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The Big Questions about Your Little One

Category: Patient Stories
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Dr. Megan Hoel, family physician at St. Luke's Mariner Medical ClinicPublished in Positively Superior magazine, October/November 2016

The Big Questions about Your Little One

When parents take their new babies home is when the fun really starts. And so do the questions. Newborn care can be confusing and with all the information that’s out there, finding one trusted source can be a challenge.

As a family medicine physician, part of my job is reassuring parents that they’re doing okay. I always encourage my patients to pick up the phone or make an appointment if they have concerns, but most importantly, to follow their intuition. Chances are, if you’re doing everything you can for your little one (as new parents tend to do), you’re on the right path.

But when something seems unusual, you might not know whether to bring your baby to the doctor or wait it out. To help ease some of your worries, I’ve compiled the most common new baby concerns for you to look out for, so you can feel more confident in your decisions.

1. Fever. For a baby three months or younger, a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) warrants a trip to the emergency room. A fever can have many causes, so it’s important for your doctor to get to the source right away.

It’s also important to note that babies under three months should not be given Tylenol, and babies under six months should not be given Ibuprofen. After these ages, if you’re unsure of the right dosage, ask your doctor for a dosing chart based on baby’s weight.

2. Colic. Colic follows the rule of three, meaning it happens when an otherwise healthy baby cries for more than:

  • three hours per day
  • three days out of the week
  • three weeks

Often, colic starts at two weeks of age and resolves at around four months. It happens as often with breastfed babies as it does with babies who receive formula. Typically, feeding changes are not advised, however, moms who breastfeed can try removing dairy, eggs or nuts from their diet. Some people have found a positive change when they give their babies probiotics or gripe water, which I also recommend as long as they don’t have any sugar or alcohol.

3. Constipation. As a general guide, babies usually have four soft bowel movements per day for the first week, and then about three per day after that. Some babies will have them after every feeding but as long as they’re soft, they’re okay.

If a baby under four months is having hard bowel movements or is crying or straining, they may need a glycerin suppository. They should be seen by their doctor prior to starting suppositories. Parents of babies older than four months can try giving them apple and pear juices or fibrous foods such as peas or prunes. Some parents find benefits with infant drop probiotics. Talking with your doctor can help determine if there is a larger issue, but most new parents find these options helpful.

4. Sniffles. Now that we’re into fall, babies tend to get congested. Over-the-counter saline nasal drops can help soften hard mucus. You can use the bulb suction, either from the pharmacy or the hospital, or a nasal aspirator to make breathing easier. A humidifier in baby’s room can be a big help, too.

If a baby has congestion for 10 days or more, it’s time to make a visit. For severe congestion or high fevers, only wait for three days of symptoms.

5. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It’s important to go to the doctor if the above symptoms persist because it might be from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Preterm babies especially don’t have the immune system to fight illness yet, so to keep RSV away, it’s important for everyone to:

  • Wash hands frequently
  • Refrain from getting close to baby’s face
  • Avoid sharing utensils and cups
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean surfaces such as tables and door knobs
  • Ask people with colds to postpone visits

6. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The first thing I tell parents to prevent SIDS is to not share beds with babies, but instead, have a co-sleeper bassinet attached to the bed or next to the bed. The ideal safe sleeping habits for babies include:

  • Sleeping on their backs
  • No bumper pads or loose blankets
  • A firm mattress
  • No toys in crib or nearby

As I first mentioned, listen to your intuition. I’d also recommend to sleep when baby sleeps and don’t worry so much about getting on a schedule. Enjoy those first few months as much as you can.

Dr. Megan Hoel is currently accepting new patients, including obstetrics patients. She is a board-certified family physician at St. Luke’s Mariner Medical Clinic in Superior, WI. To make an appointment or learn more, call 715.395.3900.