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Top 10 Things That Can Freak You Out When You Have a Newborn Baby

Monday, February 15, 2021

Caring for a newborn baby can be a bit overwhelming at first. Some things can be downright alarming! Many times, however, they are actually normal. Here are the top 10 alarming (but normal) things you may notice in your newborn.

1. “Blood” in diaper

It can be alarming to discover a reddish tinge in your newborn baby’s diaper. You may assume it is blood. But is it?

In baby’s first few days, the urine can be so concentrated that uric acid crystals show up as a color. We call this ‘brick dust’. It is pinky orange (almost salmon-like) in color and can easily be mistaken for blood.

a Newborn rash is one of the top 10 things that can freak you out about a newborn baby.

Although alarming, brick dust is temporary and will go away once baby is drinking larger volumes of milk. If the brick dust is still present after baby is 5 days old, contact your healthcare provider to make sure baby is drinking enough.

If your baby is a girl, a  second possibility is ‘pseudomenstruation’. Babies are continuously exposed to mom’s hormones in the womb. The sudden withdrawal of the hormones at birth can cause baby girls to have a mini period (also known as pseudo menses). This is not a cause for concern; it will go away within a week or so.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If baby has brick dust after 5 days old

– If brick dust or pseudomenses doesn’t seem to fit with what you are seeing, particularly if your baby seems unwell.

2. Bumps on baby’s skin

Your beautiful newborn baby can develop bumps on the skin that can look rather alarming. Here are 2 conditions that are completely normal.

a Newborn rash is one of the top 10 things that can freak you out about a newborn baby.

– A common newborn rash that can resemble teenage acne or bug bites. You will see small white dots surrounded by a reddened area. It can come and go on all parts of baby’s body.

– Small white bumps on a newborn’s nose, chin or forehead. These skin bumps, called milia, are caused by small flakes of skin getting trapped just below the surface of the skin.

The best treatment for both of these skin conditions is to do nothing! They will disappear on their own within a few weeks.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If baby seems unwell in addition to having a rash

3. Voracious appetite

Newborn babies eat often! 10, 12, 14, 16 or more times a day is normal. You may think “Surely my baby can’t be hungry, he just ate!” Well guess what? He is probably hungry.

Breast milk is so easy to digest that half of it can be gone after only 45 minutes. Breastfeeding mamas will spend 10 ½ – 12 hours a day feeding. Ask for help with other household tasks to free you to do this important job.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

4. Frequent Sneezing

Newborn babies sneeze often. This can be alarming and you may wonder if your baby has developed a cold or allergies.

Sneezing is simply baby’s way of clearing his nose. Nasal passages are tiny and can easily be clogged with mucous. If your baby was born by caesarian section, he may have a bit more mucous as it was not “squeezed out” as he came through the birth canal.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If sneezing is accompanied by wheezing or other signs of illness such as a fever.

5. Bleeding Umbilical cord

After birth, your newborn baby’s umbilical cord will be clamped and cut, leaving a small stump at the base. As this piece of the cord dries, it begins to shrivel and darken.

As the cord starts to separate from the skin, you may notice a tiny stain of blood on baby’s sleeper or diaper. (The amount of blood should be similar to what is present when a scab falls off.) A little bleeding from the base of the cord is an indication that the cord is beginning to fall off. Learn more about caring for your baby’s cord in this post.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If the bleeding reappears as soon as you wipe it.

– If there is thick greenish foul smelling ‘pus’.

– If the skin near the umbilicus is reddened and warm-to-touch.

– If baby seems ill.

6. Whites of baby’s eyes appear yellow

Jaundice is a common newborn condition that causes baby’s skin and the white parts of the eyes to appear yellow. Most babies will have at least some jaundice in the first week after birth.

The first place jaundice is noticeable is on the baby’s nose; as jaundice increases, the yellow color becomes noticeable further down the body. Jaundice typically peaks on the third or fourth day of baby’s life and then begins to fade. The whites of the eyes are often the last to return to normal color. Read more about jaundice here.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If your newborn baby appears yellow in the first 24 hours of life.

– If baby is too sleepy to feed, despite using wake up techniques.

– Is baby is not having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers.

7. Diarrhea

Breast milk poop is watery and can even be explosive! You may worry your newborn baby has diarrhea. Loose poop, however, is normal for breastfed babies. It can range in color from yellow to brown to orange and will have some milk curds or ‘seeds’. Some babies will have a bowel movement with every feed.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

  • If you notice blood in baby’s poop
  • Baby has green liquid poop that completely soaks into the diaper

8. Swollen Breasts

Newborn babies, both girls and boys, can have swollen breast tissue at birth. If you touch the area, you may feel a lump.

The swelling occurs because baby was exposed to mother’s hormones in the womb. The same hormones that prepare mom’s breasts for breastfeeding can cause baby’s breasts to swell as well. This is not a cause for alarm; the swelling will disappear on its own over the next few weeks.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

  • If the swollen breast tissue is reddened or baby has a fever.

9. Swollen Genitals

You may notice that your baby boy’s scrotum or your baby girl’s labia are quite a bit larger than you would expect for the first few days after birth. This is largely due to exposure to mom’s hormones while in the womb. The swelling goes away on its own within the first few days.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If your baby’s scrotum continues to be swollen beyond the first couple of weeks or if baby seems in pain.

10. Crossed eyes

It is normal for newborn babies to have brief periods when their eyes appear to “cross”. The muscles around their eyes are not yet strong. This should resolve by the time baby is about 3 months old.

When to consult your healthcare provider:

– If your baby’s eyes seem to be crossed all the time.

– If it persists beyond 6 months old.

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References:

  1. Kids, Caring for. “Jaundice in Newborns.” Ear Infections – Caring for Kids, 2017, www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/jaundice_in_newborns.
  2. Kids, Caring for. “Your Baby’s Skin.” Ear Infections – Caring for Kids, 2017, www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/your-babys-skin.
  3. “Newborn Rashes and Skin Conditions.” HealthLink BC, 2017, www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/zx1747.
  4. O’Connor, Nina R., MD, Maura R. McLaughlin, MD, and Peter Ham, MD, 2016, “Newborn Skin: Part I. Common Rashes.” – American Family Physician. AAFP, Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/0101/p47.html
  5. “Strabismus (for Parents).” Edited by Jonathan H. Salvin, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2017, kidshealth.org/en/parents/strabismus.html.

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