Welcoming a new baby to the family is something most parents joyously look forward to. But raising a newborn can be challenging, and there are several health conditions that parents should be aware of during the first weeks and months of an infant’s life.

Small babies often have a distended stomach after a large feeding, but during the time between feedings the stomach should be soft. A hard distended stomach is often caused by gas or constipation, which is not cause for alarm. But a child’s pediatrician should be contacted if the abdomen is swollen, the infant is vomiting, or if the baby has gone more than two days without having a bowel movement, as these symptoms can be the sign of an undiscovered intestinal issue.

Most newborns and young infants occasionally spit up after a feeding, but some babies suffer from painful acid reflux that can cause several issues. Infants with acid reflux may have issues gaining weight if they constantly expel the contents of their stomachs. Acid reflux can also cause pain as the stomach acid enters a baby’s esophagus, which can result in excessive crying and problems sleeping. There are several treatment options that parents can do at home to help a baby with reflux, such as do smaller feedings more often, keep a baby upright after feedings, and have the baby sleep at an incline to help keep stomach acid down. But more serious cases of reflux may require prescription liquid antacids, and in extreme cases surgery may be necessary to prevent permanent damage to the esophagus.

It is not uncommon for newborns to look slightly yellow shortly after birth—this is referred to as jaundice, and it occurs because the liver is not yet effective at removing bilirubin from the bloodstream. Mild cases typically resolve themselves, but the condition has to be closely monitored because if bilirubin levels in the blood become too high a newborn can suffer damage to the brain or nervous system. Bilirubin levels typically peak between 3 to 5 days old, so if a baby is discharged from the hospital at less than 3 days old it is important for the parents to make an appointment with a pediatrician within 2 days so the infant can examined. The typical treatment for jaundice is light therapy, which helps the body break down bilirubin in the blood.

Breathing problems in infants are often caused by blocked nasal passages; this issue can typically be resolved by using saline nose drops and a bulb syringe to clear the nose. But some newborns have more serious breathing problems that require immediate medical attention. If a newborn is breathing unusually fast, retracting during each breath (taking extremely deep breaths that causes the ribs to stick out), grunting while breathing, or has flaring nostrils while breathing it is important to take the child to the pediatrician right away. Concerns about a newborn’s breathing should never be ignored, whether he or she has one symptom of a problem or several symptoms.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Wu graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Currently, he holds a PhD and is an MD candidate (KSOM, USC) in integrative biology and disease. He is also an experienced writer and editor for many prestigious web pages. Brian values the ability of all ages to learn from the power of stories. His mission is to write about health conditions, educational topics and life situations in an entertaining way in order to help children understand their own life conditions and daily circumstances.