MOM’S CORNER : Birth: your baby’s first moment outside the womb

A FIRST TIME MOTHER is usually alarmed at the sight of a new born baby. Some events about the baby seem frightening. But these events need not to be alarming as they appear. Here is what to watch out for:

A FIRST TIME MOTHER is usually alarmed at the sight of a new born baby. Some events about the baby seem frightening. But these events need not to be alarming as they appear. Here is what to watch out for:

First Breath

Watching a baby take its first breath is the most dramatic and exciting event at birth. Some babies howl loudly for several minutes; others emit one or two cries then go into quiet breathing.

Nature leaves nothing to chance, babies practice breathing movements in the womb from a very early age. Some mothers feel these movements in the womb as rapid pulsations over the lower part of the abdomen.

Baby’s color

Most babies breathe spontaneously and normally at birth, although it is customary for the mid wife to gently clear the baby’s nose and mouth, and to note the breathing pattern, heart rate, skin color, muscle tone and general activity.

Babies are usually blue at the moment of birth but this is quickly followed by a healthy pink color that spreads over the face, trunk and limbs. It usually takes a little longer for the fingers and toes to become pink.

Slow starters

Occasionally there might be a slight delay before breathing begins. The mid wife encourages the baby by gently rubbing or stroking his toes. Sometimes there is a longer delay before the baby begins to breathe.

There are reasons for this. The ‘breathing centre’ in the brain, for example, is sometimes a little depressed following a difficult labor or delivery. Likewise, large doses of painkillers given to the mother during labor might also depress a baby’s ‘breathing centre’.

Medical staff can often predict when a baby is likely to be slow to breathe and arrange a pediatrician to be present at birth.

The pediatrician gently clears the baby’s air way by passing a suction catheter into the nose and mouth. Then a small soft mask is gently placed over the baby’ mouth and nose, and a few puffs of oxygen are given through the mask.

Normally, this is enough to start the baby breathing. If not, a narrow tube is passed through the mouth and guided between the vocal cords using a bright torch- a procedure known as ‘intubation’.

Puffs of oxygen are given through the tube until the baby starts to breathe, then the tube is promptly removed and the baby is yours to hold.

With these procedures in mind, there is no need to be worried if you see the hospital staff hurriedly attending to your baby soon after birth.

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