Hiccups, an umbilical stump, mucus, cradle cap, green bowel movements, circumcision and more…the quirks and thrills of a newborn.
First Bowel Movements
Your baby’s first bowel movements are generally green and sticky as they are composed of mostly merconium and full of digested mucus. Breastfed babies usually produce soft, yellowish stools, sometimes tinged light green with little odour. A bottlefed baby often produces stools that are firmer, brown and smellier.
Often babies lose weight the first few days out of the womb. Prior to birth babies retain fluid and nutrients and these are shed in the days following. Weight is regained and usually surpassed within the first week or so. If your baby is continuing to lose weight, seek medical advice.
Young babies tend to hiccup and snuffle a lot. This is due to the respiratory system developing. Many babies born by Caesarean have more mucus in their system. This is because babies born vaginally are squeezed through the birth canal, an action that often forces a lot of mucus out of the baby’s system.
Twitching, Blisters and Regurgitation
Young babies also tend to twitch and jerk in their sleep as their nervous system continues to develop.
Young babies often develop suckling blisters in the first few weeks. These will disappear without treatment.
Regurgitated milk and even more violent vomiting are common. More distressing for the person in the firing line than the baby, this is not uncommon.
Coping With Common Baby Complaints
The following techniques are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis and care. If your baby is ill always seek professional advice.
Cradle cap is a build-up of natural hair oil and dead cells, which forms a crust on the baby’s head. It is a natural occurrence, and only becomes a problem if it gets infected. Wash your baby’s hair once every two days and rinse thoroughly. If your baby has a ‘crust’ massage it daily with a natural based oil, this will loosen the dead skin. Dry and peeling skin on the hands and feet is common although this tends to disappear without treatment. It is not usually excema.
Babies often are affected by thick, mucusy goomp around the eyes. This is usually a result of a blockage in the tear duct called the lacrimal duct. In babies the duct is very narrow and is easily blocked by debris from the eye. A sticky eye needs to be cleaned frequently with cottonbuds or a muslin facecloth and warm water.
Most babies experience some degree of digestive upset due to their still-developing system. Wind and colic are common. Air can be swallowed while suckling, when your baby is crying, or if the flow of milk is too fast. Correct positioning of your baby before and after feeding can help prevent excessive wind and provide relief. If your baby is slouched while feeding, air can accumulate in its stomach until it becomes distended. The release of air may bring up regurgitated milk. Keeping your baby’s back reasonably straight with its lower back supported upright will help your baby expel excessive air more easily. If you are breastfeeding, try expressing some milk before feeding to reduce the flow. If you are bottlefeeding, try using a teat with a smaller hole. Burping your baby after feeding can reduce wind.
After a feed you can help your baby to release wind. Sit your child on your knees, leaning forward and supported by one of your hands across the upper chest. With your other hand, stroke your baby’s back from the base of the spine upwards. Then pat gently between your baby’s shoulder blades. Baby massage on the back and stomach will help disperse trapped wind.
When a baby vomits, it is usually a sign that your baby is full or needs to get rid of mucus in the stomach. The best thing to do is change your baby’s nappy and put it to bed. Even if your baby has just regurgitated most of the feed, there is no immediate need for more food. A sleep will do wonders though your baby may wake a little earlier than usual for the next feed. If your baby is repeatedly vomiting, is not gaining weight, has blood or green-tinged bile in the vomit or has a constantly high fever, call your doctor. Repeated vomiting is dehydrating for a little one.
Mild constipation can be alleviated through regular massage, particularly of the tummy, back and buttocks. Using a drop of chammomile in the oil blend will help relax your baby’s digestive tract and nervous system, and will induce sleep. Adding one drop of mandarin essential oil to a massage blend can help mild diarrhoea. It is gently astringent and binding. Abnormal bowel movements can be distressing. If your baby has sudden vomiting or diarrhoea, severe or long-lasting swelling of the belly or blood in the bowel motions, call your doctor immediately. Repetitive diarrhoea is dehydrating for a baby’s system.
Babies start hiccuping in the womb when developing and strengthening their respiratory system so it seems quite normal for them. Hiccups occur more frequently in newborn babies as their digestive and nervous system develops. Baby massage can help soothe and expel excess wind pockets and relax the diaphragm.
Babies breathe through their nostrils. As their immune systems develop, respiratory disorders are common, blocking their breathing passages and disrupting their natural rhythm of respiration. To relieve the congestion, a massage before bedtime will help clear the mucus. Start with a back and shoulder massage to release blockages in the chest. To clear your baby’s nostrils, lay your baby on your knees facing you, and with your index fingers, press down along both sides of the nose, then trace the natural curve under the cheeks outwards towards your baby’s ears. These are the lymphatic drainage pressure points on the face. Try it on yourself first so you can feel the sensation. Alternatively, lay your baby over your thighs facing you, with its head and upper chest curving over your knees, so it is almost upside down. Pat the centre and side of your baby’s chest with gently cupped hands, to make a popping noise. Then turn your baby on to its belly and do the same on the upper back. This action helps to loosen the mucus in the chest by compressing the lungs and bronchial tubes. Your baby may bring up unwanted mucus or vomit. If your baby suddenly develops breathing difficulties, call your doctor immediately.
During the first few weeks of a life, a newborn finds itself in a strange environment, after only ever knowing the comfort of the darkened womb. If your baby is having difficulty sleeping, check that the environment is suitable. listen to the crying to assess whether or not there is an underlying problem. As early as possible, try to create a routine. A warm bath followed by a baby massage is the ultimate preparation for bedtime. Add a drop of either lavender or mandarin essential oil to the bath or to the massage base oil. Both of these oils are calming and have sedative properties to help your baby sleep.
Your baby may start fussing about during feeds. Usually there is something they are not happy about. It could be a burp ready to come up, it might be that the milk flow is too fast, your baby may be full, or if you are breastfeeding, your breast may be empty. These moments of fussiness usually occur around six weeks and again at eight to twelve weeks. When your baby fusses, stop the feed to release wind. Then resume the feed on the second breast. When your baby fusses again, stop the feed and return it for the last time to the first breast. If your baby is bottle fed, follow the same process. Burp your baby, check to see that the teat is not blocked, and also check that the teat hole is the correct size for your baby’s age. You can tell if your baby is getting enough by the number of soiled and wet nappies you are changing and by your baby’s weight gain.
The stump should take between five and ten days to dry up completely and fall off. Keep the stump of the wound warm and dry and fasten nappies so that they do not irritate or rub against the wound.
To keep it clean, use some soft cotton material such as a muslin facecloth dipped in witch hazel. If there is an infection, you may wish to apply an antiseptic preparation of saline solution, or an infusion of rosemary or calendula (marigold) flowers. A drop of lavender essential oil in your baby’s bath will also help. Breast milk is another alternative as it is full of antibodies that fight infection. If you are breastfeeding, take echinacea, golden seal and myrrh as these have healing properties and will pass to your newborn through your breast milk.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis.
The foreskin helps protect the “glans” or tip of the penis. It is an unnecessary operation although some cultures practice circumcision as a religious ritual. Attitudes towards circumcision have changed over the years. In many western societies it was adopted as routine, based on hygiene grounds. In the early 1980s, about 70 percent of baby boys were being circumcised but this has since dropped to 30 per cent. Few doctors today defend the practice as medically necessary although many doctors are unlikely to challenge a parent’s request to circumcise an infant for fear of being regarded anti-Semitic.
Circumcision is usually performed under local or general anaesthetic and is carried out more commonly when the baby is a year old, rather than soon after birth. Today many people believe the operation to be a traumatic procedure, often resulting in excessive pain, bleeding and infection. Some people regard circumcision as genital mutilation resulting sometimes in irreparable damage. In some cases, parents claim to notice behavioural changes following circumcision. This has been linked to a betrayal of trust as well as a reaction to pain.
- Hygiene is the most commonly given reason for boys to be circumcised as newborns. Even groups that are against the practice recognise that uncircumcised children need to maintain long-term and fastidious genital hygiene.
- Phimosis, the inability to retract the foreskin, causes adhesions and increases the risk of complications with secondary infection in uncircumcised males. Most foreskins can be fully retracted by about age six. However, 19 per cent of boys experience problems if the foreskin is not fully retractable by this age.
- Paraphimosis occurs when the foreskin can be retracted but cannot be pulled back. The condition results in constriction and swelling and requires urgent incision and circumcision.
- Balantis is a term used when uncleanliness results in the head of the penis becoming red, inflamed and discharging pus. Newborn circumcision consists of the removal of the foreskin and this procedure prevents phimosis, paraphimosis and balanitis.
- Frenulum chordee occurs when the foreskin is very tight and causes tearing during masturbation or sexual intercourse. In later life, the condition causes further bleeding and trauma, and can result in poor sexual function.
- Where there’s moisture, there’s an environment for infection to occur. Urine inevitably collects under the foreskin, creating a warm, damp area – the perfect environment for infection to arise. Because the head of the circumcised penis is exposed, it is dry and, therefore, less susceptible to infection.
- Research has shown that the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is reduced in circumcised men, because the circumcised penis is easier to keep clean and because the skin is drier and less permeable and, therefore, less likely to harbour infection.
- There is virtually no cancer of the penis is males circumcised at birth. Although it is a rare condition, penile cancer occurs almost exclusively in uncircumcised men. Having said that, the American Cancer Society has pointed out that fatalities caused by circumcision accidents may approximate the mortality rate from penile cancer.
- Research has shown that prostate cancer is twice as common in uncircumcised men as in their circumcised counterparts.
- Described as one of the key erogenous zones of the body, the foreskin is 50 per cent of all penile skin and is a complex two-layer organ, filled with as many sensitive nerve endings as the fingertips and lips, more than a metre of veins, arteries and capillaries, 80 metres of nerve fibres and more than 1000 complex nerve endings. Its function is similar to the eyelid; keeping the glans (penis head) moist and protection from abrasion or infection by secreting antibacterial and antiviral lubricants (called smegma). Once this gliding erogenous tissue is severed, the glands develop an additional 12 to 15 layers of skin; as a consequence men who are circumcised as adults report a 70 – 90 per cent loss of sensitivity, and may require lubricants or jellies.
- A common reason given is ‘it’s more hygienic’. Research shows that circumcision prevents build-up of bacteria from behind the foreskin. This is true but you simply need to teach your boys how to keep the foreskin clean.
- Most medical reasons cited for circumcision – reduced risk of urinary tract infections (UTI), reduced risk of penile cancer and of cervical cancer in the man’s partner – are not significant enough to warrant the procedure. There is contradictory evidence as to whether circumcision reduces UTI. And as the likelihood of the uncircumcised infant contracting an infection is no more than one per cent (a figure that goes down with babies who are breast fed), while the chances of infection or complications arising from circumcision are two to three per cent, parents must think carefully about what they’re risking.
- As for penile cancer, the American Cancer Society has pointed out that “fatalities caused by circumcision accidents may approximate the mortality rate from penile cancer.” Some have gone as far as comparing the removal of the foreskin as a preventative measure with cutting off your daughter’s breast at puberty to avoid breast cancer. It may sound outlandish, but so does circumcision to some.
One other reason given for circumcision is when a foreskin is to tight, in which medical intervention is definitely required. However, this will become apparent only when the child has his first erections, and full circumcision is rarely the solution.
- Many men (and woman) find the circumcised penis more attractive, but before you make the circumcision decision, think about the long-term consequences. It’s hard to think of your newborn as a sexual creature, but one day the shape and size of penis is going to be of supreme importance to him. He may thank you for giving him the defined shape of the circumcised penis, for the relative ease of keeping it clean, for the increased staying-power his desensitised glans provide. On the other hand, he may wonder what it would be like to have 75 per cent more feeling.
Making the decision
Before making the decision, speak to friends and family with personal experience. If you decide to have your child circumcised for whatever reason, discuss the circumcision with the person who will perform the procedure. Ask that your son retain some inner foreskin, especially the frenelum, to preserve as much sensitivity as possible. Ask for anaesthetic to be used (this is standard as a medical procedure). Breast or bottle-feed the baby just before the circumcision. To familiarise yourself with how the circumcision is performed, take a look at www.infocirc.org and click on ‘methods’. Your baby’s first bowel movements are generally green and sticky as they are composed of mostly merconium and full of digested mucus. Breastfed babies usually produce soft, yellowish stools, sometimes tinged light green with little odour. A bottlefed baby often produces stools that are firmer, brown and smellier.
Cranial Sacral Therapy
During childbirth the pressure your baby experiences in the birth canal can cause the bones of the skull to become misaligned. A baby may seem jumpy, irritable, cry excessively, have difficulties feeding and suffer from colic or insomnia. A traumatic or difficult birth may exacerbate the problem. Osteopaths who specialise in cranial-sacral adjustments can work to correct the misalignment. Practitioners of cranial sacral therapy, work extremely gently to adjust the subtle fluctuations of cerebro-spinal fluid and cranial bone alignment. Results can be spectacular and in most cases can improve the other symptoms. Ideally, this should be carried out within the first 18 months before the bones of the skull harden and become set in place.