Labour and Birth, Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

Best Gifts for New Parents

It’s a very exciting time. Your best friends or favourite relatives have just had a baby and you want to spoil them silly at this special time. A hug from the newborn might be fun too! New parents often find the first few days and weeks with baby difficult. Here are my suggestions for gifts you can offer, to help them at this amazing and sometimes overwhelming time.

Consideration

This might not be something you can buy in a shop but it is definitely the most important gift of all! You need to remember that new parents might have had very little sleep, rarely get a chance to shower and really don’t want to think about housework.

You need to be honest about your relationship with the new parents and your reasons for wanting to visit or help. If they are really close friends and family where you share everyday life and see each other unshowered and in pyjamas regularly, unannounced visits might be fine. If not, your unscheduled visit is likely to cause more hassle than joy.

New parents might need to sleep during the day if baby was awake all night. They might want to spend what awake time they have holding their own baby, rather than cooking or cleaning in preparation for your visit. Alternatively, they might actually really appreciate someone holding the baby for them while they shower or eat or vacuum.

The key is be flexible in your visiting schedule and expectations. A pre-planned visit might not be possible after an unplanned night without sleep! Ask what the parents would appreciate most – someone to clean the toilets, a volunteer to play with older children or a baby being held while they shower and dress.

Books

A new parent has a lot of questions about their new life. Books that might answer some of those questions may be really appreciated. Perhaps try some humorous ones for when they are at the end of their tether, or informational ones that might explain baby development and milestones. One of my favourite books is ‘Your Amazing Newborn’. It explains the vast abilities of babies to recognise shapes, colours, faces and voices. It’s brilliant for new parents who want to learn more about their baby and bond with it through games like pulling faces and singing.

Door signs

Honestly, I think every parent should invest in one of these. Babies often start life thinking that day is night and night is day. As a result, new families often need to catch up on sleep during the day and an unexpected delivery man or neighbour might not realise their visit is poorly timed. One knock which wakes the dog, who wakes mum, dad and the baby can really ruin their rest! Find a pretty sign on pinterest or create your own to stick on the door, politely asking people to come back at another time or leave the parcel with a neighbour.

Food

All new babies take a lot of time, and homemade meals are not always easy to fit in to the schedule. When you are already cooking for your family, can you make an extra couple of portions to freeze? If you take that ready cooked meal to the new parents, it will make their day! For those with enough freezer space and generous friends they may not need to worry about meals for a couple of weeks.

Childcare

If you have a good relationship with the new parents and their children, could you offer to babysit the older children? Perhaps you could take them to the park or just to your house to play with your kids. That might allow the parents to get some rest. Maybe the parents would appreciate it if you offered to hold the baby while they play with their older children. This helps those older siblings who feel confused and upset by the amount of parental time and attention the new baby takes from them.

Housework

Any help in this category definitely enters you into the great friend hall of fame! Whatever you feel able to help with will probably be appreciated. You could clean or vacuum for them. You could even take a load of laundry and ironing home and return it ready to be hung up or folded and put away. For those active animal lovers, there is the opportunity to walk the dog. If you’re already on your way to the shops, send a quick text to ask if they need anything. It would be even more amazing if you were able to do their whole grocery shop for them. Just as long as they give you their list with preferred brands!

Time

Sometimes, especially after the first couple of weeks, a new mum can feel isolated and stuck on the sofa with a cluster feeding baby. Their partner may be back at work. Most visitors have had their baby hug and gone on with their lives. Some mums might really appreciate you spending time with them.  Having an adult conversation, even if their brain isn’t working clearly due to sleep deprivation, can be wonderful. A listening ear and reassurance that they’re doing a great job really helps when they are worried they’re not a perfect parent.

Photos

Have you ever noticed that a first baby has lots of photos taken every day? Unfortunately with the subsequent siblings the number of photos decreases significantly. Those cute cards you can place next to baby declaring their first smile or their 10th week are really only used for baby number one. Intimate family photos are not so easy with more children especially in the midst of life’s commitments.

If you know you have some pretty good photo skills, why not take some natural family photos for them? You could catch them doing normal life things like cooking whilst juggling a newborn and a toddler, or giving the baby a secret smile. These photos will be so precious to the family later on as they might be too busy just keeping up with life to take photos themselves. You can send them on to the parents as soon as you’ve taken them. You could even create a photo album online to give as a present!

Subscriptions

If parents have to spend a lot of time in the middle of the night feeding or changing the baby, they may appreciate some entertainment options to keep themselves amused. Why not buy them a subscription to a video streaming service so that they can watch the latest movies or TV epics while the little one feeds? You could also try an audiobook subscription and add a quality pair of wireless headphones to make it extra special. For the avid readers, what about an ebook subscription and device to read them on?

 

So there we have it. A selection of really useful gifts for new parents. Many of them cost very little but will make a huge difference to the family. Have you got any other suggestions, or ideas you wish someone had done for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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Infant feeding, Labour and Birth, Latest news, New Mum, Newborn Care

Postnatal Essentials for Mums

So much of the planning and preparation that happens during pregnancy is focused on the baby. This is wonderful and very helpful indeed. However, I’d like to remind you that you have another person to take care of too – you! Here are some of my tips for looking after yourself in the postnatal period.

Postnatal essentials for mums

None of us can see the future so I don’t know what type of labour and birth you’ll have. It might be really long and painful with lots of complications. It might be really quick and intense. You might deliver the baby by pushing him or her out yourself. Perhaps you’ll need a little extra help like a forceps or ventouse delivery (oh, look, another blog post explaining them to be written in my future!). You may have an emergency caesarian or you may know the date already for your planned caesarian.

However this baby arrives, you will be tired and sore and sensitive in various ways and places. In all of the excitement about finally meeting your little one, you need to take some time to take care of yourself. Having a postnatal care kit set up already can make doing this much easier.

Here are my recommendations for your postnatal essentials. Feel free to choose them all or just pick one or two that you know will be helpful for you.

If you are looking for gifts for friends who have had or are about to have a baby, check out my gifts for new parents post here.

**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of my links, I may receive a commission or credit at no additional cost to you. For more info, please read my disclosure policy.**

1. Maternity Pads

What to expect after birth:

You will bleed after you’ve had the baby. Women are always asking me how long they will bleed for, but unfortunately, that’s one question I don’t know the answer to! Every woman bleeds for a different amount of time and in a different way. There is even a difference in bleeding after each baby a woman has. Some women will bleed red blood for 6 weeks. Others have a really heavy loss for a couple of days then it changes to brown then creamy before disappearing about 10 days after the birth. I know some who bleed heavily for a few days, then the bleeding seems to settle down, only to come back heavier again when the baby is 10-12 days old.

Most of the time the bleeding will be like a heavy period for the first couple of days before settling down. It will probably be a little heavier if you have a busy active day and be lighter if you are resting at home. You might have a gush of blood after feeding your baby or when you first get up in the morning. You will also notice some contraction-like feelings after the birth. These are perfectly normal and are helping your body reduce the size of your uterus so you can fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes!

The time to seek medical advice is if you have a gush of blood unrelated to feeding or getting up after sitting for a long period; if you think the blood smells funny or infected; if you are passing clots of blood over 4cm diameter after the first day or two; or if you have severe abdominal pains.

What to buy:

Anyway, all that information leads me to my first recommendation: Buy some maternity pads. Don’t get too fancy with them. The thick unscented kind are softer for the first couple of days. You may want to wear two of them – one towards the front of your underwear, layered over one towards the back of your underwear – to catch any leaks or gushes. Eventually, you’ll probably want to go for the thinner kind with the fancy coloured lines of super absorbent somethingorother, but not for the first couple of days.

Even if you have a caesarian, you will still bleed after the birth. Having some maternity pads on hand is essential. They can even provide another benefit for you. Your scar will be covered by a dressing for the first 5 – 10 days. After that the dressing is removed, and whilst this is good for healing, it can be nerve-wracking! Put a maternity pad in the front part of your underwear over the area of the scar, and you’ve got some padding. This makes you a little more confident when moving around and prevents clothes rubbing on the area.

2. Big Undies!

Your inspiration for this period should be Bridget Jones, not a Kardashian of some kind. Get the underwear that reaches right up above your bikini line, towards your umbilicus. Honestly, you are not going to be showing it to anyone so no one needs to know, and comfort is essential for the first few days and weeks. Leaks are also inevitable, especially overnight, so it might be worth buying some mesh underwear which you can either wash and re-wear or dispose of after one use. Big undies help to pull in your stomach, which will look a little like jelly for a while. They are also really helpful if you end up with a caesarian as they don’t end right on the scar line like normal underwear tends to do!

3. A jug or glass

Weird recommendation? Maybe, but entirely essential. Keep it in the bathroom, right next to the toilet. When you go in to pass urine, fill it up first with warm water, then pour it down over yourself as you relieve yourself. The warm water will be soothing and help to dilute your urine so that it is less stingy!

4. Pain relief

You’d think having the contractions was the most painful part of the whole giving birth process, right? Although this is true for most women, I must warn you that you’ll find lots of achy painful bits after the birth too. Whether it’s your breasts, your perineum or even after pains, you may well need some pain relief. Stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen before the baby arrives. That way you won’t have to send your partner out to the 24 hour supermarket for urgent supplies in the middle of the night.

Sometimes, ibuprofen and paracetamol won’t be enough to control the pain. This might be because of the type of delivery you had or if you get an infection. If you find the pain is still unbearable, please speak to your doctor or midwife about it as they may recommend taking something stronger. There are other pain killers that are safe to use in the postnatal period and while breastfeeding. Generally, if you need these it is just for a couple of days to get the pain under control before it naturally settles and subsides.

5. Breast pads

Even if you aren’t planning on breastfeeding, it’s worth grabbing a pack or two of these. That’s because your body is going to automatically make milk, and that milk might well automatically flow when your baby cries! Having pads on hand to catch any wayward leaks saves the need for multiple changes of top each day.

6. Nipple cream

If you are breastfeeding, you need to check out my post on Breastfeeding Essentials. If you don’t have time to read another post, then let me encourage you to at least get some nipple cream. Nipples can get sore, even when the baby has a good attachment. Nipple cream will be your best friend for the first few days or weeks.

7. Laxatives

Ok, this one is a big deal! It’s one of the most frightening things you have to do after birth – opening your bowels!

Some women find that they don’t need to open their bowels for a few days after birth. This is very normal, especially as some women have a clear-out as they go into labour (yes, I do mean diarrhoea). Other mums empty their bowels as the baby is born – this is also very very normal and shouldn’t be something you worry about.

The key is to keep eating and drinking, including plenty of fluids, fruit and fibre. It’s also really important to go to the loo when you know there is something there to get rid of. Don’t hold it in out of fear! The longer it stays inside, the more water gets reabsorbed from it, so the harder it is to push out!

When you decide to face the music, make sure you have someone you can leave baby with, so that you can relax and sit on the loo for as long as it takes. Try holding a maternity pad over the front area to give that support as you push. Most importantly, don’t worry! I’ve never seen anyone split apart from opening their bowels. It’s definitely a psychological challenge rather than a physical one.

If you decide that you need to go but it won’t happen naturally, ask your doctor about getting some laxatives. There are some that are safe to use when breastfeeding and can help ease things along.

8. Pregnancy pillow – v or c shaped

Pregnancy pillows must be the world’s best kept secret! I really don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have one. They make everything so much comfier! You may well have found a V shaped pillow helpful during pregnancy to get into a good sleeping position. In the postnatal period, that pillow comes in very handy again. You can sit up in bed, or lounge on the sofa. It can be useful to support as you feed. So many uses!

You can also get C shaped pillows, generally described as breastfeeding pillows. They can be really useful for some mums, as they can help support the baby at your breast during a feed, or give some cushioning to a caesarian scar. However, some people find that they are more of a hindrance than a help to good positioning and attachment. They seem to report that the V shaped pillows or ordinary rectangular ones work better. Try it out for yourself and find out what works for you.

9. Notebook

This is a definite essential because ‘Baby Brain’ is real, people! After a night of non-stop feeding and a day without naps because all your friends want to hold the baby, you might not even remember your own name!

Keep a notebook and pen handy wherever you go. You can makes notes on baby’s feeding and nappy habits. You can write down which breast you fed from last and how long for. Keep a record of your gifts so you can write thank you cards later, or simply start your to-do list for the day. Whatever you can think of, a notebook will help. It can be a fancy smart phone app, or an old-fashioned paper one. It doesn’t matter, just as long as it helps you to stay sane and remember bin day! How does a little one fill up the rubbish bin so quickly?! Personally, I think a paper one might be a lovely memento to keep and look back on in the future, but I’m just a sentimental kind of gal. 😉

10. Water bottle and snacks

This one shouldn’t really require too much of an explanation. You are going to be busy being a mum and partner and life coach and cheerleader and friend and comforter and all the other brilliant things that make you you. It can be hard to remember to feed yourself, so make it a little easier by keeping a water bottle close at hand and some pre-packed calorific goodness by your side. That way, even when you don’t manage a proper meal, you’ve got some supplies on board to keep you going.

11. Wine and chocolate

Also an essential that should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Having a baby is hard work. Keeping that baby alive is seriously stressful. Staying kind and welcoming to an endless procession of visitors who want to hold the baby when you can hardly keep your eyes open is a feat of strength! Treating yourself is not only OK, it’s important. One glass of wine at lunch is not going to be the end of the world, and if the only calories you get for a 12 hour period come from a chocolate or two, it doesn’t matter.

I would recommend keeping the wine as a midday treat if you can. That’s because often newborn babies like to co-sleep, and co-sleeping is safest when you don’t have alcohol in your system. A small lunchtime glass will have worn off by bedtime, so it’s less to worry about on that score.

So there we have it – my list of essentials for a smooth and comfy postnatal period. Let me know what you think in the comments. Have I missed something? What helped you most in those early days?

Postnatal essentials for new mums

Items that will help postpartum recovery for new mums
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Latest news, Newborn Care, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Problems

Group B Strep in Pregnancy

You might have heard of it, you might have seen a Facebook post about it or read a poster somewhere. Group B Strep is becoming more widely known about and talked about in pregnancy. So what is it and what impact can it have on your pregnancy, your labour and birth and your baby?

Mum and baby

What is Group B Strep?

Simply put, Group B Strep is a bacteria which is found in about 30% of women. That’s one in three of you and your friends. Most of the time, this bacteria causes no problems whatsoever. It’s like those bacteria in your digestive system which help you to break down your food. Group B Strep bacteria (GBS) are most often found in your vagina or rectum, although occasionally they can transfer to your urine. This can cause a urine infection, which should be treated with antibiotics as soon as it is found.

bacteria in petri dish

How do I know if I’ve got Group B Strep?

Most women discover they have Group B Strep because it appears in their urine during pregnancy.  They may or may not have any symptoms of a urine infection. Your midwife may find it in the urine sample you provide at your booking appointment. Alternatively, you may be aware of a urine infection and Group B Strep is identified as the cause.

With the increase in awareness of Group B Strep and the implications it has on pregnancy, some women ask to be tested. This testing is best done between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. Your own midwife can usually do this at your GP surgery. You will need to sweep a long-handled cotton bud around the inside of your vagina. You put the cotton bud into a tube with a tiny amount of solution in it and the tube and cotton bud are sent to the laboratory. In a day or two, the laboratory can tell you if the sample has grown Group B Strep.

The newest type of test for Group B Strep is the enriched culture medium test which may or may not be available within your local area. Please ask your own midwife for details.

Implications of Group B Strep on Pregnancy

Finding out that you have Group B Strep during your pregnancy does not have a large impact on your care during the pregnancy itself. If the bacteria is found in your vagina or rectum, you will not need any antenatal treatment. If it is found in your urine, we recommend that you have some antibiotics to treat the urine infection.

capsules

Implications of Group B Strep on Labour and Birth

You will be advised to have antibiotics in labour if you have been identified as carrying the Group B Strep bacteria, whether that is during the current pregnancy or at any point in the past. These will be given via a drip in the back of your hand or in your arm. You will get a dose every 4 hours for as long as labour lasts. It’s really important to mention to the hospital that you’ve had Group B Strep when you phone them in labour. The midwife takes into account the time it takes for you to get to the hospital as well as the time it takes to provide the antibiotics when they invite you in to be assessed.

Providing antibiotics in labour has been shown to reduce the risk of the baby getting Group B Strep. It is a pretty simple procedure which can keep your baby safe. That is why it is recommended practice in the UK. Please discuss this further with your midwife or Obstetrician if you have any other concerns.

Implications of Group B Strep on Your Baby

Baby sleeping

Whilst most babies are fine even with exposure to Group B Strep, a small minority can get an infection from it. An even smaller minority can have serious consequences from that infection.

For that reason, if we know that you have carried Group B Strep in the past or in the current pregnancy, we recommend the use of antibiotics in labour. We also recommend that you stay in hospital for at least 12-24 hours after the birth. This enables us to monitor your baby’s heart rate, breathing, temperature and general condition every couple of hours and ensure no infection occurs.

If any signs of infection occur, such as an increase or decrease in temperature, breathing rate or heart rate, your baby will be referred to a neonatal doctor to assess what treatment may be required. Sometimes the baby will need a course of IV antibiotics, which usually lasts between 5 and 7 days. In most cases, you will still be able to care for your baby yourself while the antibiotics are given. A small number of cases may need extra support from a Special Care Baby Unit to help them fight the infection.

Further Reading

Please try not to read every internet story on Group B Strep. There are very heartbreaking cases out there and the internet would have you believe they are the most common kind. The reality as seen in the midwifery, obstetric and neonatal world is that most cases of Group B Strep infection will respond quickly to a course of antibiotics with no long-term effects.

You can read more in the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists patient information leaflet, available here.

 

Group B Strep

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Newborn Care

Helping Babies to Burp

Babies often need a little help to bring up their wind, or burp. Whether they are fed by bottle or breast, it is definitely useful to know how to encourage this as trapped wind can be very uncomfortable. Here are some of my favourite techniques for helping babies burp.

 

If your baby is reluctant to release their trapped wind, try going through all the suggestions below in a cycle. Every baby is different and what works once may not work another time. Trial and error, along with lots of patience, will help you figure out your baby’s preference.

Mother and Baby

Stroking up their back

Sit baby up on your knee, facing to one side. Lean them slightly forward onto one hand, using your thumb and forefinger to support their head in an upright position. Use a very gentle lift in that supporting hand to keep their back as straight as possible. Whilst their back is straight, use firm pressure to stroke up their back from about the level of their belly button to their shoulders. You can also alternate the strokes with gentle patting, concentrating on the middle area of the back. It can be tempting to pat between their shoulder blades, but you’re trying to move the air bubbles up from their stomachs, so patting that area is more effective.

Rocking

The main way to relieve the pain of trapped wind is to dislodge it so the baby can burp, so rocking can be very helpful. Hold the baby in the same way as when stroking up their back, but hold them with one hand on their front and one on their back. Gently rock them from side to side, then from front to back, again and again. You only need to rock them about 1-2 inches each way. Try to keep their back as straight as you can.

Lie them up over your shoulderBaby looking over shoulder

 

This position really helps keep a baby’s back naturally straight so you can concentrate on the gentle patting of their back. Hold the baby in the same arm as the shoulder you want to put them over. Their chin should be level with the top of your shoulder. Let their hands rest next to their chin, as in the picture above. The hand you are holding them with should be over the nappy area and around their chest. Your free hand will hover over the back of their rib cage. Keep your hand quite close to baby as you pat since newborns can sometimes throw themselves back without warning. With your hand close, you can catch and control this movement very easily.

Put them over your knees

Sit down in a comfy chair and keep your knees together and your feet flat on the floor. It can be helpful to lay a blanket or muslin cloth over your knees in case the baby dribbles or vomits.  Lie baby down over your knees, with his head at the side of one of your thighs and his feet at the other side. This position puts a little pressure on the baby’s stomach. Gentle patting can be combining with stroking and rocking your knees together from side to side.

Bouncing

Babies like bouncing even if they don’t have wind! You can hold them facing towards or away from you with your hands around their torso and under their armpits. Bounce gently up and down, at a rate that suits you and baby. About 120 times a minute, or twice a second is a good place to start. If you just use your forearms, this is an excellent arm workout!

However, if your baby really does like bouncing, your arms are likely to get tired quite quickly. Try resting baby’s bottom on your bent knee whilst sitting. Bring your knee up by raising onto your tiptoes, then gently drop your heel down towards the floor. This gives a gentle bouncing motion without as much effort on your biceps. You can also do this with the baby facing outwards with their legs either side of your thigh and their back resting against your abdomen.

Sleepy baby

Massage

Massage is an excellent way to soothe your baby and can help to stimulate the gut movement needed to help them pass wind. Keep the room nice and warm and strip baby down to their nappy. Give a little gentle pressure to their tummy in a clockwise circular motion. This matches the direction of their intestines so helps move air along to the exit! Some people recommend motioning as if they were writing I L U (for I love you) over the baby’s tummy. There are plenty of images on pinterest showing how to do this, but a simple circular clockwise motion will work just as well.

Knees up

Baby bent knees

Have you noticed how your baby will often poo right in the middle of changing their nappy? That’s because when you lift their knees and hold them bent, it stimulates movement in their intestines, so they can’t help but poo out more! That makes this position a great one to remember if your baby has wind as well as if your baby hasn’t pooed for a while or seems a little constipated. Just as when you change a nappy, gently hold their feet and push their knees up to bend naturally. Hold in that position for a few minutes if baby will tolerate it.

Bath time

A lovely soothing warm bath can often ease the pain of trapped wind for babies. Just make sure that the water is nice and warm and deep enough to cover their tummy. Use a bath thermometer if you are unsure of the right temperature, and please remember to NEVER EVER LEAVE A BABY UNATTENDED IN A BATH, NOT EVEN FOR A SECOND!!! If the phone rings or the doorbell goes, ignore it and look after the baby instead!

Baby in a bath

Extra Considerations

There are a couple of other things to consider if your baby seems to struggle with trapped wind quite frequently.

Feeding techniques

Some babies are just very fast or very hungry feeders. They want to get their food so fast that they don’t care about bringing in all the extra wind that comes with it. Until the extra air causes them pain, of course! With babies who need to slow down a little, it can be useful to split feeds into shorter periods at the breast or with the bottle. Give the baby a couple of minutes to feed to start with, then take them off the breast or remove the bottle. Give them a chance to process that they have got a little something in their tummy, as this may help them to slow the rate of feeding when you put them back on. It can also be useful to split feeds into smaller parts so that you can try and help the baby to burp in the middle of the feed, rather than at the end.

If you are bottle feeding, it may be worth looking at a different sized teat for the bottle, as some will allow the milk to flow more slowly or more quickly.

Over the counter remedies

There are three main over the counter remedies in the UK. All are suitable from birth, but they all work in a different way. It is therefore impossible to know exactly which one will work for your baby. Some will be given via a dropper before a feed, others can be mixed in with artificial milk and others are given on a sterilised spoon before a feed. Do head to Amazon.co.uk and look at the options and reviews for each product and see what you think.

Colief

Infacol

Gripe water

 

A word about Colic

Some babies develop colic from very early on. This is a sustained pattern of distress usually in the early to late evening, which happens every day for several weeks. It can be extremely distressing as you can’t figure out what to do to help soothe your baby. For support when your baby just won’t stop crying or settle, visit the UK charity Cry-sis website.

Further sources of support can be found on the Useful Links page

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Newborn Care

Newborn Jaundice

What it is, why it happens and how to treat it at home

Have you ever noticed how newborn babies often have a really healthy glowing tan? It’s as if they went on holiday to the south of France without you before they arrived. This glowing tan is often a sign of jaundice and whilst jaundice in adults is a sign of ill-health, in newborn babies it is very normal.

Ok. Are you ready for the science?

Cast your mind back to those school day science lessons. While the dreary teacher drones on in the background, you doodle love hearts and flowers in your notebook. (Just me? Oh well, never mind.)

Your teacher probably mentioned that the air that we breathe is made up of lots of gases. Oxygen is the essential one that we all need to provide energy for all our cells and organs. Air has about 21% oxygen in it. This is a perfect amount for our bodies to function well.

So, pregnant women breathe that 21% oxygen and the oxygen is absorbed by their bloodstream which then delivers the oxygen to all their organs. Because of that, by the time the blood reaches the placenta, it has about 16% oxygen in it. The placenta is where the oxygen in the mother’s blood gets passed over to the baby for him or her to use to power their own cells and organs.

Babies handle this lower level of oxygen really well because they have unique red blood cells with fetal haemoglobin molecules. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start an in-depth atom by atom description of haemoglobin. All you need to know is that fetal haemoglobin molecules are extra sticky when it comes to oxygen. That means that although there is only 16% oxygen passing over to the baby, the baby picks up all of it. They can make it work just as well as we do with our 21%.

What happens once a baby is born

As babies are born, they begin to breathe the air around them. They can use the 21% oxygen in that normal air, rather than relying on the oxygen in the bloodstream of their mum. This means they don’t need that extra sticky type of haemoglobin molecule. Because of that, their body starts to change from using fetal haemoglobin to creating adult haemoglobin molecules.

Being excellent at recycling from the start, their bodies break down the fetal haemoglobin into its various parts like iron and lots of proteins. Most of these parts are reused by the baby to create adult haemoglobin molecules. However, there is one part which is not reused, the yellow pigment called Bilirubin.

Bilirubin

Bilirubin is the cause of babies’ yellow skin. As the baby doesn’t need it, it gets rid of it. Some of the bilirubin will come out in the baby’s nappy. You may have noticed the transition in colour of your baby’s poo from sticky black tar, through various mixes of brown and green and on to a chicken korma or mustard-like colour. You can take this change as a very good sign that your baby is feeding well and adapting perfectly to life outside the womb.

The tan on your baby’s face, torso, and even limbs is caused by extra bilirubin that hasn’t exited via their nappy. You can tell if it is jaundice by pressing lightly on their nose. As you release the pressure the skin underneath will show the yellow more clearly.

As I’ve already said, jaundice is a normal reaction to being born, so in the majority of babies, it is nothing to be worried about. However, sometimes bilirubin levels can rise to such an extent that they can cause the baby problems.

When jaundice is a problem

Babies who are struggling to get rid of the bilirubin levels in their body can start to seem extra sleepy or lethargic. They often aren’t pooing or still have dark poos rather than yellow ones. They may not seem all that interested in eating and you may have trouble waking them up enough to feed.

If your baby has any of these symptoms, please contact your midwife or GP as soon as possible

Very few babies need extra treatment to help them reduce their bilirubin levels. The usual treatment is phototherapy, where they get to lie under a mattress which gives out UV light. You may have seen photos of this or noticed babies on the TV having this treatment. They are surrounded by a blue light source and often wear cute little sunglasses! The UV light helps to break down the bilirubin lying under the skin. Once it is broken down, the baby can poo it out.

Treating Jaundice at home

The good news is that just two minor alterations in your baby’s routine can reduce the risk of him or her needing hospital treatment.

First of all, make sure your baby is feeding regularly. As they feed, their body will move the bilirubin out of their system with the waste products. You’ll see it in the nappy!

Secondly, keep your baby in bright rooms during daylight hours. Natural daylight contains UV light, so you have your own free source of phototherapy! If you set the baby’s cot, pram or Moses basket next to a window, the daylight will help break down the bilirubin under the baby’s skin. Please don’t think that it needs to be direct sunlight as too much direct sunlight may cause the baby to overheat. We also live in the UK, where actual sunlight isn’t always available! Don’t worry, just keeping little one near the window will make a difference.

The key is to avoid putting your baby in a dark inner corner of the room far from the windows. You also don’t need to expose lots of the baby’s skin to the daylight. Their face will be enough surface area if it is cold, although if it is warm you can certainly take off their baby grow. Leave them with their vest on and arms out, but put a blanket over their bodies to keep them cosy.

So there you have it. A simple explanation of newborn jaundice and how to treat it yourself so that you don’t need to go back into hospital.

For more information on Jaundice, you can visit the NHS website here

You can also find information on charities and organisations which can help you with feeding problems on my useful links page.

 

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