9 baby health worries answered by our health visitor

From constipation to immunisations, our health visitor tackles your baby health worries...

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Immunisations – speak to your doctor about the best time to have them

1) Sticky eye solution

Q. How can I cure my newborn’s sticky eye?

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A. In the first few days following delivery, babies may get a discharge from their eyes, usually after coming into contact with amniotic fluid. This is easily managed by bathing the eye regularly with cooled boiled water and cotton wool. It’s important to wipe the eye from the inside (near the nose) to the out, using a fresh cotton wool ball for each wipe. Strict hand washing before and after will prevent spread of infections.

2) Can I leave immunisations until after our holiday?

Q. We plan to be on holiday at the same time as my baby’s immunisations are due. Does it matter if they’re a few days late?

A. It’s important that you stick to the recommended immunisation schedule. However, you have to be practical too. Travelling with a young baby is stressful anyway, so you don’t want him feeling ill as well. After immunisation it’s not unusual for babies to develop a temperature, be a little irritable and get redness or swelling at the injection site. So it’s likely you may want to keep an extra close eye on your little one and be ready to treat any symptoms. Speak to your doctor. Depending on where you’re going and for how long, it may be better to wait until you’re back home.

3) Is she hiccupping too much?

Q. My baby often gets hiccups. I find it really worrying. Is it normal and how do I stop them?

A. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm muscle in the tummy area contracts, and causes quick intakes of breath. The exact cause is not known. Although it’s natural to worry, hiccups are completely harmless and often pass in a few minutes. Comfort your baby in the same way you would if she was upset or needed winding, and offer breast milk too, or cooled boiled water if you’re bottle feeding.

4) I’m worried about postnatal depression

Q. I suffered postnatal depression (PND) after my first baby was born. How can I prevent it from happening again?

A. There’s no hard and fast way of preventing PND recurring. However, the good thing is you know the signs to look out for such as irritability, anxiety and extreme tiredness, so you can do your best to avoid it taking over your life again.

  • Confiding in someone is one of the best protectors, so chat daily to friends and family.
  • Sharing experiences is crucial. Look for counselling or support groups in your area.
  • Baby massage is particularly useful for women experiencing postnatal depression, as it allows specific time to get to know your baby.
  • Every birth and baby are different. You’re more realistic about what to expect and understand difficulties pass. Look after yourself and, hopefully, this was a one-off experience for you.

5) Cradle cap – what is it?

Q. What is cradle cap and how can I get rid of it?

A. Cradle cap (know as seborrhoeic dermatitis) is a very common skin condition affecting newborns to toddlers. Glands on the scalp produce too much oil, which dries to form flaky, crusty patches. It typically appears on the scalp, face, neck and behind

the ears. Parents worry because it looks odd on their lovely baby, but it‘s harmless. No matter how long it lasts there’s no long-term effect on the skin or hair growth.

The best treatment is to stimulate the scalp with regular head-brushing with a soft baby brush, even if she has no hair. This stimulates the scalp to knock off dead cells and flakes and removes excess oil.

If the head is particularly crusty, gently massage some olive oil into the scalp in the evening, leave on overnight and brush the head in the morning before washing the area with a mild shampoo.

6) Is my baby constipated?

Q. I’m worried my 6-week-old baby is getting constipated. He seems to squirm around and looks uncomfortable before he does a poo. Is there anything I can do to help?

A. It can be difficult to work out if a young baby is constipated as his bowel habits take a while to settle. As his digestive system develops you may notice him wriggling around and making faces after feeding. Although it looks uncomfortable it’s perfectly normal and not an indication that something’s wrong.

Practising regular, gentle baby massage techniques can ease problems such as constipation or wind and will help a baby cope with discomfort while he relaxes and gains comfort from your touch. If your baby’s stools are becoming hard and infrequent try offering extra cooled boiled water to drink, and encourage him to move by giving him plenty of opportunity to kick around at nappy changing time.

7) Should I postpone his immunisations?

Q. My baby has a cold. Should I postpone his immunisations?

A. If your baby has a minor illness such as a cold, without any fever, it’s generally recommended that you go ahead with an immunisation. Babies can have many colds or sniffles, and waiting until he’s completely free of symptoms could delay the schedule
for a long time, leaving him unprotected. If he has a fever, however, postpone the jab until he’s better. Always discuss how your baby is with your nurse beforehand if you’re unsure.

8) Why is my baby’s head flat?

Q. I’ve noticed my baby’s head is flat at the back. Should I be worried?

A. Having a flat head is known officially as plagiocephaly and is caused by a combination of two things – putting your baby to sleep on his back (to minimise the risk of cot death, and which medical advice states to be the safest sleeping position) and his soft skull bones which mould to pressure. Generally, as a baby develops he’ll begin to move more, turn his head to look around and roll over which leads to a gradual correction of the previous ‘flat head’.

In the meantime, encourage him into other positions when he’s awake. Resting your baby on your chest and allowing a little play time when nappy changing can help build up the amount of time your baby will tolerate on his front, and allow the head relief from pressure at the back.

9) When should I see the doctor?

Q. How do I know when my baby really needs to see the doctor and when I should wait? I don’t want to overreact.

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A. It’s always acceptable to seek advice as signs of illness in babies need close attention. Some may be obvious – for example, a temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes. More subtle concerns may be a drowsy tot who isn’t feeding, or one whose cry is different to normal. These signs are just as valid. Never worry about asking for medical advice – even if you’ve seen your doctor that day, consult her again or speak to NHS Direct, an out-of-hours GP or go to casualty if you need to.

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