Parents, especially first time parents, often have a lot of questions about the things that their baby does.
If you aren't sure if something is normal or not, ask yourself some questions:
- Is your baby feeding well and gaining weight?
- Is he satisfied most of the time and consolable?
- Does he have a fever or other signs that he may be sick, such as being inconsolable, having trouble breathing, not waking for feedings, etc?
If you are happy with your answer to those questions (eating well - yes, gaining weight - yes, satisfied/consolable - yes, signs of illness - no), and your baby appears happy and healthy, then he probably is. Don't be afraid to call or ask your Pediatrician if you still your baby might have a problem though.
Here are some of the normal things that most babies do:
- Spitting Up - Most babies spit up, sometimes with each feeding. It is usually only a problem if your baby isn't gaining weight, is fussy most of the time, or is coughing and choking a lot. If your baby is a 'happy spitter', then just get a lot of burp rags to protect your clothes, etc.
- Hiccups - Although there are many tricks to try to get adults and older children to stop hiccups, you can usually just leave your baby alone until they stop on their own. If they aren't going away after 5-10 minutes, the AAP advises that 'a few sucks of some water should stop them'. You can also make sure that your baby isn't eating too quickly or swallowing too much air to try and prevent hiccups, especially if they mostly occur after feedings.
- Gas - Most babies have gas and you don't usually have to give your baby gas drops. Is the gas bothering your baby? Is it most of the day or night? If so, especially if he is also spitting up a lot and having diarrhea, then it could be a sign of a formula intolerance or if the baby is breastfed, an intolerance with something in mom's diet.
- Weight Loss - This is probably the only time that it is okay for children to lose weight, and it is normal for babies to lose 5-7% of their birth weight in their first week of life. It shouldn't usually be much more than that though, and they should have gained all or most of it back by the time they are two weeks old.
- Sneezing and Stuffy Noses - Both are usually normal and can be caused by irritation, like from second hand smoke (don't smoke, or at least don't smoke in your house), dust mites (avoid ceiling fans around your baby), or dry air (especially during the winter when the heat is on). Avoiding common irritants (pet dander, smoke, dust mites), using a humidifier (especially in the winter), and perhaps placing saline nasal drops in your baby's nostrils and suctioning them out.
- Crying - Babies cry. If you weren't aware of that fact, then prepare for a rude awakening. Literally. Most babies cry for at least 1-4 hours a day. Sometimes it is just when they are hungry or need a diaper change, or during a certain time of day (like with colic), or when they are bored or overstimulated. Learn to recognize your babies cries and how to console your crying baby. You won't spoil a baby if you pick them up when they cry.
Crying might be a sign of a problem if your baby is crying and spitting up a lot, crying after feedings, not gaining weight, having foul smelling stools, or not gaining weight well.
If you have any question about whether your babies crying is normal or not, see your Pediatrician for a check up.
- Crying/Straining with Bowel Movements - If your baby's bowel movements are soft or watery, crying, grunting or straining is usually normal and not a sign of constipation. If your baby is constipated, is bowel movements will be hard, pellet like, or thicker than peanut butter.
- Rashes - Most babies don't have very clear skin. Instead, it might appear dry or blotchy. See your Pediatrician if your baby's skin appears infected, irritated or itchy.
- Blood in stools - Okay, this one isn't 'normal', but it also isn't usually as serious as most parents think. Having some blood in their stools, in a baby that is otherwise well, is usually a sign of a milk protein allergy. Eliminating milk and dairy products from a breastfeeding mother's diet, or if formula feeding, changing to a soy (Prosobee, Isomil, Alsoy) or elemental (Nutramigen, Alimentum, Pregestamil) formula should help stop this. Be sure to call your Pediatrician though.
- Bleeding in Eye - No, your baby's eye shouldn't bleed, but after he is born, you might notice a red streak on the white part of his eye. This is a subconjunctival hemorrhage and will disappear without treatment after several weeks or months.
- Breast Lumps - Many babies, because of maternal estrogen, get small lumps under their nipples (neonatal breast hypertrophy), and they go away on their own. Estrogen might also cause hymenal skin tags to form, which will also go away after a few months.
- Vaginal Discharge - Because of maternal hormones (estrogen withdrawal), baby girls can have a few days of vaginal discharge in the first 3-10 days of life. This discharge may be clear or bloody.
- Nail Problems - Babies have soft nails and swollen, fat skin around their toe nails which make them appear to have ingrown nails. This is usually normal though and doesn't require treatment.
- Wandering Eyes - Unlike older children, it is usually normal if both of your infant's eyes don't focus together on things at times. Talk to your Pediatrician if this seems to happen all or most of the time or if it isn't getting better by 2-3 months.
This is not to say that everything your baby does is normal. Babies can get sick and have serious medical problems. Among the symptoms to look for include:
- Fever - a rectal temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is usually considered a medical emergency in a baby under 2-3 months old. Call your Pediatrician or seek medical attention right away.
- Poor Appetite - Call your Pediatrician if your baby isn't feeding well, especially if he isn't gaining weight or having regular wet diapers.
- Projectile vomiting - This can be a sign of pyloric stenosis, and often begins after your baby is about 3 weeks old. This is not simple spitting up, but instead vomiting that 'goes across the room' and should occur with all or most feedings
- Crying - While some crying is usually normal, if your baby is crying and is inconsolable for long periods of time, call your Pediatrician.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If your baby is doing something that makes your feel uncomfortable, call your Pediatrician to see if it is normal or not.