Q&A with Midwife Cath: 5 most common questions about newborns
As a midwife, maternal nurse and child health expert, I’ve fielded many questions from parents over the past 43 years. These range from concerns about conceiving, pregnancy and labour to parenting.
These are some of the most common questions I get asked.
Why doesn’t my baby sleep all the time?
Parents often think their babies will continue to feed and sleep all the time like they did in hospital. Most adults want the baby to fit into their hours but babies have their own internal clock and need to go to bed later at night rather than earlier.
Hunger can be the major reason that a healthy, full term baby won’t settle into sleep until about 6-8 weeks of age, so it takes a lot of feeding and patience to get a baby into a “routine”. Whilst you can’t overfeed a baby but you underfeed them.
To eliminate this as a key contributor to sleep problems, I encourage parents to check their baby is getting sufficient food, by noticing these two things:
- Are they gaining weight?
- Do they have a very wet nappy when you change them?
You don’t need to feed by the clock – it is better to feed when your baby needs it.
What causes ‘wind’?
A lot of parents ask me about ‘wind’ and how to manage it.
It is normal for babies to be noisy, and squirm around – especially at night time. Burping, wind (both ends), hiccups, and squirming are all a natural function.
Whilst they can burp themselves, you can help them by gently rubbing their back while they are upright over your shoulder. You can also place your baby on their tummy and massage their back lightly to help them release wind. Babies also get the hiccups which is a sign that they have brought up their wind.
How often should I change the nappy?
Frequently is my answer! Especially in the newborn phase as they have more frequent bowel actions. When a baby is drinking a lot of milk, they can have a bowel action before, after and during their feed.
My tips are:
- The nappy should fit firmly – choose a nappy that is right for your baby’s weight and fit it securely to avoid baby’s (especially boys!) weeing out the side of the nappy
- Change nappy’s between breastfeeds
- Use gentle baby wipes between nappy changes.
Why is my baby crying?
New parents are especially distressed when they see their baby cry, because they fear something is wrong.
But all babies cry, and these can be some of the reasons:
- When their clothes are off
- When they are having a nappy change
- Hunger – even if they’ve just been fed!
- Discomfort – like reflux which can start from 3 weeks of age
Remember, a newborn has spent their life in a warm safe environment in-utero, and so when they are undressed, unwrapped or experiencing a nappy change they will cry. Comfort them by feeding and cuddling them.
A baby’s facial expression will tell you what they are feeling, and parent’s will instinctively know when something is up.
A newborn will cry with gastric reflux which is basically heartburn. They cry because they have acid regurgitating up after a feed or when vomiting after feeds. The reflux needs to be diagnosed by a GP or paediatrician and the baby shouldn’t be given any over the counter medications unless ordered by a doctor.
If a baby has a high pitched cry, and does not settle with comfort or food you should have the baby checked by a medical professional. If a baby has a high temperature and is floppy and crying – again you must seek medical advice.
I just fed him, he can’t possibly be hungry?
It’s important to remember you can’t overfeed a baby. New mothers usually don’t want to feed their baby if they have recently been fed. However, a new baby needs to put on weight every day, every week, every month and every year for healthy growth and development.
My tips for feeding are:
- Respond to your baby regarding feeding. Remember you can’t overfeed them
- Feeding should be a quiet and relaxing time for you both. Talk quietly to your baby when feeding
- When going out – always take a full change of clothes, nappies, wipes etc plus bottles, cooled boiled water and formula
- Breast care is important when feeding. Don’t massage your breasts, feed regularly and pump only if you have a sick or premature baby. Check your breasts daily for any red spots which might indicate early mastitis.
If you don’t have enough breast milk, top the baby up with formula to add calories. They need to put on weight to grow, gain weight and this gives them the capacity to sleep better!