It’s quite normal to worry about your baby’s development – is she eating enough, sleeping enough, or growing enough? These questions and more have kept many a new parent awake with anguish. However, by identifying these eight easy-to-spot problem areas you’ll be able to tell exactly how well your baby is doing and whether additional assistance is required.


1. BABY IS HUNGRY, HUNGRY, HUNGRY

Healthy babies feed when they’re hungry, and they inevitably fall back asleep soon enough when they’re satisfied. They wet eight to ten nappies a day and soil nappies less often as they grow older. Because healthy babies feed easily and their weight increases over time, so do their intake. Feeding time is also great bonding time and an opportunity to spend quality time with the baby. During the first year, your baby’s feeding routine will change as his stomach capacity increases and digestion slows down. Healthy babies are content, gain weight and quickly outgrow their baby clothes. Be sure to go for regular weigh-ins and checkups at your clinic to keep track of this.

2. YOU’RE LOSING SLEEP CONTENT

Babies sleep and wake often for feeds both day and night, and especially in those early days. Although they may have the occasional sleep-in, babies don’t need as much sleep as their tired parents. For a lucky few, babies sleep through the night from six weeks, while others may take longer, but once they’ve mastered sleeping for a ten to 12-hour stretch, they’re hooked!

Teething, vaccination jabs, and the occasional cold or sore throat may interrupt this routine for a while, but once the problem is resolved, most babies live up to their expectations and “sleep like a baby”. Ongoing, unresolved sleeping problems need to be investigated by your doctor.

healthy baby
healthy baby

3. CRYING OUT LOUD

Crying shows healthy communication between a baby and her parents, and you will learn to distinguish her different cries and discern which cry is urgent. Inconsolable high-pitched cries, moaning, grunting, or whimpering fall into the category of phoning a doctor for advice or going to the er. When it comes to loud, persistent, demanding, frustrated crying it’s up to you to work through all the things that may be bothering your baby: hunger, cold, loneliness, etc.

A strong relationship of trust builds between you and your baby when you learn to absorb her distress rather than adding to her anxiety through your emotional response to her cries – so don’t freak out. American pediatrician Dr. Berry Brazelton encourages parents to rock and talk their babies through bouts of crying. Fathers are notably good at this as their deeper voices have sleep-inducing monotones.

4. AN EVEN TEMPERATURE

Your little one should not feel hot or cold when you cuddle her, but remember that if the weather is hot your baby will undoubtedly feel warm. To check for a fever, kiss her neck – don’t feel her forehead as this isn’t a reliable enough indicator. If this is cool there is no fever, but if the neck feels hot your baby is probably unwell. Use a pediatric thermometer to confirm the baby’s temperature. A temperature between 36°C/96.8°F and 37°C/98.6°F is normal, anything below 35.5°C/95.5°F means that baby is too cold, and 38°C/100.4°F and above means that baby has a fever. Remember that babies with cold hands and feet are not necessarily cold, even though it comforts gran to put on that extra pair of socks!


5. LOOK AT THE BABY’S SKIN

Feverish babies often look flushed, while cold (and sometimes ill) babies look pale. Changes to the skin are not coincidental, and bath time is a good opportunity to look for any unusual blemishes – dryness, red patches (particularly in folds of skin), spots, pimples, or rashes all have a story to tell. Even subtle changes can signal a brewing infection, skin irritation, or systemic allergy – so take your baby to the doctor if you notice any changes or rashes. Birthmarks like strawberry haemangioma or Mongolian spots that show up after six weeks usually fade, but for more serious birthmarks, like congenital moles, go to a dermatologist.

6. BABY’S GOT MUSCLE

Around six weeks you’ll notice that changing baby’s nappy is so much easier, simply because she is no longer determined to stay curled up in the fetal position. This shows you that those newborn reflexes are falling away and she is starting to develop some muscle tone. Josephine Mare, a pediatric physiotherapist, says that when babies have good muscle tone, so neither stiff nor floppy, it’s a sign of normal neuromuscular development. “Babies learn to relax their arms and legs and enjoy the freedom of movement after six weeks, but their muscle tone should not be too relaxed either so that they’re unable to hold up their heads after two months. Babies who don’t enjoy tummy time and lag behind their milestones should be referred to a pediatric physiotherapist,” she explains.

7. ALL THE SENSES

We easily count off the fingers and toes when the baby is born, but many parents wait anxiously for signs that their baby can hear and see – especially if there are hereditary problems, prematurity, and complications at birth. Other sensory issues with touch, taste, and smell unfortunately only become evident once a baby is older.

Mariet du plooy, an audiologist, says it’s important to do a hearing screening and chats about treatment if there are issues. “children diagnosed with hearing impairment who are treated before six months stand a good chance of not having long-term complications,” she adds. “hearing loss is bigger than we realize.”

Babies who react to noise, follow objects, and respond to smiling faces usually don’t have problems. But if you notice your baby is not doing any of the above then it is best to get things checked out by your paed, who can refer you to an audiologist if necessary.

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