Babies : Health & Daily Care
Updated: Feb 5
General health checks
By the time your baby is 3 months old, you have probably had many visits with healthcare professionals. Your general health checks become a little bit more staggered from the 3 month mark, with a scheduled visit with your doctor going from around once a month (if not more) to just under once every 3 months.
At 4 months, your doctor will monitor your baby’s growth, physical and emotional development, feeding, sleeping and physical awareness; as well as perform tests to determine their eyesight, hearing, heart, and lungs are all within healthy ranges.
At 6 months, the doctor will again monitor your baby’s physical, emotional, and intellectual development. He or she will also talk to you about nutrition, dental care, crawling and mobility.
At 9 months, the monitoring will continue. It will also include a screening test that can help with the identification of developmental delays in speech and language. Healthcare professionals also usually do a blood test around this time too. They will talk to you about the emotional milestones that your baby might be passing, and ways to deal with the separation anxiety that is common around this age.
At 12 months, your doctor will monitor your baby’s growth, physical and emotional development, feeding, sleeping and physical awareness; as well as perform tests to determine their eyesight, hearing, heart and lungs are all within healthy ranges for his or her age. They will discuss with you nutrition, dental care, crawling, walking and mobility; as well as emotional and intellectual development.
Immunisation and vaccinations
Once you have made a decision about your child’s immunisation, your doctor will advise you on what you need to do to ensure your child is up to date with their immunisation as outlined in the national immunisation program (NIP).
Now that you have been a parent for a couple of months you are probably feeling a lot more confident when it comes to the everyday healthcare of your little one. You are probably also a lot more trusting in your own instincts and knowing how to handle the more common of health problems, such as coughs, fevers, colds, and vomiting; and know the warning signs for more serious issues are to look for. You should still not hesitate to contact your health professional if you aren’t sure and are worried.
Signs of serious illness and conditions
Sometimes it is hard to know when your baby’s illness is a serious issue, or if it is a common and minor condition. You should call your doctor, or healthcare professional straight away if your baby exhibits any of the following:
Your baby has a high temperature or fever of over 38°C.
Your baby has a fit, or convulsion.
Your baby vomits green fluid.
Your baby has a lump in the groin area, or hernia.
Your baby has an apneic episode (stops breathing for more than 15 seconds)
There are also other signs that can indicate serious illness, if your baby’s behaviour indicates more than one of the following you should seek medical advice immediately:
Excessive drowsiness (Less alert than usual, less aware of surroundings than usual).
Decreased activity (considerably less active, less interested in activities).
Breathing difficulty (coughing, short shallow breath, labored breathing).
Poor circulation (baby is pale, hands and feet might be cold to touch).
Feeding less (around half their normal intake).
Less wet nappies (less than 4 in 24-hour period).
When to see your doctor
You should see your doctor if you are worried about your baby. Your doctor is there to diagnose and treat any illnesses you and your baby might have, but they are also there to answer your questions and reassure you. Most healthcare professionals understand the anxiousness that comes with being unsure as a new parent, and will be happy to see you to ease your concern.
Daily Care : Nappies
By the time your baby is 3 months old, you will have changed on average 1500 nappies! Wow. The good news is that you are most likely now a pro at it. The bad news is that you are going to get a lot more practice in the months to come. It is estimated that the amount of nappy changes from months 3 -12 comes in at a whopping 2100 nappies, or on average 8-10 a day! Whether you use disposable or reusable nappies, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
Disposable nappies come in a variety of sizes and styles, and by now you have probably worked out which are the best ones for you. You can continue to use whichever brand you find the best, and upgrade your sizes as your baby grows.
Reusable, or cloth, nappies come in many different styles, types, colours and can be made from a variety of materials. If you have chosen to use reusable nappies, the best part about them is that you can continue to use the ones you have! You might find that you need to buy different sized liners and outer wraps for them as baby grows, but most cloth, or reusable, nappies are one size suits all.
Remember there is no ‘wrong’ answer to which type of nappy you should use. Whichever style you find is best for you and your family is fine and you are not locked in to not ever try a different product. You might use cloth nappies at home but take disposables out with you, or use disposable nappies when baby is first born but try out reusable when he or she is a little older and you feel more confident.
Nappy rash is a common skin irritation in babies. It is caused by the skin being in prolonged contact with the moisture from a soiled nappy, rubbing or chafing from the nappy itself, or (rarely) could be a result of allergic dermatitis.
Nappy rash is easily treatable by changing baby’s nappy frequently and when required. Make sure that when you change your baby’s nappy you are also cleaning their genital area thoroughly. Let your baby spend time with no nappy on, as fresh air and a controlled amount of sunlight is very beneficial to clearing up skin irritations. Nappy rash ointment and creams are also very readily available from stores and are very effective.
The best thing to do as a rule is to continue dressing babies in layers, the same amount as you would wear to keep warm/cool in weather plus one layer for warmth. Dressing in layers also makes it easy to both add and remove layers as the temperature rises or lowers unexpectedly.
The best kinds of clothing for babies are made from mostly natural fibres, with minimal strings, buttons and other adornments, especially as baby starts to want to hold and pull on things, and put things in his or her mouth. All in one suits that snap up the front are still going to be the most convenient, and make adding layers over the top easy.
As your baby gets to be bigger and more agile, you will want to dress them in more ‘grown up’ clothes. While this opens up a whole world of ‘cuteness’ you should remember that baby will still grow very quickly and remember that while building that gorgeous wardrobe.
Babies should wear socks and booties and can start wearing shoes when they start to want to stand and walk as they mature.
Dressing for bed
When it comes to dressing your baby for bed, you should use much the same rule of thumb as you would for dressing during the day; dress them in the same amount of clothes you would wear, plus one layer for warmth. Make sure they will be warm enough throughout the night if they roll out of the blankets, because now that they are on the move, they surely will.
Avoid dressing baby in a hat or bonnet while he or she sleeps as they will be unable to cool themselves down if they overheat. Headwear may also become loose in the night and be a chocking hazard in bed.
Dressing baby in an ‘infant sleeping bag’ is a great way to keep baby warm in bed. Infant sleeping bags that have fitted necks and armholes help keep your baby’s head and face uncovered while allowing him or her some room to move their legs. They also stop baby’s legs and feet from getting caught in the cot railings.
It is not recommended to continue wrapping baby in a muslin or cotton wrap once they are able to roll over on their own. An infant sleeping bag is a good alternative if you find that baby has trouble adjusting to no longer being swaddled (wrapped).
Tips for dressing baby
Now that baby is moving around more freely, they can help (or greatly hinder) the dressing process. Once your baby is able to sit up, you can dress them in a seated position, which will make it easier to pull things over their head. A handy hint for restless babies; give them a toy or book to look at while you are dressing them.
Cleaning baby’s face and head
It remains important to keep baby’s face and head clean throughout the day, especially as we branch out into the world of solid food. You will find that baby isn’t always as intent on getting the food in the mouth as he or she is playing with it.
You can clean baby’s face with clean washers and water, or use convenient ‘wet wipes’ throughout the day, and clean more thoroughly when you bath baby.
Take care when cleaning baby’s ears and nostrils so that you do not damage the sensitive skin there.
Caring for baby’s genitals
Keeping your baby’s genitals clean and fresh is very important to your baby’s general hygiene. Not properly cleaning your baby when changing nappies and bathing can lead to illness and serious skin irritations.
If your baby is a girl, make sure you clean her vagina from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from her bottom to her genitals. Always use a fresh wipe for each part of her genitals you clean. In the bath you can use a washcloth and clean her genitals as part of your routine, still taking care to wipe from front to back. If you are worried or concerned about your baby, you should call your doctor.
Boys genitals also require thorough cleaning. Use baby wipes, or cotton wool if you prefer, to clean around his penis and scrotum, taking care to not spread bacteria from his bottom to his genitals. You can clean his penis as part of his regular bath. If uncircumcised, his foreskin will remain attached to the head of his penis, and will separate itself by around age 2. If your son has been circumcised, you can also continue to clean his penis as part of his regular bath. If you are worried or concerned about your baby, you should call your doctor.
Bath time : Preparing the bath
You can bath your baby in a specialty bath, a small tub, or even in the kitchen sink until they outgrow it. Once your baby can sit up by on their own you can start bathing them in the ‘big bath’. A bigger bath means more room for toys and games, and bath time can quickly become playtime. Encouraging baby to play and be comfortable in the water helps to make bath time seem fun and less of a chore as baby grows. You might even like to get in the bath with your baby.
Make sure before you start to bath baby that you have everything you need within arm’s reach, including towels, nappies, and clothing for after you are finished in the bath. Fill up your tub with approximately 8cm warm (but not hot) water. Make sure that if you use a bath wash, it is one specifically designed for babies, as their skin is more sensitive than adults.
Giving the bath
When it comes to giving your baby a bath, remember that you need to start at the top and work your way down your baby’s body. After you have undressed your baby, lower them gently into the water by their feet first. Take a clean washer and wipe baby’s eyes, ears and face. You can wet baby’s hair, but he or she will only need it ‘shampooed’ once or twice a week. Make sure you use a specialty children’s shampoo. Move down the body to clean baby’s arms, hands, legs and feet. You should always clean your child’s genitals last, so as not to spread any bacteria to other parts of the body.
Some babies will really enjoy the bath and will want to stay and play in it after you are finished washing, but it is important to remember that babies get cold very quickly and not to stay in the water too long. Don’t ever leave your baby along in the bath. Children can drown in very shallow water and in only a few seconds.
When to bath
You can bathe your baby up to once a day, but while baby is still little it is not considered necessary to do so, as long as you are keeping him or her clean. Some parents who have babies that really enjoy baths might be tempted to bathe more often, but this can lead to baby having dry skin. You can bathe your baby at any time during the day, whether you prefer to do so in the morning, throughout the day or as part of a calming night routine is entirely up to you.
What if my baby doesn’t like baths?
If your baby really doesn’t like baths, you can try using a few different techniques to work up baby’s tolerance to bath time. Try making it an interactive experience. Singing, playing and splashing in the bath can help baby to feel more relaxed and enjoy it more.
Lots of parents make it a group activity, by taking baby in the shower with themselves or hopping in the bath too. The earlier that baby comes to like bath time the easier it will make your life once they start to get a little older.
You might find that as baby gets a little older, he or she becomes less co-operative with your attempts to trim their little fingernails. It is best to get someone to help you by holding your baby and calming or distracting them while you use specialty baby nail clippers, or use nail scissors to trim them down. Another technique is to cut baby’s nails while they sleep, eat, or are in some other way distracted.
Trimming your baby’s nails regularly will help stop him or her from scratching both themselves, and you with these tiny weapons, especially as he or her starts reaching out to the world more.
Teeth and gums : Tooth development
At birth, babies have a full set of primary, or ‘baby’ teeth in their gums, which will grow upwards and ‘erupt’ through the gums. This usually occurs slowly over several weeks or months, generally starting at around 6 – 10 months; although some children wont start to erupt until 12 months of age. Most babies will have a full set of primary teeth by age 3.
Some children start to experience teething from as young as 3 months, but there is no right or wrong time for baby to have their first ‘eruption’.
While not all babies have bad teething experiences, it is generally considered a normal for babies to struggle with it and feel some discomfort. Drooling, swelling of the gums, becoming more irritable or fussy, refusing food, having difficulty sleeping and being more prone to biting are all common behavioural traits for teething babies.
Tooth and Gum care
Caring for your child’s dental wellbeing starts as soon as you come home with baby. Encouraging healthy habits from a very young age will help when your child is old enough to brush their teeth themselves. You can get your baby used to having a foreign item in their mouth by wetting a clean washer and running it gently over their gums, tongue and roof of mouth.
When your baby’s teeth start to erupt, you can continue to use a clean washer, or start using a soft infant toothbrush with water only to clean their teeth twice a day. Most dentist’s do not recommend using toothpaste as it contains fluoride which can be harmful to babies and small children. If you do use a toothpaste, make sure it is a specialised children’s toothpaste (these do not contain fluoride).
Singing a special ‘teeth-brushing’ song or having a special routine with dental care can help to make the experience fun for baby. Setting your child up with good oral hygiene from a young age will benefit them greatly in the future.
Early tooth decay prevention
Now that your baby is starting to develop teeth, and starting to eat solid food, it is important to remember that diet can immensely influence tooth decay. To avoid any early tooth decay, avoid giving your child anything sweet, including juice in a bottle, or covering a dummy in honey, as the sugar is bad for tooth and gum development.
Do not fill a baby’s bottle with sugary drinks, like juice or soft drink. Do not give your child a bottle as a pacifier, or let them keep a bottle in bed with them. Be careful when sharing food with baby, and try not to share eating utensils. Your own mouth is full of bacteria that can be spread to your baby.
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