If only babies could tell us how they are feeling. While from birth babies seek to communicate with us, at least for their first year or so your baby will be dependent upon you to observe cues of both physical and emotional wellness. This responsibility can seem daunting, especially if this is your first baby. However there are a number of cues which can assist you to develop a sense of knowing about your child’s health and wellbeing, which will in turn better enable you to spot initial signs of discomfort or illness.
It is important that your baby receives regular check-ups from a suitably trained and experienced midwife, nurse or doctor, to ensure your baby is growing well and to assist in early detection of issues. In between times, if you’re changing 6 to 8 wet nappies a day, this is a good sign that your baby is getting enough milk. This, along with a weight gain at every well-baby check-up provides an indication of adequate nutrition, rather than how long or how often your baby feeds from day to day.
Turning toward your voice or a new sound, starting at loud noises, and quieting when music plays are good signs that both your baby’s hearing and their cognitive ability to discern between sounds is developing. Keep in mind that it can take a few weeks for your baby to begin to filter out the white noise of daily existence outside the womb. Over time your baby will begin to shown more interest in some sounds over others. Music however tends to be a common love of babies. The trick is discovering just what kind of music lover your baby is!
During their time in the womb, your heartbeat, voice and warmth provided comfort and security to your developing baby. While most newborns do cry a lot, if your baby often calms at your touch or the sound of your voice when you speak gently to them, this is a clear sign that they are bonding with you and developing emotionally. Hearing your voice, being wrapped and held close to your heart, and feeling your body heat all mimic your baby’s peaceful time in the womb and assist in developing emotional wellbeing.
For the first weeks of your baby’s life, feeding, sleeping and crying take up the majority of their time. However from time to time you may discover your infant staring intently at you, and be unable to resist staring back with equal interest into your little one’s eyes. This enraptured attention is often referred to as ‘baby gazing’ and provides evidence of your baby’s desire to learn about her world and the most important figures in it. In addition, as your baby begins gaining control of their eye muscles and focusing on targets, you should observe at least a few short stints each day when your baby is quietly and attentively observing the world and starting to learn about it.
As mentioned most babies cry a lot. However just as older children and adults have many tones of voice, so too babies have many ‘tones of crying.’ While initially your baby’s crying may sound a little like white noise, with no discernible difference, most parent’s will begin to detect different sorts of crying. These might include crying that is associated most with hunger, tiredness, discomfort or frustration, each with its own unique characteristics. However you may also detect a more urgent and shrill cry as your baby tries to express pain. It is this cry, along with any other physical symptoms that may tell you that your baby is unwell.
Colour, tone and temperature are perhaps the easiest symptoms of wellness and illness to detect. If your baby is alert, a nice pinkish colour and feels neither cold nor hot to the touch they are likely well. If however your baby seems listless, unusually sleepy, very hot or cold to the touch or their skin takes on an unnatural colour, it is likely your baby is unwell. Depending on the severity of these symptoms and your experience with them, further investigation may well be required.
Should your baby demonstrate behaviours or symptoms that are out of the ordinary or concerning, seeking assistance from a suitably qualified health professional can ensure your child’s needs are met. Selecting a health professional for your baby is much the same as selecting one for yourself. Just as you do, your baby will benefit from a health professional who is caring, respectful and attentive towards them. In addition, choosing a health professional whom you trust and respect will best ensure you are provided with both information and reassurance when your child is unwell.