Posts Tagged ‘newborn’

When can your baby go home from the hospital?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

If yoBaby being weighedu just gave birth and are wondering when your baby will be discharged from the hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has guidelines for health care providers to use to decide when your baby can go home.

Careful consideration is given to the following factors:

  • The mother’s health and readiness to care for her child – Is she healthy? Does she have support at home?
  • The baby’s health – Has the baby successfully had at least two feedings in the hospital (either by breast or bottle)? Is the baby healthy?
  • The car seat – Do the parents have an appropriate one and do they know how to use it properly?
  • Life at home – Is the home safe for a baby? Are there illicit drugs, alcohol, a history of abuse, neglect or domestic violence in the home? Is there a history of mental illness in a parent?
  • Access to care – Does the mother have access to follow-up care for herself and her baby? Does she have transportation? Does she currently use or know of a clinic or doctor’s office where she and her baby can go for care?

The answers to these questions will help providers determine when a baby can be discharged from the hospital. The goal is to ensure that both mother and baby are cared for appropriately so that neither one will have issues that require going back into the hospital. By double checking on mom, baby, and home life ahead of time, the transition to home will be as safe and smooth as possible.

Preemies? Health problems?

Keep in mind that if your baby was born prematurely or with a medical condition, there will be  additional considerations to review before your baby will be ready for discharge. Read our article on Leaving the NICU to learn more.

Questions?  Send them to

For posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

Updated June 2017.


Why vitamin K is important for your newborn

Friday, September 12th, 2014

YourBabyRightAfterBirth_rdax_50Your baby will receive a shot of vitamin K soon after he is born. The vitamin K shot protects your baby from developing a rare, serious bleeding problem that can affect newborns.

Babies are not able to make vitamin K on their own and they are born with very small amounts in their bodies. Vitamin K is a very important nutrient which is needed for blood clotting so that bleeding stops. We get vitamin K from food and it is also made by the healthy bacteria that live in the intestines.   However, when a baby is born, his intestinal tract does not have enough healthy bacteria to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin K. Vitamin K is not easily transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy either. And although he can receive some vitamin K from breast milk, it is not enough.  It takes a while for your baby to start producing his own vitamin K. Therefore, receiving a shot of vitamin K immediately after birth helps your baby’s blood to coagulate and clot. This assists in protecting against possible abnormal bleeding in the body.

If a baby does not receive a vitamin K shot soon after birth, he may be at risk for a condition called Vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB. This occurs when a baby does not have enough vitamin K and his blood cannot clot. Not getting enough vitamin K puts your baby at risk for bleeding into his intestines or even brain. Babies who do not receive the vitamin K shot after birth are actually at risk for VKDB until they are six months old.

What is Torticollis?

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Torticollis literally means twisted neck. It is a something you have most likely had at one time or another—many of us have probably woken up with it after sleeping in an unusual position.  However it can also occur in newborns.

In newborns, it is called infant torticollis or congenital muscular torticollis and it is relatively common. Boys and girls develop it equally.  The cause is not exactly clear. It may occur if the baby’s head is in the wrong position while growing in the womb, or if the muscles or blood supply to the neck are damaged. It may also occur after a difficult birth, especially if the baby is very large or is delivered in a breech position.

In torticollis, the sternocleidomastoid muscle, the large, rope-like muscle that runs on both sides of the neck from the back of the ears to the collarbone, is stretched or pulled. If it tears, then it causes bleeding and bruising within the muscle. Scar tissue then develops and this causes the muscle to shorten and tighten, pulling the baby’s head to one side. The scar tissue forms a mass or lump that sometimes can be felt on the side of the neck.

Congenital muscular torticollis may be visible at birth or it may not become evident until several weeks later. The following are the most common symptoms:
• tilting of the baby’s head to one side
• the baby’s chin turns toward the opposite side
• a firm, small, one to two centimeter mass is present in the middle of the sternocleidomastoid muscle

Babies may experience symptoms differently. And the symptoms of torticollis may resemble other neck masses or medical problems, so it is always important to talk to your baby’s health care provider if you are concerned.
In most cases torticollis is diagnosed through a physical exam, but sometimes x-rays and ultrasound may also be utilized.

Treating torticollis involves stretching the neck muscle. Passive stretching and positioning are used in infants and small children. The best way to treat torticollis is to encourage your baby to turn his or her head in both directions. This will help to loosen tense neck muscles and tighten the loose ones. Also it is important to remember tummy time.  Tummy time  helps to build both neck and shoulder muscles and helps your baby get ready to crawl.  Tummy time is important for all babies—not just those with torticollis.

Most babies with torticollis improve with stretching and positioning exercises.  In some cases though, surgery to correct the neck muscle may be necessary. Again, if you think your baby may have torticollis, make sure to talk to your health care provider.

Gift ideas for the new mom

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

newbornYour friend recently had a baby and, not surprisingly, is exhausted. As much as she may want to be “super mom,” especially during the holidays, no woman can be everything to everyone. So do her a huge favor and offer a gift of help.  It won’t cost a dime and could mean the world to her.
     • Help with household chores. You can do the dishes, do a load of laundry, do her grocery shopping, or simply hold the baby while your friend takes a shower.
     • Offer to babysit at different times. Instead of going out, your friend may want to stay in the comfort of her own home and take a much needed nap. She may sleep longer and deeper knowing a trusted friend is taking care of the baby.
     • Prepare a few meals. It’s hard enough to take care of feeding a baby every couple of hours, let alone feeding yourself and your partner. Connect with some mutual friends or family members and make a series of meals that can be put in the freezer. Then they can be popped into the oven or microwave whenever needed.

Caring for a new baby can be a wonderful time in a woman’s life. But when you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted it’s hard to remember that the newborn days won’t last all that long. Helping your friend get through the first few weeks at home will make her better able to manage her time and energy and enjoy these first precious moments in her child’s life.

Inside your baby’s diaper

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

diapersThe following is an excerpt from Dr. Siobhan Dolan’s book, Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby.

New parents are often surprised at what they find in their baby’s diapers. A newborn’s stool looks much different than the stool of an older baby, toddler, or child. New parents may also be surprised to learn that a newborn needs a diaper change as many as eight times a day. Every time you baby eats, his brain sends a signal to his digestive system to release urine and stool. But don’t worry – feedings and diaper changes go down in number as your baby grows.

Just after birth, your baby’s stools are loose, black, and sticky. After a day or two, the stools of breastfed babies turn loose and mustard-colored, and contain what look like small seeds; formula-fed babies have soft, tan stools. After about a week your baby’s stools become slightly firmer.

Normal newborn stools can look like diarrhea, so if your baby actually has diarrhea, it can be hard to detect. A change in frequency or consistency of stools, an unusual smell, or blood in the stools can be a sign of diarrhea. If you’re not sure whether your baby’s stools are normal, call your baby’s provider.

You can learn more about Dr. Dolan’s book, watch a video, read excerpts, and even order a copy through this link.

Newborn screening and the March of Dimes

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

newborn-screening-picture1This year, the March of Dimes and other health organizations are commemorating the 50th anniversary of newborn screening. In 1959, the March of Dimes began to explore newborn screening (NBS) as a means to detect and prevent the catastrophic consequences of metabolic conditions such as PKU (phenylketonuria) on a large scale. Subsequently, we funded research into several genetic and metabolic diseases that can be tested at birth, expanding the concept of newborn screening as an essential component of maternal/child health care delivery. We have worked tirelessly to promote expanded newborn screening programs in every state and to obtain federal guidelines for newborn screening, which has improved and saved the lives of countless thousands of affected children.

Linus Pauling (1901-1994), winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954, received one of the earliest basic research grants awarded by the March of Dimes. Dr. Pauling proposed the concept of molecular disease, using sickle cell anemia as a model. His finding that sickle hemoglobin differs in a measurable way from normal hemoglobin introduced the idea that heritable changes in the structure of a molecule could lead to improper function and result in disease. Dr. Pauling’s work laid the groundwork for the techniques used in newborn screening and diagnosis of sickle cell anemia.

Robert Guthrie, MD (1916-1995) was a March of Dimes grantee who developed a simple blood test to detect PKU, a cause of brain damage and intellectual disability. Dr. Guthrie refined an earlier PKU test, making it possible to analyze a dried spot of blood on filter paper instead of a liquid blood sample, an easier and inexpensive method that could be used on a mass scale. His breakthrough ushered in an era of state-mandated newborn screening programs. In 1963, Massachusetts became the first state to pass a law making the Guthrie PKU test mandatory, and New York followed soon after. The year 1963 marks the birth of state-mandated newborn screening, whose 50th anniversary we recognize this year.

The March of Dimes went on to award grants to develop inexpensive screening tests for congenital hypothyroidism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and biotinidase deficiency. In 1992, we called for every state to establish built-in safeguards for their newborn screening programs so that babies born with potentially catastrophic but treatable metabolic disorders would get help in a timely fashion. In 2000, we proposed a national standard for NBS and applauded an American Academy of Pediatrics review for improvements to the nation’s newborn screening programs, insisting that the primary consideration should be the health of the infant.

In 2008, Congress passed the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act which established national guidelines on what conditions should be tested in newborn screening programs. The March of Dimes actively advocated in favor of its passage. At present, we promote 31 core conditions for newborn screening based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.

Rooming in with your newborn

Monday, July 1st, 2013

mom-and-newbornMany hospitals offer the option of keeping your newborn in the baby nursery while you’re in the hospital or letting your little one room in with you. Rooming in is becoming more popular these days. As always, there are pros and cons for each.

Rooming in allows you to have closer contact with your baby, respond to her needs quickly, breastfeed more often which can increase your milk supply faster. In many hospitals, family-centered care applies, which means that the same nurses are caring for both mom and baby, which can improve communication on health questions and foster better breastfeeding techniques and success. This can help mom feel more prepared when she leaves to go home. While this helps some women relax, other moms report that, with everyone coming in to check on her and the baby, they feel like they’re never able to rest with the baby there 24/7.

Traditional hospital nurseries offer centralized care under a nurse’s watchful eye. Tests, a bath, comforting of crying babies are performed in the nursery. Babies are brought to mom at feeding time. The best benefit touted of this model is allowing mom to get more rest… but the fact of the matter is that between phone calls, visitors, mom’s medical checks and tests, most new mothers are not really getting significant recuperative sleep.

Is there a best of both worlds? Some hospitals offer, or moms ask for, rooming in during the day and then having baby sleep in the nursery for several hours during the night. This would work for a nice nap time, too. Whether you choose this option or any other, the trick to rebuilding your strength and bonding with your baby is to sleep when your newborn sleeps. Exhaustion doesn’t help anyone.

What did you do with your newborn? Would you do the same thing with your next baby? What tips do you have for moms who are about to deliver?

Newborn jaundice

Friday, June 7th, 2013

infantJaundice is a yellow coloring of the skin and the whites of the eyes. It is caused by a build-up in the blood of a substance called bilirubin. Jaundice occurs in about 60 percent of all newborns.

A baby’s skin usually starts to turn yellow a few days after birth. In most cases, jaundice is mild and does not harm the baby. Mild jaundice goes away without treatment. However, babies with severe jaundice can have high bilirubin levels, which can pose a risk of brain damage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies be checked for jaundice with a physical exam, skin test or blood test before they leave the hospital. Babies should be examined again by a doctor or nurse at 3 to 5 days of age because this is the time when bilirubin levels are highest. When necessary, a baby can be treated to prevent bilirubin levels from getting too high.

Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in the blood. Each day some red blood cells in everyone’s body are recycled. Bilirubin forms as these cells break down in the recycling process. Normally, the liver removes bilirubin from the blood. The liver of a newborn may be too immature to keep up with bilirubin removal, causing bilirubin to build up in the blood. This build-up turns the skin and, sometimes, the white part of eyes yellow. Premature babies have especially immature livers, making jaundice more likely.

Breastfed babies are more likely than formula-fed infants to develop jaundice. However, jaundice occurs mainly in babies who are not nursing well. These babies may not get enough calories and may become dehydrated, both of which may contribute to jaundice. This should not be a reason to avoid breastfeeding, however, as breast milk is the ideal food for babies and provides many health benefits, including reducing the risk of infections. Breastfeeding mothers should nurse their babies at least 8 to 12 times a day for the first several days of life to help keep their baby’s bilirubin level down.

So what should new parents look for? Yellow coloring usually first appears on the face and in the whites of the eyes. You often can tell if your baby has jaundice by looking at your baby under natural daylight or in a room that has fluorescent lights. If you think there is a yellowish color, you should contact your baby’s health care provider.

Most babies with jaundice do not need treatment, but some do and it’s important to have the health care provider make that decision. Providers sometimes suggest steps you can take at home to help clear up mild jaundice. They may recommend increasing the number of feedings to encourage more bowel movements, which helps eliminate bilirubin.

If your baby has more severe jaundice, however, your provider may recommend treatment. Phototherapy is a treatment you may have seen in the hospital.  The baby, wearing only a small diaper, is placed under special white or blue lights called bili-lights. He wears shields to protect the eyes. The lights help change bilirubin into a form that can be eliminated easily in urine. In more serious cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.

For additional information about newborn jaundice contact the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Helping your baby sleep

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

New moms and dads can find it hard to get used to a baby’s sleeping habits. And baby can find it difficult to get into a routine. In this video, Dr. Siobhan Dolan visits a new mom to give her tips on how to put her newborn to sleep and how much sleep to expect he will need. See if it helps you.

The many benefits of kangaroo care

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

kangaroo-care-dadIf your baby is in the NICU, kangaroo care can seem like a life saver. Kangaroo care is a way to hold your baby so that there is as much skin contact between you and your baby as possible. It has wonderful benefits for both you and your baby.

For kangaroo care, your baby is placed upright on your bare chest.
• Ask the nurse for a warm blanket to cover you and your baby.
• Strong smells like perfume or cigarette smoke on you or your clothing can bother your baby, so be sure to wash before holding.
• Hold your baby for at least an hour in this position. Be sure to go to the bathroom and put your phone away before getting comfortable. Your baby needs your full attention.

Gentle, still touch is very important, especially for the most sick and fragile of babies. It might make you feel good to stroke your baby, but it doesn’t feel good to your baby in the NICU. Stroking can make a baby feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Touching without moving your hands is best.

Kangaroo care is good for your baby because it can:
• Keep your baby warm
• Stabilize your baby’s heart rate
• Help your baby gain weight
• Comfort your baby

It’s good for Mom and Dad too because:
• It can help you bond with your baby.
• It can stimulate a mother’s ability to make breast milk.
• It can reduce your stress and lift your spirits.
• It may help you become more confident parents.

Kangaroo care is safe and beneficial, even if your baby is connected to machines. Whatever your situation, kangaroo care is a precious way to be close to your baby. You will cherish this time. You can learn more about kangaroo care by looking at our Power Point presentation at this link.

The March of Dimes gratefully acknowledges Philips’ support of our NICU Family Support® and Close to MeSM programs