What NOT to do when it comes to your baby's health and wellbeing
If you're feeling at a loss on how to effectively take care of your little one, learn some tips from Dr Pratibha Agarwal, consultant paediatrician for Kinder Clinic.
When you are a mum (especially a first-timer), your baby, as adorable as he is, can be quite a complicated little individual at times. Should you take your baby to a doctor at the first sign of fever? How do you handle your newborn when he looks so fragile? Should you let your little one use a pillow?
These are just a few of the myriad questions new mums have most days. Sometimes, you will figure things out on your own as you get more experienced with handling your little one and understanding his needs.
But other times, you could probably do with a little bit of extra help when it comes to getting baby-related advice. An expert opinion such as that of Dr Pratibha Agarwal, a consultant paediatrician for Kinder Clinic, is then valuable and informative.
Here’s her expert take on what not to do to your baby when it comes to ensuring his health and wellbeing.
Don’t ignore your intuition as a mother
They don’t say a mum has a sixth sense for nothing. Dr. Agarwal, a paediatrician and neonatologist who specialises in the care of high risk newborns and children, explains that there is a strong physical and psychological connection between a mum and her baby from the foetal period onwards. Because of this, mums have a natural tendency to protect and nurture their little ones.
Research studies with fMRI scans have highlighted specific patterns of maternal brain activation in response to her baby’s cries. This brain activity is linked to maternal love and behaviour for vigilant protectiveness explains Dr. Agarwal.
In other words, always trust your instincts when you feel something is not quite right with your little one. Here are some of the warning signs mums should not ignore, especially in newborns and infants less than three months old:
- Very rapid breathing (above 60 breaths per minute), difficulty in breathing, blue lips or finger nails
- Fever above 38◦ Celsius in newborns and infants under three months, or over 39 ◦Celsius between three-six months
- Green or yellow coloured vomiting or vomiting more than the usual posseting
- Excessively sleepy, lethargic and refuses several feeds
- Excessive crying or high-pitched, shrill crying, increased difficulty to console baby
Any of the above signs warrants medical attention, especially if there is a change from the baby’s regular behaviour pattern.
Don’t use too much bedding in your child’s cot
Mums love seeing their babies cosily tucked in fast asleep in their cot.
However, Dr Agarwal explains that various aspects of a baby’s sleep environment — such as an overly soft sleeping surface, loose bedding and accessories — can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by covering the baby’s head or obstructing airflow.
In addition to ensuring there are minimum accessories (e.g. fluffy pillows, heavy blankets and comforters etc.) in your baby’s cot, it is also important to place your little one to sleep on his back. Other medical experts also agree that this position is best when it comes to reducing the risk of SIDS.
Don’t turn your back on your baby
There are times when mums just need to take a break from running after their increasingly active babies. In such situations, it is tempting to leave your child for just a moment while you make yourself a cup of tea, or make a quick phone call to a friend.
However, turning your back on your little one for even a short time can be quite dangerous. Dr Agarwal explains that injury rates among babies rapidly increase with age, with the highest incidence of possible injuries taking place between 15 to 17 months.
This increase is related to developmental achievements such as independent mobility, exploratory behaviour and hand-to-mouth activity. However, these may result in increased accidents because the child has limited ability to recognise danger.
For all these reasons, Dr Agarwal emphasises that adequate parental supervision of young babies and toddlers is critical. She recommends for parents to follow the principle of “within sight and reach” supervision.
Don’t stop your child from exploring
Yes, it’s important to never leave your little one unattended, but this doesn’t mean you should stop him from exploring his surroundings in a safe way. According to Dr Agarwal, “it is important to encourage a toddler’s autonomous behaviour, curiosity and growing sense of independence.”
You should try to find a way of balancing a safe and structured environment which will nevertheless allow your little one the freedom and independence to learn and explore.
The best way of doing this is to child-proof your house. Here are some examples given by Dr Agarwal:
- Using window/stair guards
- Keeping furniture away from windows
- Using electric outlet covers
- Putting locks on cabinets and drawers that contain medicines, cleaners and sharp or breakable objects.
- Restricting or preventing your child’s access to balconies
If you have a helper at home, please don’t forget to also advise her and regularly refresh her memory on all safety rules related to your child.
Don’t forget basic hygiene
Young infants are susceptible to illness in the first few months of life and are completely dependent on adults for their care. Dr Agarwal explains, “good hygiene and cleanliness are very important to prevent infections like viral flu and common gastrointestinal bugs from spreading to your little one.”
One of the most important and effective ways to prevent infections is through good hand hygiene practices. Caregivers should always wash or sanitise their hands before baby care, after nappy change, before and after cord care, before and after breastfeeding or preparing a feed.
These rules should extend to other family members and guests who should wash their hands before handling a newborn. Dr Agarwal also advises parents to avoid taking their little one to very crowded places in the first months.
Don’t swing your baby
Babies and toddler love to play with their parents, and while this play is important, safety must be ensured. You should avoid tossing your child in the air or swinging him by the arms or ankles.
According to Dr Agarwal, when you handle your baby in the ways described above, there is a risk of dropping him or dislocating his elbow or shoulder. Elbow dislocation or “nursemaid’s elbow” is especially common between one to four years of age when grown-ups swing a toddler by the arms or pull a child up by the hand.
Please also ensure you inform your helper to never swing or toss your child in the air during playtime.
Don’t shake your child
When faced with trying to calm down a baby who just won’t stop crying, even the most patient of parents are bound to get frustrated at some point. If this happens to you, it’s very important to remember to never shake your baby out of frustration or anger.
Dr Agarwal explains that shaking a baby can be very dangerous to the developing brain, which is more prone to injury as babies have relatively large heads and weak neck muscles. Forceful shaking may cause the brain to strike the inside of the skull, which may result in oedema (brain swelling), bleeding and brain damage. It may even cause seizures or blindness.
Her advice is to always remember that crying is your baby’s means of communication and if you are worried about excessive crying, you should seek help.
Don’t fear handling your baby
If you are a first-time mum, you may be surprised to see how tiny and fragile your newborn looks after his birth. You may even be worried about handling or carrying him, for fear of hurting him in some way. Well you can stop worrying now!
“Newborns need constant attention to grow emotionally, physically and intellectually,” says Dr Agarwal. Therefore, responding to a baby’s cues is necessary and important to meet his needs.
Doing this provides your baby with with a sense of security and feeling of being loved and, “these infants have been shown to be more independent and confident later.”
Dr Agarwal points out that the most important thing to remember while holding a young infant is to support the head and neck.
Parents, we hope you found this article useful. Are there any other things you recommend adding to our list of what not to do to your baby? Let us know by leaving a comment below.