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Protecting Your Bundle of Joy: A Guide to Understanding Common Newborn Health Concerns

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Welcoming a newborn into the world is an exciting time for any family. However, it's important to remember that newborns are delicate and require special care to stay healthy. In this post, I will discuss some common newborn health concerns and provide tips for prevention and treatment.

Common newborn health concerns

1. Jaundice is a common condition in newborns that causes yellowing of the skin and eyes. It occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood, which is a waste product produced by the liver. Mild cases of jaundice usually go away on their own, but severe cases may require treatment with photo-therapy or exchange transfusions.

2. Diaper rash is a common condition that occurs when a baby's skin becomes irritated by the diaper. It can be prevented by changing diapers frequently, using a barrier cream at every change, and letting the baby's bottom air out. The best prevention starts right in the hospital. Nurses often do not have time to change diapers, so bringing a barrier cream along in your bag is wise. Once the skin starts to break down, it is extremely painful and diaper changes turn into a nightmare. You cannot wipe raw skin! You will have to dunk the baby’s bottom in warm water for every change.

3. Colic is a term used to describe excessive crying and fussiness in newborns. The cause of colic can be due to a number of factors such as an immature digestive system, over-stimulation, or even parental stress. Parents can try to soothe their baby by using white noise, gentle rocking, or a pacifier. Getting some help and taking breaks is imperative.

4. Thrush is a fungal infection that can occur in a baby's mouth or diaper area. It can be treated with anti-fungal medication, but it's important to also treat any areas of a breast-feeding mother's body that may be infected to prevent reinfection.

5. Congenital heart defects are abnormalities in the heart that are present at birth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CHDs are the most common birth defect in the United States, affecting about 1 in every 100 babies.

CHDs are a group of structural abnormalities in the heart that can affect the heart's chambers, valves, or blood vessels. Some CHDs are minor and may not require treatment, while others can be life-threatening and require surgery or other interventions.

The exact causes of CHDs are not always clear, but they can be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some known risk factors for CHDs include certain genetic conditions, maternal infections during pregnancy, and exposure to certain medications or substances.

Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for babies with CHDs. Many CHDs can be detected during routine prenatal ultrasounds, and newborns are routinely screened for CHDs before they leave the hospital. Treatment options for CHDs depend on the specific type and severity of the defect, but may include medications, surgery, or other procedures. Some defects are mild and may not require treatment, while others may require surgery or other interventions.

6. Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is a common condition that occurs in premature infants when their lungs are not fully developed. Normally, the lungs produce a substance called surfactant, which helps to keep the air sacs in the lungs open and allows oxygen to be exchanged between the lungs and the bloodstream. However, in premature infants, the lungs may not produce enough surfactant, causing the air sacs to collapse and making it difficult for the baby to breathe.

The severity of RDS can vary depending on the gestational age of the baby and the amount of surfactant present in their lungs. Symptoms of RDS may include rapid or shallow breathing, grunting sounds, flaring nostrils, or a bluish tint to the skin. If left untreated, RDS can lead to serious complications such as respiratory failure, pneumonia, or even death.

Treatment for RDS typically involves administering artificial surfactant to the baby's lungs, along with other supportive measures such as oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation. The use of corticosteroids may also help to promote the production of surfactant in the lungs. In severe cases, the baby may need to be transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for specialized care.

Prevention of RDS involves efforts to reduce the risk of premature birth, such as good prenatal care, avoiding smoking and alcohol during pregnancy, and managing any underlying health conditions. In some cases, doctors may also recommend administering corticosteroids to the mother before birth to help promote the development of the baby's lungs.


Healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking or drinking during pregnancy, can help prevent certain newborn health concerns. While regular checkups with a pediatrician can help identify and treat any health concerns early on.

Immunizations can protect newborns from serious illnesses, such as hepatitis B and whooping cough. It's important to keep up with the recommended immunizations. Some parents find it more palatable to schedule immunizations a little more spread out. This is a called “delayed vaccination scheduling.” Talk to your pediatrician to see if they advise this for your baby.

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of many health concerns in newborns, including respiratory infections, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breast milk contains antibodies and other immune-boosting substances that can help protect babies from these infections and illnesses.

Breastfeeding also has benefits for the mother, including reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and promoting faster postpartum recovery. Breastfeeding may also help to promote bonding between mother and baby.

However, some newborns may have difficulty breastfeeding, such as those with cleft lip or palate, or those born prematurely. In these cases, alternative feeding methods such as pumped breast milk or formula may be necessary. Additionally, some mothers may experience challenges with breastfeeding, such as pain or difficulty producing enough milk. In these cases, seeking support from a lactation consultant or other healthcare provider can be helpful.

It's important to understand that while breastfeeding is highly recommended, it's not always possible or desirable for every mom and baby. Don't beat yourself up if breastfeeding doesn't work out as planned. There are other feeding options, and the most important thing is to ensure your little one is getting the nutrition they need to thrive. Your healthcare provider can help you find the best feeding solution for you and your baby, so don't hesitate to reach out for support.

While it can be worrying to think about common health concerns that newborns may face, it's important to remember that many of these concerns can be prevented or treated with proper care. By making healthy lifestyle choices, attending regular checkups, getting recommended immunizations, and providing proper nutrition, parents can help protect their newborn's health.


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