What's normal and what's not in your newborn

In the beginning, especially if you are a new parent, you will probably be spending hours watching your newborn. You will notice every twitch, sound, breath or lack thereof, etc. You will question if little things they do are normal or not. Here is a list of “symptoms” that are completely normal and when/if you should worry.

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Click on the photo to find out what you can expect from your newborn in the first week

You might even worry enough to call a doctor. Newborns can have a lot of little kinks that still need to be worked out after birth. Though these kinks seem scary, they are typical, expected and not usually cause for worry in infant care. This is a list of “symptoms” that are completely normal and when/if you should worry;

Shallow or uneven breathing

The lungs in a newborn are sometimes not quite developed. They still have a tiny bit of maturing to do immediately after birth. Since their lungs are still learning how to work somewhat, a newborn might have uneven breathing. For example, they might seem to be almost panting then take a deep breath, then soft breathing.

This is kind of scary to a new parent who is listening to every breath and panicking when the breathing isn’t even and regular like ours, but irregular breathing is completely normal and to be expected. Uneven breathing is not usually an issue as long as there are not lapses in breathing. That being said, when it comes to breathing, err on the side of caution if at any time you are worried. Maybe the doctor will smile upon realizing you are a first-time parent and assure you that nothing is wrong, but better that than something worse.

Slight wheezing

If you notice a slight wheezing, you may be concerned that your newborn has caught a cold or virus. This might be the case, but unless there are other symptoms present you might be jumping to a conclusion too soon.

Newborns often still have a slight but of fluids left in their lungs from before and during labour. This can cause a wheeze until the fluid is gone. You notice it because you are watching and listening to every single sound. A doctor might not even catch it with a stethoscope because it won’t be present at every single inhale/exhale. If the wheezing seems to be causing them problems with breathing or is present with other symptoms such as a fever, sweating, or abnormal irritability, consult a doctor.

Irregular bowel movements

When it comes to bowel movements in newborn babies, there is not really a “normal” in the beginning. One day they might have 4 bowel movements and the next day only one. Sometimes it will be a different consistency than the others. It can change colors as well. All of this is normal and there is no need to worry about a thing.

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Some parents assume that bowel movements should stay extremely regular as they are eating the same thing every day all day, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t happen like that. There are a few things to look out for in this infant care though.

Consult a doctor if you notice any of the following; excessive loose bowels to the point where dehydration may become an issue, excessive straining to the point where it appears constipation may be an issue, blood in the stools, or lack of bowel movements for more than two days.

Watery eyes/blocked tear duct

You may notice your newborn’s eyes are glossy, producing tears when not crying, or even excreting some discharge. Sometimes the discharge gets dried up and even makes your baby’s eyelids almost fuse together. This is normal.

A lot of babyies get blocked tear ducts or their tear ducts just aren’t quite working properly. To help the tear ducts unclog and start working properly, simply massage the area where the nose meets the brow bone (just below the eyebrow). This will jumpstart the tear ducts into working as they should.

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In the meantime, while the eyes are excreting some discharge, simply wash the eyes with a warm wash cloth. If the eyes are crusty, especially the eyelash area, leave the warm wash cloth on the eyes for a few seconds to soften the discharge.

Make sure to use a different wash cloth every time. This problem with the tear ducts should eventually clear up on its own (though stimulating by massaging should speed it up). However, if it lasts past your baby’s first birthday, a doctor will need to inspect and decide where to go from there. 99% of all babies with tear duct issues clear up before their first birthday so no worries.

Spitting up

Your newborn baby will most likely spit up a little milk or formula from time to time. Some babies seem to spit up most of their bottle or breast milk. This is why it is highly recommended to always have a cloth handy to quickly clean up the mess.

Spitting up is not only normal, it is expected. Sometimes no matter how much you burp them and try everything in your power to stop your baby from spitting up, your baby will still do it. This is not usually a problem at all and again is expected.

It becomes a problem when your baby isn’t gaining enough weight. In that event, your doctor will probably advise you to change diet, add cereal, or something else to add some weight to your baby. If baby is gaining weight, then there isn’t an issue; other than extra laundry.

At any time, even with these normal issues, if your newborn baby seems to be uncomfortable or inconsolable, then there might be something else going on. As with everything, if something doesn’t quite seem right, do not hesitate to call a doctor. That is what they are there for. If everything is fine, then you have peace of mind.

If something is wrong, you can address the infant care issue immediately and you will be glad that you called. At the very least, feel free to bring these things up at a regular check-up. However, rest assured that these “symptoms” are completely normal and common and most will clear up on their own without any intervention of any sort.

To learn more about your newborn, see:

Newborn Jaundice 

Newborns with Swollen Heads

5 Tips for Newborn Skin Care