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May 27, 2024

Newborn Health 101: Understanding and Navigating 19 Common Conditions in Newborns

Are you a new parent? We totally understand what you are going through. Every day is a new challenge with new issues to deal with. Navigating the maze of new parenthood can be difficult. There are so many questions, whose answers you may be looking for.

In this article, we have attempted to summarise the major health issues any infant faces with the hope of making it easier for new parents. Read on to get a basic understanding of your child’s health and how to deal as a first responder, before you take your baby to the paediatrician.


Let’s start with the very basics – crying. Crying is the most natural way babies respond when they need anything. If your baby is crying, try changing the nappy, feeding the baby, stroking the baby, cuddling, giving a bath or massage, holding the baby in your arms and swaying the hands or rocking the cradle. However, if the crying won’t stop, consult a paediatrician for more help.

Noisy Breathing

Newborns breathe through their noses, not their mouths. However, a baby’s nose is a small air passage. Hence even a little mucus can make the passage smaller, leading to noise during breathing. This is a normal phenomenon, so no need to panic. However, if the noise is severe and persistent, consult a doctor.


Sometimes, during a feed, the mother’s milk can be released too fast, causing the baby to cough. As the baby gets used to this process, the coughing will go away. However, if your infant continues to cough, consulting a paediatrician is suggested, to ensure there’s no issue with the baby’s lungs or the digestive system.

Irregularities in bowel movements

The hospital staff will monitor your baby’s first urination and bowel movement after birth to ensure there are no irregularities. The first one or two bowel movements can be dark green or black and very slimy. This is known as meconium, a substance that remains in the infants’ intestines when they are born. The meconium has to pass within the first 48 hours of a child’s birth. However, if it doesn’t the doctor may conduct investigations to ensure there are no problems with the lower bowel.

Sometimes, newborns have little blood in their stool for the first few days. This usually occurs due to development of cracks in the anus during stooling. Usually, this is harmless, but don’t forget to check with your paediatrician to ensure there’s no additional irregularity.

Cold and Flu

Children are more vulnerable to cold and flu than adults, and infants more so. Why? Because their immune system is still developing, hence unable to fight off an infection on its own. Therefore, it is essential to get the proper vaccinations from paediatricians. Also find out the over-the-counter medications that you can give your baby during fever, cold or pain.


A very common paediatric ailment, colic is characterised by spells of intense crying that lasts for at least three hours. This can happen more than three times a week and is mostly experienced by infants two weeks to four months old. But not all babies experience this.

Colic can be caused due to indigestion or intolerance to certain types of food such as wheat or milk. Colic is usually treated by changing the infant’s diet. During the intense crying periods, you can gently pat the back of your baby to provide temporary relief. Paediatricians may also suggest other soothing techniques such as feeding the baby slowly or dressing the baby in cooling clothes on hot days.

Diaper Rashes

Diapers are a lifesaver. But they can lead to skin rashes too. Diaper candidiasis and diaper irritant dermatitis are two of the most common types of diaper rash.

Diaper candidiasis is a fungal infection that looks like small red or pink bumps, mainly concentrated around the groin. This kind of rash is usually treated using antifungal ointment.

Diaper irritant dermatitis, on the other hand, occurs due to irritation to the skin from urine or stool. It’s characterised by pink or red patches on the skin that are covered by the diaper. Frequently changing diapers and using hypoallergenic wipes are a common way of preventing as well as treating this. The doctor may prescribe a thick barrier cream with zinc oxide to treat this too.

Bloated Belly

Some infants have a bloated stomach in between feeds that can be too hard to touch. Most often, this is a case of constipation or gas. But it can be a sign of other ailments too. Consulting your paediatrician, especially if this continues for long can be a good idea.

Ear Infection

Another very common issue faced by infants is ear infections. This can be caused by the buildup of fluid behind the eardrum leading to redness inside your baby’s ears and pain. Infection can also lead to fever and other symptoms.

Some children may also suffer from chronic infection which can be revealed as repeated cold-like ailments. The best way to prevent or deal with this is to get your child’s ear checked by the paediatrician at regular intervals.

Ear infections are usually treated using antibiotics. Your paediatrician may also provide tips on how to prevent future infections.

Diarrhoea and Vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting in children are usually caused by a virus. They can also be caused by food. They are usually treated using fluids and probiotics. The most important thing here is to monitor your infant for signs of dehydration such as dry cracked lips, a decrease in tears, and wet diapers due to frequent urination.

Baby Acne

Surprised that infants can get acne? It’s true. Baby acne is a very common paediatric skin condition that is most commonly seen in babies 3-6 months old. Pimples can appear on the cheeks and forehead of babies who crawl or play on their stomachs. Baby acne is usually treated with over-the-counter medication.

Hand-foot-mouth disease

A virus-induced disease, hand-foot-mouth disease shows itself as rashes in the palms and soles or sores in the mouth. However, all rashes are not hand-foot-mouth disease.

This is a contagious disease, mostly at its peak during the first week. The symptoms are treated with fluids and supportive care. One of the main complications of this disease is dehydration due to blisters in the mouth. Hence it is essential to monitor your baby for signs of dehydration.

Bacterial Conjunctivitis

A common condition affecting one or both eyes, bacterial conjunctivitis appears as watery eyes, redness and discharge from the eyes. This is usually caused when the infant touches the eyes with dirty hands or is exposed to someone who has it. It can also be caused due to exposure to excessive bright light.


Newborns have immature liver which, sometimes, may not remove bilirubin from the blood effectively. This can lead to jaundice. Like adults, the symptoms of jaundice in infants also include a yellowish colour in the white of eyes as well as skin.

Knowing your infant has jaundice can be daunting as a parent. However, there’s nothing to worry about. Follow your paediatrician’s instructions carefully to ensure your baby recovers quickly.


At times the tonsils may get inflamed leading to tonsillitis. This is usually caused by a bacteria in your child’s mouth named Streptococcus pneumonia. Tonsillitis is usually treated using antibiotics. However, severe cases may require tonsillectomy surgery.

Cradle Cap

Sometimes infants have oily, scaly or patchy skin on the scalp, commonly known as cradle cap. These patches may appear as yellow or flaky white. These scales usually loosen up and go away with daily bathing. However, if they are too hard to remove, consult a doctor. Your doctor may recommend a medicated shampoo or other treatment. Do not try to forcibly remove these scales or scratch the scalp to avoid injuring the scalp or leaving permanent scars.

Forcep Marks

The usage of forceps during delivery can leave red marks or superficial scrapes on the newborn’s head and face. In general, there’s nothing to worry about. They generally disappear in a few days. A flat and firm lump may also develop due to minor damage to the skin tissue. This also goes away within the first two months.

Birth Injuries

It is unfortunate but sometimes babies can be injured during birth, especially those born after a difficult or long labour or those who are very large. In most cases, newborns quickly recover from these injuries, however, sometimes the injuries can persist.

A common injury is a broken collarbone, which generally heals quickly. Don’t be alarmed if a small lump appears at the fracture site after a few weeks, this is a sign that the new bone is forming to repair the injury.

Another common injury is muscle weakness which is caused by pressure or stretching of nerves attached to the muscles during labour. The weak muscles usually appear on one side of the face, one arm or one shoulder. They usually gain their strength after several weeks.

The most essential thing is to ask your paediatrician how to hold your baby if you come to know of any such birth injury.

Blue Baby

Some babies may have mildly blue or purple feet and hands. This is quite normal. If the feet and hands turn blue from cold, they should turn pink when they are warm. Sometimes the face, lips and tongue of a newborn may appear slightly blue, this is from crying hard. The colour should vanish as soon as the baby is calm. However, if the blue skin colouring continues, it can be a sign that the lungs or heart are not functioning properly and the baby is not receiving enough oxygen. Consult a doctor immediately.

How Should You Handle Your Baby?

Now that you have a holistic idea about common conditions, let us discuss a few general things that you may find useful as a new parent. The first of them is how to handle your baby. Yes, if you are new to handling an infant, this can be daunting. Here are a few things that you need to keep in mind:

Keep your hands clean

Wash your hands or use a sanitiser before touching your baby. The immune system of newborns is immature, and hence they are more susceptible to catching infections. Ensure everyone who touches a baby washes or sanitises their hands before doing so.

Provide support to your baby’s neck and head

Cradling the head while carrying a baby is very important, especially when the baby is upright or when you lay it down.

Avoid shaking your baby

This has to be avoided at all costs. Shaking can lead to bleeding in the brain which can be fatal. Do not wake your baby by shaking them, blow gently at the cheek or tickle your baby’s feet instead.

Fasten your baby safely

Ensure to fasten your baby while using a stroller, carrier or car seat. Avoid any activity that can be too rough. Finally, avoid any rough play with infants such as throwing them in the air or jiggling them on the knee.

A Final Word

Parenthood is an unbelievable journey filled with different kinds of emotions. The first few hours or days are crucial because this is when the first bit of bonding starts. Physical closeness brings emotional attachment that continues lifelong. Spend as much time as possible with your newborn, skin-to-skin contact is crucial at this stage.

Keep a lookout for signs of medical issues discussed in this article. Seek medical attention whenever you feel unsure about something. And most importantly enjoy this phase of your life.

Require expert advice or specialized treatment? Please arrange an appointment with our specialist.

Dr Vidya Theivanayagi Natthondan
Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist

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