Keep your baby happy and healthy
A guide to coping with 7 common ailments of the first year
by an excess of a chemical called bilirubin in the baby’s blood. Bilirubin is normally processed by the liver, but immature livers of newborn babies can fall behind on this task.
Approximately 15 to 20 percent of babies develop jaundice by their third day. In most cases, it disappears within about a week. When needed, treatment usually involves placing the baby under an ultraviolet light (available for home use).
Diarrhea, or frequent runny stools, usually results from a viral infection but also can be caused by a response to teething or antibiotics.
“If there’s an acute onset of diarrhea accompanied by fever and vomiting or lack of appetite, then you’re dealing with a virus,” Mahle says. “It’s self-limiting and will go away.” But, she adds, it may take up to two weeks. Keep your baby’s bottom clean and dry—especially when he has diarrhea—to prevent rashes.
Experts’ recommendation for dealing with diarrhea is to continue breastfeeding. If your baby is eating solid foods, stick to the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
If your baby is vomiting as well, prevent dehydration by continuing to breastfeed and giving an over-the-counter solution, such as Pedialyte, for 12 to 24 hours. Check with your pediatrician if your baby continues vomiting and develops a fever or if there is blood in his stool.
5. ear infections
Ear infections occur when the eustachian tubes, or the short ducts that connect the middle ear to the throat, are blocked by fluid and have become a breeding ground for bacteria. Ear infections are the most common childhood illness second to colds, although research shows that breastfed babies suffer far fewer than formula-fed babies.
Babies suffering from an ear infection may pull or rub their ears, cry when sucking or have trouble sleeping (lying down increases pressure on the eardrum). They also may run a fever.
If you suspect an ear infection, wait three days or so before calling your pediatrician, as some cases go away fairly quickly without medication, says Jay Gordon, M.D., a pediatrician in Santa Monica, Calif., and the author of Listening to Your Baby (Perigee, 2002). If your baby does need treatment, a 10-day course of antibiotics is standard.
You can ease your baby’s discomfort with a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (the latter only for babies older than 6 months). Never give aspirin, even baby aspirin, to a child: It has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a serious disease that affects the liver and brain.
Help relieve ear pressure by feeding your baby in a more upright position and keeping his head elevated when he’s sleeping by placing a book or pillow beneath one end of his mattress.