What Is a Newborn Baby’s Job? (Part 2)

Child Health

By Dr Shan Narayanan

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it so complicated.” – Confucius

Babies lead a simple life. They eat, sleep and fill the nappy. Their life is thus pretty straight forward. However, their parents get very worried over these matters. The worry is out of their love for their baby.

In the last article, we looked at feeding. The best feed for the baby is breast milk. Some mothers, for various reasons (health, work or out of own choice) are not able to breastfeed partly or completely. They opt for formula feeding. In such situations, mums need to learn how to prepare the milk and sterilize the bottles to ensure babies do not develop infections.

Working mothers, who are breastfeeding, can express their milk and store it. Breast milk must always be stored in a sterilized container. If you use a pump, always sterilize it before and after use. In general, the milk can be stored as follows:

  • in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower
  • for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
  • for up to six months in a freezer.

Most newborns sleep for 16 to 20 hours a day. The sleep is intermittent with the need to feed outweighing the need to sleep and hence they sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time. Breastfed babies get hungry more frequently than bottle-fed babies and may need to be nursed every 2 hours.

Their biological clock at this stage is not yet established. Many newborns tend to sleep all day and are awake at night. This is extremely tiring for the parents/caregivers. Thus it is not surprising if parents/caregivers lose their cool under these circumstances. Support and turns taken in caring for the newborn is important but not always available.

Every baby is different as to when he or she will sleep through the night. In general, by 2 months of age, most babies are sleeping 6 to 8 hours through the night.

It is recommended that babies are placed on their backs to sleep and not on their stomachs. Babies who sleep on their stomachs tend to have a greater tendency towards blocking their breathing. There is a chance they may suffocate on softer bedding, as well. Once the babies are fed, they sleep, then they poop and pee to complete their job!

The urine is usually pale yellow in colour.  In the first week, as the feeding is establishing, the baby passes urine only 3 to 4 times per day. After this, both breast and bottle fed babies should pass 6 to 8 times in a day.

The initial stool passed by a newborn is called meconium. It has a thick, black and sticky consistency. The colour changes as the baby is fed. Breastfed babies have yellowish watery stools with some “seeds”. Formula fed babies have firmer stools which may be yellow to green in colour.

Stooling patterns vary from baby to baby. It is normal for babies to grunt and grimace when they stool. Breastfed babies pass more frequent stools; it may be 6 to 8 times per day. They tend to stool as they feed. Formula fed babies may stool 1 to 3 times per day.

Traditionally, fathers like well-fed and clean babies leaving the hard work to mothers. This practice is changing with younger dads getting involved in the hands-on care of the newborn – a credit to gender equality!

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