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Common problems faced by newborn babies
Kanchan Maslekar
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December 14, 2006

Part I: Just had a baby?
Part II: Why does a newborn baby cry?

In our series on what parents need to know about their newborn babies, we talked about why babies cry, their sleeping habits, immunisation, clothing, etc.

In the last part of this series, we explore, among other things, some common problems faced by newborns.

Umbilical cord

The umbilical cord was your baby's lifeline when he was in your womb. It is through the umbilical cord that a baby receives nourishment and oxygen.

However, after birth, the baby no longer needs it.

After your baby is born, the cord is cut as closely as possible, leaving a little stump that is clamped off by your doctor. Once you take the baby home, remember to keep this area as clean and dry as possible. Do not cover it with the daiper when you dress or change your child.

In less than a month, the umbilical stump will shrivel and dry and fall off. You will need to keep the navel area as dry as possible for a few more days.

Burping the child

After feeding your baby, it is important to burp him. Burping involves handling the baby in a way that the excess air swallowed by him during his feed, especially while drinking breast milk, is released.

Dr Jyotsna Padalkar, a practising paediatrician who has written books on newborns, explains that in addition to sucking milk, a baby also tends to swallow air. This can get trapped in his system and cause him discomfort. 

"To burp your baby, lay him across your lap with his tummy down (keep the upper body elevated, else the baby will vomit) for some time. You can also lay him upright against your shoulder (tummy against your chest), while gently patting him or rubbing his back," she says.

"You can hold the baby against your shoulder if you think he needs a break from his feed. You can continue feeding him after some time," she adds.

The soft spot

All babies have a soft spot on the top of their heads. This is because the bones of the skull have not joined completely.

This soft spot, also called fontanelle, will unite gradually. As the size of the fontanelle differs from one baby to another, the duration of the closing of the fontanelle will be different too. But, by the time your baby is 12 to 18 months old, the soft spot should have disappeared.

"It's a myth that the fontanelle can be joined by massaging this area with oil. Oil has nothing do with it. It is only the intake of calcium and other nutrients by the baby that ensures that the fontanelle is joined," says Dr Padalkar.

"There is no need to worry about touching the soft spot. It is covered by a membrane and is quite strong. There is no risk of hurting the baby when you handle him in the ordinary manner," she says. 

Common problems

Many young parents tend to panic at the slightest 'change' in their bundle of joy. But there is seldom any need to worry.

Here are some common problems babies may face in the first three months.


Some babies cry incessantly for hours, especially in the evenings. They may be suffering from colic. In simple language, this means the baby has swallowed some air during his feed and has not been burped adequately. The air passes from the stomach into the intestine, giving rise to pain and discomfort. This results in colic.

For relief, hold the baby in the 'burping' position. Do not give any kind of medication (including gripe water) until you consult your doctor.

Cradle cap

Babies often have white or yellowish crusts on their scalp that cannot be removed easily. These are harmless. Washing your baby's head regularly, and limiting the use of oil, will cure him of this condition within some time.

Sucking blisters

As a result of your baby's sucking efforts, he may develop firm, whitish blisters at the centre of his upper lip. These gradually subside on their own.

Wet eye

The eyes of babies who are a few days old may look constantly wet or full of tears. In some babies, there may be a persistent clear or thick yellowish, thick discharge.

"Gently massage over the inner angle of the eye near its junction with the nose two to three times a day. This will clear the blocked passages of the eyes," says Dr Padalkar.


A slight trickle of milk from the side of the mouth after a feed is quite common among well-fed babies. Do not worry about it.


On the third day of birth, a number of babies develop a yellow skin colour and yellowishness in eyes due to jaundice.

Babies get jaundice when they have too much bilirubin in their blood. Bilirubin forms when our red blood cells break down; this is part of the body's normal wear and tear process and is nothing to worry about.

In most cases, a baby's liver is not mature enough to process the bilirubin and ensure it gets excreted from the blood. This is how a baby develops jaundice.

It may increase over the following two to three days and subsides by the seventh or 10th day. This kind of infant jaundice is nothing to worry about. All you need to do is expose your baby to the rays of the early morning sun.

And for mothers...

"Looking after a newborn baby is demanding. Your body is also recovering from the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth. Get as much rest as you can," says Dr Shilpa Joshi, a practising gynaecologist from Pune.

A new mother is both exhausted and emotional while taking care of her newborn. In most cases, she does not have the energy to look after herself. However, it is essential you take care of your health so that you can look after and enjoy your new baby.

Maintain a healthy diet, with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Divide your meals into small portions. Avoid junk food or food stored under extreme temperatures.

"Remember," says Dr Joshi, "whatever you eat and drink will pass into your breast milk."

She adds that, post delivery, women in India tend to be pampered with a lot of desi ghee, dry fruit and high-fat, high-calorie food. Don't overdo the nutrition because then you are most likely to put on excess weight. Instead, it is better if you eat healthy and exercise regularly.

"You are likely to feel very thirsty while you breastfeed, particularly during the feed itself. Drink a glass of water before you start feeding or keep a bottle next to you, so you can sip water when you feel thirsty," advises Dr Joshi.

Start your post-natal exercises as soon as your doctor gives you the green signal. This will not only help you improve your fitness quotient and strengthen your muscles; it will also help you get into a better shape for motherhood.

Part I: Just had a baby?
Part II: Why does a newborn baby cry?


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Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: Child care

Dear Kanchan, The article was too good to express,thanks for your 4 lines education to busy parents. rgds, Vaibhav

Posted by Vaibhav

Sub: Excellent Article in 3 Parts

Dear Dr.Kanchan, Special Congrats n thanks for very informative and valued article for todays Young mothers!I am sure ,it will serve as 'Guideline'to them in ...

Posted by Vinayak Lawande

Sub: regarding food

hi, i'm regularly watching ur article really itis very intresting. i've some query that iwant to know how to give food to one year baby ...

Posted by sandhya


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