The moment a baby arrives into the world, dependence on the mother’s system ends, physical changes begin to occur, including the movement of air, blood supply, and nutrition. This disconnection from the mother’s system requires a careful transition that is vital for the baby’s survival.
Newborn baby care after birth begins in the hospital and extends to the home, mostly overseen by the mother.
How To Take Care Of Your Newborn Baby After Birth
Doctors do the following immediately your baby is born:
- Help your baby breathe
Your doctor clears mucus from your baby’s nose and mouth to help him take his first breath. Then he rubs his back in order for his breath to be deeper. Don’t be concerned if the baby cries out because that helps clear any remaining fluid in your baby’s lungs, nose and mouth. However, some babies just take breaths without crying out, and that’s okay too. Then for babies born prematurely or by C-section, breathing may be hard at first, so they’ll need extra help from the doctor.
- Clamp and cut the umbilical cord
The baby has been surviving in your womb with the help of the umbilical cord, being the medium through which he receives oxygen and food. However, when he arrives in the world, he stops needing the umbilical cord to survive. Your doctor will have to clamp and cut it. He may allow 30 to 60 seconds to let the blood from your placenta flow into your baby before clamping.
- Keep the baby warm
Your baby arrives wet with amniotic fluid, which can cause him to become cold, so the doctor will have to dry the baby. Also, the baby sometimes arrives covered in vernix, a white waterproof substance that’s been protecting the baby’s skin in your womb. This vernix is allowed to stay on because it helps protect the baby from cold and other issues such as jaundice and weight loss. This is why your baby may not receive a bath until after a few hours.
- Take your baby’s Apgar score
This is the score your doctor takes to check and see how well your baby is adjusting to life outside the womb. Each letter in Apgar stands for a category the doctor has to check in the baby, done at one minute and five minutes after birth. The doctor grades 0, 1 or 2, and then adds them up for the final score. Babies who perform poorly in the Apgar score will need extra attention in the newborn intensive care unit of the hospital.
What can the mother do at this point?
Afterwards, when the doctors are sure the baby is absolutely fine, they pass the child to his mother. Now the mother will hold the baby skin-to-skin in a pose that’s known as the kangaroo care. This way she is bonding with the baby and also preparing him for breastfeeding, which is encouraged in the first hour of birth. However, some babies may have to spend time in the incubator, so the mother can’t hold them right away. For women who were awake during their C-section, they can hold the baby right away as long as the baby is fine. And women who have vaginal birth will be covered with a blanket as they hold their baby skin-to-skin.
As they’re cuddling the baby, the doctor still has the following things to do:
- Check the baby’s weight, length and the size of his head to be sure he’s healthy for his age.
- Give the baby a Vitamin K shot because for the next few days the baby won’t be able to generate his own vitamin K. This shot protects the baby from disease.
- Eye drops to protect the baby from an eye infection that’s possible during a vaginal birth.
Caring for the baby after leaving the hospital
After the doctor discharges you and the baby from the hospital, the primary care is mostly your responsibility as the mum. The following tips may guide you:
Your baby carries vernix after birth, which disappears on its own after a few days, so you don’t need to bathe the baby routinely. Also, bathing the baby too soon after delivery exposes him to cold. The only time it can be considered is if the baby stool is staining or contaminated with maternal stool. Don’t bath a baby having health issues after delivery.
However, if the baby has to be bathed, it should be done when the newborn is a few hours old. Use a mild soap and make sure the room is warm.
- Infant stool
After delivery, for the first few days, the newborn will pass meconium, a sticky and dark green stool. This should have a mild smell, which would change colour in a few days. Your child may not pass stool for a few days, or he may pass stool each time you feed him. Frequency doesn’t really matter here, as long as the stool isn’t hard.
Six nappies should be enough for a normal infant for a day. If he is using less than six a day, check his milk intake whether he’s taking enough.
- Cord care
Cleaning the cord stump with surgical spirit should be routine. Put it around the cord so that it runs into every fold around the top of the stump. This is a place bacteria could easily grow in, so take the cleaning very seriously. Clean the cord every three hours if you notice that it’ s smelling or still soft after 24 hours. The cord will come off between 1 and 2 weeks of delivery. Please keep in mind that you should never cover the stump with a bandage.
A newborn should receive B.C.G and Polio drops within five days of birth. Check out the immunisation schedule for Nigeria and Kenya’s immunisation schedule. For other countries, please talk to your doctor about the immunisation schedule.
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com
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