Every parent naturally desires that his/her baby should be healthy, chubby and intelligent. To enjoy good fruits one has to plan and work hard. For planning, both the parents must have sound knowledge about the normal newborn schedule and infant care in general. This article would help educate parents on understanding how a baby grows in mother’s womb, how does it react to the new environment after the birth, characteristics of a normal baby, newborn schedule and care to be taken while making arrangements for baby’s sleep.
1. Adjustment after Birth
A. How does the newborn baby adjust to the new environment after birth ?
In the mother’s womb the baby floats in the amniotic fluid i.e. fluid which surrounds the baby in the womb. The baby grows in a congenial, calm, quiet and warm environment and is not disturbed by the outside stresses and strains. Here the functions of respiration, digestion and excretion are carried out by the mother for the baby. While in the mother’s womb, the baby receives oxygen and nourishment through the mother’s blood which also carries away carbon-dioxide and other waste products from the baby’s blood through the placenta and the umbilical cord. The parasitic foetus becomes an independent individual at the time of birth. The baby’s lungs expand and the baby starts breathing on its own. It also starts sucking, swallowing and digesting its own food i.e. mother’s milk and can pass stools.
After birth the baby is exposed to continuously changing environment and various sensory stimuli like light, noise, temperature, smell etc. Now the baby has to maintain its own body temperature and react to the various sensory stimuli in the best possible manner. Though the various organs start functioning immediately after birth, it takes about four weeks to get adjusted to the new environment. Hence for the first four weeks after birth, the baby is termed as newborn baby. A baby less than one year old is known as an infant.
B. Why does the baby cry immediately after birth ?
Total change in the environment, like exposure to breeze and cold temperature at its time of birth, makes the baby most uncomfortable. It stimulates all the sense organs and in turn the brain and the breathing centre in the brain. The baby responds by taking in a deep breath immediately after birth, followed by a lusty cry while breathing out. In the foetus, lungs do not contain any air and all the oxygen demand is supplied by the mother through the placenta. After Birth, the baby’s lungs start supplying oxygen that is needed. A good vigorous first cry of the baby indicates the onset of breathing. This is the only cry in the life of an individual which makes all the members of the family and the doctor as well happy.
C. What is the danger if a baby does not start crying immediately after birth ?
If the baby does not cry immediately after birth, it indicates that the respiration is not properly established. If the baby does not cry but breathes irregularly, the baby may survive. However, an inadequate supply of oxygen to the various organs may damage the concerned organs particularly the brain, which may be damaged permanently. This may lead to permanent mental retardation and/or epileptic fits in some babies.
D. What are the characteristics of a normal newborn baby ?
An average newborn baby weighs between 2.5 to 3.5 kg, and measures 48 to 51 centimetres in length. At birth, the skin is covered with a whitish oily coating known as vernix, which clears out following the first bath. The skin is pink, soft and delicate. The baby turns red on crying and appears pale on exposure to cold. When exposed to cold weather, sometimes the hands and feet appear blue temporarily because of the sluggish blood circulation. The skin gradually peels off. The head appears big compared to the size of the body. The limbs are flexed. During the wakeful phase, the baby moves the limbs continuously and the trembling of hands, feet and chin are commonly observed. The baby gets startled on hearing a loud noise. While lying on tummy, it can lift its head for a short while only. If we touch the baby’s lips with our finger, it starts sucking the finger with reflex. If the baby is supported with hands in an erect position and the baby’s feet touch the ground or a hard flat surface, the baby makes walking movements. The baby’s heart rate is about 140 beats per minute and it breathes 40 times per minute. The baby sleeps most of the time.
2. Daily newborn schedule
A. How does a newborn baby spends its days ?
A newborn baby sleeps continuously for 3 to 4 hours and then remains awake for about half to one hour before sleeping again. This cycle continues throughout the day and night. While awake, it moves its hands and legs, yawns intermittently, sneezes sometimes and gets hiccups occasionally. It stretches hands and legs off and on. It smiles intermittently while awake or during sleep. If hungry or uncomfortable, it starts crying. Whether it is day or night, it feels hungry every 3-4 hourly and demands milk by crying.
B. What should be the arrangement for the baby to sleep ?
It is better to habituate the baby to sleep on a separate cot or in a cradle because cases have been reported where the baby got suffocated by the mother’s hand lying on the baby’s nose and mouth during sleep. The mattress should be firm and should be covered· with a water-proof bed sheet. The linen used should be kept clean. The cot should be provided with railings. The cradle should be kept near the mother’s bed and should not have sharp edges. A string should be tied to the cradle so that the mother while lying on her cot can move the cradle like a swing. The floor of the cot or cradle should not be sagging. One should check that the cot or cradle is free from ants and bed-bugs. The railing of the cradle should be so designed that the baby’s legs should not get caught up in the cradle.
C. Should we keep a pillow to support infant’s head and sides ?
If the young infant turns on its tummy, he may get his nose and mouth smothered against the soft pillow and gets suffocated. Hence a pillow should not be provided for the young infant. To prevent the baby from falling from the cot, one pillow on either side of the baby should be kept below the mattress and the cot should be provided with railings on the sides.
Reference : Sanatan Sanstha’s Holy text ‘Your baby (Birth to 1 year)’.