Usually, the features that may make a normal newborn look strange are temporary. In the eyes of the adoring parent, every infant looks like the perfect baby anyway.
Following an uncomplicated natural delivery, mothers should have the opportunity to hold their baby minutes after birth.
In most cases, infants seem to be in a state of quiet alertness during the first hour or so after delivery.
It’s a great time for the mother and her newborn to get acquainted and begin the bonding process. But do not despair if circumstances prevent you from meeting your infant right away.
You will have plenty of quality time together soon, and there’s no scientific evidence that the delay will affect the infant’s health, behavior, even the relationship with the mother over the long run.
During the first several weeks, you’ll notice that much of the time your baby tends to keep his or her fists clenched, elbows bent, hips and knees flexed, and arms and legs held close to the front of his or her body. This position is similar to the fetal position during the last months of pregnancy. Infants who are born prematurely may display several differences in their posture, appearance, activity, and behavior compared with full-term newborns.
You can also look at the reflexes or reactions to stimulations. Infants are born with a number of instinctual responses to stimuli, such as light or touch, known as primitive reflexes, which gradually disappear as the baby matures.
These reflexes include the sucking reflex, which triggers an infant to forcibly suck on any object put in the mouth. Grasp reflex, which causes an infant to tightly close the fingers when pressure is applied to the inside of the infant’s hand by a finger or other object.
Moro reflex, or startle response, which causes an infant to suddenly throw the arms out to the sides and then quickly bring them back toward the middle of the body whenever the infant has been startled by a loud noise, bright light, strong smell, sudden movement, or other stimuli.
Also, due to the immaturity of their developing nervous systems, young infants’ arms, legs, and chins may tremble or shake, particularly when they are crying or agitated.
In the first weeks, infants usually spend most of their time sleeping. This may be even more exaggerated during the first day or two of a newborn’s life whose mothers received certain types of pain medications or anesthesia during the labor or delivery.
Frequently, new parents become concerned about their newborn’s breathing pattern, particularly with the increased cases of occurrence of sudden infant death syndrome. Parents should understand that it’s normal for young infants to breathe somewhat irregularly.
Another important parameter to closely monitor is the sleeping and breathing patterns. When an infant is awake, his or her breathing rate may vary widely, sometimes exceeding 60 breaths per minute, particularly when the little one is excited or following a bout of crying.
The normal breathing rate for a newly born should always be below 60 breaths per minute that is always recorded by use of a stop watch and baby’s abdominal respiratory cycles.
Newborns will also commonly have periods during which they stop breathing for about 5 to 10 seconds and then start up again on their own. This is known as periodic breathing, which is more likely to occur during sleep and is considered very normal.
However, if the infant stops breathing for longer stretches of time, it’s considered an emergency and should contact a doctor or pediatrician immediately or go to the nearest clinic.
Although talking for babies cannot come until much later, the newborn will produce a symphony of noises especially high pitched squeaks in addition to the obligatory crying. Sneezing and hiccups also occur very frequently and do not indicate infection, allergies, and digestive problems in newborns.
The author is a doctor working at Rwamagana District Hospital, Eastern Province.