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10 Things You Should Know about a Newborn Baby

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Parenting

It's exciting to bring a newborn home. However, that excitement might turn to worry when you start to notice and experience the common unpleasant things about newborns. If you are a first time mother, here are 10 things you should know about a newborn.

1. Sticky Poo
Don't be shocked when you see your baby's first few bowel movements. It is a greenish black, sticky and tarry substance called meconium. Eventually baby's stools will become mustard yellow and runny. This is normal. The number of times baby has a bowel movement can very between 1-2 times to after every feed.

2. First Feedings
You've heard that breast milk is the best source of nutrition and so you've decided to breastfeed your baby. But you try to squeeze some milk out that first day (just to see if you have any) and nothing much comes out. You wonder how can my baby survive on this? Well, baby can. Your milk will only come in about day three. Before that, what you produce is colustrum. Colustrum has antibodies needed to boost your baby's immune system. It also has a laxative effect to help baby get rid of meconium. Although is doesn't seem like much, it is sufficient for your newborn. Encourage baby to suckle often as this will build your milk supply for the following days.

3. Milia
Baby's face may be filled with tiny white pimples, especially around the cheeks, nose and chin. These are called milia and the clogging of babys immature oil glands causes them. Do not attempt to scrub or squeeze them. No treatment is necessary so don't rush out to buy any acne cream or ointment. They will go away within a few weeks. Just keep washing with water and be patient.

4. Gooey Eyes
Baby may find it difficult to open the eyes due to some sticky discharge. Wet some cotton wool with cool, boiled water to clean the eyes. Best to wipe from the inner to the outer corner of the eyes and fresh cotton for each side.

5. Cradle Cap
Even if you wash your baby's head everyday, you may find a yellowish layer of flaky scales and crust developing. Cradle cap is seborrhiec dermatitis of the scalp. How to get rid of it? In mild cases, you could briskly massage some baby oil or olive oil to loosen the scales. Then thoroughly shampoo the head and gently scrub out the scales with a soft brush or terry towel.

6. How To Hold Baby
Your small little bundle of joy seems so fragile but babies are in fact, quite sturdy. The only thing you need to know about holding newborns is to always support their head and neck. If you have not had much experience carrying babies before, don't worry. Just follow this one rule and you will be okay.

7. Umbilical Cord
Don't be afraid to touch the umbilical cord. It needs to be cleaned. Gently wipe off any sticky substance and dried blood with a cotton bud wet with water or rubbing alcohol. The umbilical cord will shrivel and turn black before it drops off. This usually happens after a week or so. Pay attention to any signs of infection such as smelly discharge, redness or swelling around the navel. To avoid infection, keep the area dry and aired. It helps to fold the diaper down so it doesn't cover the cord.

8. Jaundice
Baby may look a little yellow in the skin and eyes due to jaundice. This yellow tinge is due to the excess of bilirubin in the blood. There are two kinds of jaundice: physiological and pathological. Physiological jaundice is not harmful and will disappear after 7-10 days when baby's liver matures. It is the liver that breaks down the bilirubin. Pathological jaundice is when the level of bilirubin in the blood reaches a dangerous level. This kind of jaundice can lead to mental retardation, cerebral palsy and deafness. To reduce the level of bilirubin, phototherapy is needed. You are also advised to breastfeed often.

9. Skin Condition
Don't expect smooth baby skin the first few days after birth. What you will find is skin that looks dry and peels off. You may put baby oil or baby lotion if you wish.

10. Moro Reflex
Sometimes your peacefully sleeping baby suddenly throws out his arms and legs, like being startled. This is called the Moro Reflex. Loud noise, sudden touch or movement may trigger it. This natural reflex is baby's way of reacting to his inborn fear of falling. If it bothers you to see baby suddenly flail arms and legs, then swaddle him for a sense of comfort and security.

These 10 things are just the tip of the iceberg. Obviously there is much more to learn about caring for a newborn. If you are a first time parent, don't feel overwhelmed. You will soon be the expert on your baby. Experience is a wonderful teacher. So don't just fret and worry, remember to also enjoy the miracle of life before you.