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Newborns : Health & Daily Care

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

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General health checks

There are a number of tests that are considered mainstream for newborns to be given in the days following birth. These are important for detecting disorders or illnesses that might not be obvious at birth. These tests will not diagnose particular illnesses but rather indicate whether a child needs more tests. These ‘newborn screening’ tests can identify signs of more than 30 congenital disorders.

The screening is voluntary, free, and not invasive. It involves taking blood from your newborns heel with a needle, which is then used to detect certain genetic and/or metabolic conditions that may develop before symptoms become obvious. You can opt out of newborn screening, but the advantages of having the tests done far outweigh the short discomfort your baby might feel. It is suggested that watching their baby have blood taken is more distressing for the new mum than it is for your baby!

The blood from the heel prick test is also sometimes used for a tandem mass spectrometry test. This test tests for more than 30 exceedingly rare disorders that relate to how your baby’s body will break down fat and protein.

Another common test is a hearing test, which may be administered at birth or at one of your follow up doctor’s visits.

Immunisation and vaccinations

In Australia, the government insists your child is up to date with their immunisation as outlined in the national immunisation program, unless they have an exemption. If you have any questions about the benefits of immunising, the best thing you can do is talk to your healthcare professional in detail. Your decisions about your baby’s immunisation will have lasting effects on them throughout their life and is not a decision to be taken lightly or influenced by inexpert advice.

Health concerns

As a new parent, you are likely to have many concerns regarding your baby’s health. Some of the most common health problems for young babies include coughs, fevers, colds, and vomiting. Newborns are also liable to suffer form nappy rash, skin irritations and cradle cap. Many of these problems are not serious, and it is important to know how to care for your sick baby, and know the warning signs for more serious issues. Don’t hesitate to contact your health professional if you aren’t sure and are worried – trust your instincts with your baby.

Common health problems for babies

  • Nappy rash

  • Skin irritations

  • Cradle cap

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