generally develop a few days after birth, and the condition may last several weeks.
A baby develops jaundice when bilirubin, which is produced by the break- down of red blood cells, accumulates faster than his or her liver can break it down and pass it from the body. Jaundice usually disappears on its own, and it doesn’t cause any discomfort to your baby.
Your baby may develop jaundice for a few reasons:
Bilirubin is being produced more quickly than the liver can react.
The baby’s developing liver isn’t able to remove bilirubin from the blood.
Too much of the bilirubin is reabsorbed from the intestines before the baby gets rid of it in a bowel movement.
Although mild levels of jaundice don’t require treatment, more-severe cases can require a newborn to stay longer in the hospital. Jaundice may be treated in several ways:
You may be asked to feed the baby more frequently, which increases the amount of bilirubin passed with bowel movements.
A doctor may place your baby under a bilirubin light. This treatment, called phototherapy, is quite common. A special lamp helps rid the body of excess bilirubin.
Your baby may be given intravenous immune globulin to decrease the severity of the jaundice if the bilirubin level becomes extremely high.
Rarely, an exchange blood transfusion is done to reduce the bilirubin level.
Infection A newborn’s immune system isn’t adequately developed to fight infection. Therefore, any type of infection can be more critical for newborns than for older children or adults.
Serious bacterial infections, which are uncommon, can invade any organ or the blood, urine or spinal fluid. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is necessary, but even with early diagnosis and treatment, a newborn infection can be life-threatening.
For this reason, doctors are cautious when treating a possible or suspected infection. Antibiotics often are given early, and their use is stopped only when an infection doesn’t seem likely. Although the majority of the test results come back showing no evidence of infection, it’s better to err on the side of safety by quickly treating a baby than to risk not treating a baby with an infection soon enough.
Viruses can cause infections in newborns, although viral infections are less common than are bacterial infections. Certain newborn viral infections such as herpes, varicella, HIV and cytomegalovirus may be treated with antiviral medication.
Learning to eat Whether you choose to breast-feed or bottle-feed, for the first few days after your baby’s birth, you may find it difficult to interest your newborn in eating. This is fairly common. Some babies seem to adopt a slow- and-sleepy approach to eating. If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough nourishment, talk to your baby’s nurse or doctor. Occasionally, slow eaters require tube feedings to help them along for a few days. But soon they catch on and breast-feed or bottle-feed with enthusiasm.
Over the first week, a newborn will lose about 10 percent of his or her birth weight and will gradually gain that weight back, and more!