The newborns ear should be cleaned from the outside. Do not insert a cotton bud inside the ear canal. The wax formed inside the ear is automatically pushed out of the canal. The baby gets startled over a sudden noise, or sometimes even without a noise, or in his sleep. Occasionally, his jaw may quiver. This is because of the immaturity of his nervous system. However, when it frequently or the movements of limbs are more pronounced and rhythmic, consult your doctor as these may be convulsions which need treatment. At times even doctor has a hard time differentiating between natural quivers and convulsions in a newborn child.
The cord of the baby dries up fairly quickly, turns black and falls off towards the end of the first week or perhaps little later. Clean the cord and the area around the navel with spirit or after- shave lotion two to three times a day till it falls off. Continue doing so even a few days after the cord has fallen off. You may find that when the cord falls off there is some secretion from the area of the cord. All it needs is to be kept clean and dry with spirit. Do not use water to wash the cord and the area around it as this may cause infection. Do not use oil, ghee or powder on the cord. It is perhaps better to sponge the child leaving aside the area around the cords for first week before the cord falls off. Avoid giving tub bath in first two weeks.
Sometimes the navel bulges outward (Umbilical hernia). This bulging is quite common and is caused by the weakness of the muscles underneath. It usually disappears in time. However, if the bulge at navel is larger, it is advisable to consult your doctor.
In the first few weeks the babys breast may become enlarged. On pressing, a small quantity of whitish fluid may come out. This is caused by harmones in the mother, which prepare the breasts for lactation. Since the child himself cannot produce these harmones, the swelling disappears after a few weeks do not massage or foment the breast as this may injure the delicate tissue and cause infection.
VAGINA AND PENIS
If the baby is girl, there may be whitish secretion from the vagina for the first week or two. Occasionally, there may be a little vaginal bleeding. These are due to the harmones of her mother. If the baby is a boy, his scrotum may be swollen and puffy. If it continues to look even after few days, consult your doctor. It may be due to a hernia, or, more likely, a type of water sac, which will disappear without treatment.
Hernias in this region unlike the umbilical hernia usually need prompt care. If the testis is not palpable in the bag, do not be alarmed. They may be lying above in the body. By cold touch they tend to retract upwards. Tell your doctor about them in your next visit. The foreskin of the penis in a newborn cannot always be pulled back. This does not necessarily mean that child needs operation (called circumcision) to make the opening clear. The foreskin will most likely retract by the time the child is five years old.
URINE AND STOOL
The baby usually urinates and passes a stool within 24 hours of life. His first stool may be dark green and rather sticky. However, after three or four days, it will become normal (yellow in color). The stool of a breast fed baby is usually loose and soft, whereas the stool of a bottle-fed baby is thicker and firmer. It is common a baby to pass stool soon after he has been fed. It is not uncommon for a breast fed baby to pass stool 6 to 10 times a day, it may be even more. If the stool change consistency and become watery and if there is any mucus or blood in them, you must immediately consult the doctor. An occasional baby may pass stool only once in two or four days; but as long as they are of usual consistency, they should be treated as normal and not constipated. It is only when his stools are hard and lumpy and he seems to feel pain while passing them that you should give him extra water with sugar. In most cases, this would soften the stools and relieve constipation.
The child can be taken out in the fresh air and sunshine for an hour or two after the first two weeks. Cover him well if it is cold outside and dont over-clothe him if it is warm. Avoid taking him out when it is dusty or windy. Dont expose the baby to directly to the hot sun, as the child is likely to get sunburns quickly. In this respect, early morning sunshine is milder. Do not take him out in crowded areas or let neighborhood children touch and play with him at this age. Young children are likely to transmit their infections to him.
When the baby is two weeks old he should be taken to the doctor for his check-up. Subsequently check-ups can coincide with the babys immunization shots. Regular check-ups are essential for the baby. This will not only enable the doctor to know about the growth and development of the baby, but also to detect physical defects, if any, at the early stage.
BATHING THE BABY
Bathing the baby can be a great fun. It not only cleans him bot also gives you the pleasure of handling him. In hospitals, the baby may not have been bathed, as some doctors do not recommend this for first few days. The babys head and face should have been washed and the genitals kept clean. At home he should have a sponge bath until the card is off and navel healed. The baby can be given sponge bath in the morning or evening but ensure that there is no draught in the room, that it is warm and that the temperature is about 80ºF (27ºC). Use a heater during winter as the infant may get cold and sick if the room is too cold. The water should be warm. The temperature of the water when tested with elbow should give a comfortable feeling.
Everything thing should be kept ready before you start undressing the child. Then, wrap him in a towel. Clean his face, head, neck, limbs, abdomen, and last of all his genitalia with wet towel. Do not use soap on his face. While cleaning the head, produce lather from the cake of soap on your hand and rub the head gently but firmly and rinse the soap thoroughly. If the head is not properly cleaned at regular intervals, dirt can accumulate, causing irritation and infection. When cleaning the genitalia and folds be sure that you dry them thoroughly, as any water left in the creases or in the folds of the groin and behind the ears may cause fungal or other infections.
In India, mothers are very particular in giving oil massage to their baby before bath. It is a mistaken belief that the oil makes the child stronger. Oil only keeps the skin healthy. Do not use mustard oil for massage, you can use any other oil which does not irritate the babys delicate skin. The massage should be done gently and playfully. Overzealous massaging, especially in summer, may cause infection of the skin. Indeed it is better if you skip it for the first few months.
When babys cord is dry and clean, you can give him a tub bath. Make sure not to leave the baby alone in the bath even when he is a year old; it can result in serious accidents like drowning and burns.
Use of talcum for children is not necessary. Do not sprinkle the powder directly, put it on your hand first and then gently rub it on the babys body. Do not leave too much powder in the folds of the skin, where it will mix with sweat and form thick plaques of powder; like massage, it is better to skip.