Welcoming a new bundle of joy into the world is a wonderful time. However, it can also bring unexpected roadblocks, especially when it comes to your baby’s health. Wondering what baby ailments are manageable at home or if you should call your provider can cause plenty of sleepless nights for new parents. To help ease your stress and keep your family safe, Ann Swisher, ARNP at UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics – Prairie Parkway, explains basic newborn first-aid tips for your little one.
Redness, bumps, and chapped skin around your baby’s diaper area can be concerning for new parents. To help prevent diaper rash, make sure to check your baby’s diaper frequently and change it promptly when wet. When possible, avoid wipes and use a washcloth, cloth wipes, or a damp paper towel. After baths, make sure to pat dry the diaper area thoroughly as well. It is also helpful to leave the diaper area open to air several times a day to help it stay dry. When changing the diaper, use an over the counter barrier ointment containing zinc oxide to help soothe redness and keep your baby comfortable. If there is no improvement or if you see signs of secondary infection, follow up with your baby’s provider. Signs of infection can include large areas of redness/warmth, purulence (pus) noted under the scabs, fevers, and new sores developing after six to seven days or if your child seems to be getting worse.
If red patches/bumps are appearing over your baby’s chest, tummy, arm creases or neck, it may be an indication that your little one is suffering from eczema. Ensure that the baby’s clothes, towels, and blankets are all being washed with a non-scented detergent and that there are no fragrances in their soap, shampoo, or lotions. This can especially affect their skin creases where moisture hides, as well as their chest as their drooling increases. Using a bib and patting dry the skin creases throughout the day helps to reduce the incidence. You can use a moisturizing cream or ointment over dry skin. Discuss with your provider what cream works best for your baby.
Is your baby sniffling and cranky? Unfortunately, it may mean your little love is suffering from a cold. To help with congestion relief, use nasal saline and suction nose as needed. Nasal saline can come in both drops and spray. Placing a humidifier in their room also helps them breathe easier. Due to their discomfort, don’t be surprised if they need smaller, more frequent feeds during this time either. If you are breastfeeding, make sure to continue to do so. If your baby is over two months of age, they can be given acetaminophen every four hours as needed for pain or fever relief. Cough and cold medications are not recommended for children under six years of age. It is also important to discuss any questions you have about safe medication for your baby with their provider. Newborn colds are not fun but they should resolve on their own after a few days. However, follow up with your baby’s provider if there is increased work of breathing that is unrelieved by nasal saline and suctioning, if your baby has less than three wet diapers in 24 hours, has increased fussiness, if there is a fever under the age of two months or a fever lasting for more than five days for babies over two months, or if you have other concerns.
Set aside a few hours for your family to take an infant and child CPR course to learn and practice proper techniques which will give you a complete insight over how to help your baby. Additionally, if your baby will be attending a daycare, be sure that your care provider is certified in these techniques.
If a baby is suddenly unable to cry or cough, something is probably blocking her airway and you'll need to help her get it out. She may make odd noises or no sound at all while opening her mouth. Her skin may turn red, pale, or blue. If she's coughing or gagging, it means her airway is only partially blocked. If that's the case, let her continue to cough. Coughing is the most effective way to dislodge a blockage. Above all, stay calm. Your baby reacts to your emotions as well and may become startled or additionally stressed if you react loudly.
If the baby isn't able to cough up the object, ask someone to call 911 or the local emergency number while you begin back blows and chest thrusts (see step 2, below). If you're alone with the baby, give two minutes of care, then call 911.
On the other hand, if you suspect that the baby's airway is closed because her throat has swollen shut, call 911 immediately. She may be having an allergic reaction – to food or to an insect bite, for example –or she may have an illness, such as croup. Also call 911 right away if the baby is at high risk for heart problems or if you witnessed the baby suddenly collapse.
Try to dislodge the object with back blows and chest thrusts.
First do back blows
If a baby is conscious but can't cough, cry, or breathe and you believe something is trapped in his airway, carefully position him face-up on one forearm, cradling the back of his head with that hand.
Place the other hand and forearm on his front. He is now sandwiched between your forearms.
Use your thumb and fingers to hold his jaw and turn him over so that he's facedown along your forearm. Lower your arm onto your thigh so that the baby's head is lower than his chest.
Using the heel of your hand, deliver five firm and distinct back blows between the baby's shoulder blades to try to dislodge the object. Maintain support of his head and neck by firmly holding his jaw between your thumb and forefinger.
If the object does not come out, place your free hand (the one that had been delivering the back blows) on the back of the baby's head with your arm along his spine. Carefully turn him over while keeping your other hand and forearm on his front.
Then do chest thrusts
Use your thumb and fingers to hold the baby's jaw while sandwiching him between your forearms to support his head and neck. Lower your arm that is supporting his back onto your thigh, still keeping the baby's head lower than the rest of his body.
Place the pads of two or three fingers in the center of the baby's chest, just below an imaginary line running between his nipples. To do a chest thrust, push straight down on the chest about 1 1/2 inches. Then allow the chest to come back to its normal position.
Do five chest thrusts. Keep your fingers in contact with the baby's breastbone. The chest thrusts should be smooth, not jerky.
Repeat back blows and chest thrusts
Continue alternating five back blows and five chest thrusts until the object is forced out or the baby starts to cough forcefully, cry, breathe or becomes unresponsive. If he's coughing, let him try to cough up the object.
If the baby becomes unresponsive
If a baby who is choking on something becomes unconscious, lower the baby to the ground and start CPR (see below). After each set of compressions and before attempting rescue breaths, open the baby's mouth, look for the blockage and remove it if you can
Never put your finger in the baby's mouth unless you actually see a blockage. If you can't see it and you put your finger in his mouth, you might accidentally push the blockage deeper into his throat. If you can see a blockage, remove it with your little finger.
Continue the sequence until the child revives or help arrives
Ensuring your baby is safe is a top priority for your growing family. Although these tips can help, they are not a substitute for professional care. Always speak to your baby’s provider if you have concerns over the well-being of your child and learn more about our pediatric services for your growing family.
Ann Swisher ARNP is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics – Prairie Parkway and is now welcoming new patients. Request an appointment today!
Our Baby ABC's series provides helpful tips for expectant families as they navigate pregnancy, birth, and the exciting years ahead. View the whole series for help on everything from labor to teething and learn more about our prenatal, birth, and pediatric services!