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In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask experts to answer readers’ questions about a wide range of topics, including some of the oldest — and most cherished — medical myths out there.
In our March-April 2011 issue, we asked Anne Hansen, MD, MPH, medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Hospital Boston, whether or not newborns can go outside.
Q: I’ve heard that I can’t take my newborn outside for a month. Is this true?
The idea that babies have to stay inside the house for several weeks after they’re born is FALSE. In fact, as long as your baby is healthy, getting some fresh air can be great for mom and baby if you take a few precautions.
First, be careful not to overdress or underdress your baby when you leave the house.
Your best bet is to put as many layers on her as you’re wearing yourself, and keep a blanket handy.
Second, be sure to keep her out of direct sunlight.
“Newborns’ delicate skin burns easily, and that kind of early skin damage can increase their lifelong risk of skin cancer,” says Hansen says.
“Keep them fully shaded with clothing or an umbrella.”
And third, while there’s no preventing your baby from getting sick, try to stay away from places where you know there are people who are ill.
What’s most important, however, is for baby to have a happy, healthy, and well-rested mom, Hansen says.
“And natural light, exercise, and fresh air can help.”
What is the normal weight for a newborn?
From your baby’s first day, doctors will keep track of weight, length, and head size.
Growth is a good indicator of general health. Babies who are growing well are generally healthy, while poor growth can be a sign of a problem.
How Big Are Newborns?
Newborns come in a range of healthy sizes.
Most babies born between 37 and 40 weeks weigh somewhere between 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams) and 8 pounds, 13 ounces (4,000 grams).
Newborns who are lighter or heavier than the average baby are usually fine.
But they might get extra attention from the doctors and nurses after delivery to make sure there are no problems.
Different things can affect a baby’s size at birth.
The length of the pregnancy is important.
Babies born around their due date or later tend to be larger than those born earlier.
Other factors include:
Size of parents.
Big and tall parents may have larger-than-average newborns; short and petite parents may have smaller-than-average newborns.
If you have twins, triplets, or more, you can count on your babies being a bit small.
Multiples have to share their growing space in the uterus, and they’re often born early, which leads to small size at birth.
First babies are sometimes smaller than brothers or sisters born later.
Girls tend to be smaller, boys larger, but the differences are slight at birth.
Mom’s health during pregnancy.
Things that can lead to a lower birth weight include a mother with high blood pressure or heart problems; or one who used cigarettes, alcohol, or illegal drugs during the pregnancy.
If the mother has diabetes or is obese, the baby may have a higher birth weight.
Nutrition during pregnancy.
Good nutrition is vital for a baby’s growth — before and after birth.
A poor diet during pregnancy can affect how much a newborn weighs and how the infant grows.
Gaining a lot of weight can make a baby more likely to be born bigger than average.
Baby’s health. Medical problems, including some birth defects and some infections during the pregnancy, can affect a child’s birth weight and later growth.
What About Preemies?
Premature babies generally are smaller and weigh less than other newborns.
A preemie’s weight will largely depend on how early he or she was born.
The time an infant missed being in the womb was growing time, so the baby has to do that growing after birth.
Many pre-term babies are classified as having “low birth weight” or “very low birth weight.” In medical terms:
Low birth weight means a baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams) at birth.
That’s the case for about 1 in every 12 babies in the United States, so it’s quite common.
Very low birth weight means a baby weighs less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces (1,500 grams).
Most babies with low birth weight or very low birth weight were born prematurely.
Premature babies get special medical attention right away after they’re born. A specialist called a neonatologist may help care for them.
Many preemies spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) while they get medical care.
Is Bigger Better?
A baby with chubby cheeks and dimpled thighs once was many people’s picture of a healthy newborn.
But a baby born much larger than average may have special medical problems that need attention.
Some very large babies — especially those born to mothers with diabetes, including gestational diabetes — may have problems for a few days keeping blood sugar levels up.
They might need extra feedings or even IV (given into a vein) glucose to keep those levels from falling too low.
Will My Baby Lose Weight?
Yes, at first. Babies are born with some extra fluid, so it’s normal for them to drop a few ounces when they lose that fluid in the first few days of life.
A healthy newborn is expected to lose 7% to 10% of the birth weight, but should regain that weight within the first 2 weeks or so after birth.
During their first month, most newborns gain weight at a rate of about 1 ounce (30 grams) per day.
They generally grow in height about 1 to 1½ inches (2.54 to 3.81 centimeters) during the first month.
Many newborns go through a period of rapid growth when they are 7 to 10 days old and again at 3 and 6 weeks.
Should I Be Concerned?
Newborns are so small, and it can be hard to know if your baby is gaining weight the way he or she should.
You may worry that your baby has lost too much weight in the first few days or isn’t taking enough breast milk or formula.
If so, talk to your doctor, who may ask you about:
How many feedings a day your baby gets.
A breastfed baby may feed about 8 or more times in a 24-hour period; formula-fed babies usually eat less often, perhaps every 3 to 4 hours.
A lactation (breastfeeding) counselor can make suggestions to increase comfort and improve technique, if a mom needs extra help.
How much your baby eats at each feeding.
A baby generally nurses for at least 10 minutes, should be heard to swallow after 3 or 4 sucks, and should seem satisfied when done.
At this age, formula-fed babies may drink up to 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 milliliters) at a time.
How often your baby pees.
A breastfed baby may have only 1 or 2 wet diapers a day until the mother’s milk comes in.
Expect about 6 wet diapers by 3 to 5 days of age for all babies. After that, babies should have at least 6 to 8 wet diapers a day.
How many bowel movements your baby has each day, and what they’re like. Newborns may have only one poopy diaper a day at first.
Poop is dark and tarry the first few days, then becomes soft or loose and greenish-yellow by about 3 to 4 days. Newborns usually have several poopy diapers a day if breastfed and fewer if formula-fed.
What Else Should I Know?
Being small or large at birth doesn’t mean a baby will be small or large later in childhood or as an adult.
Plenty of tall teens began life as small babies, and the biggest baby in the family can grow up to be a petite adult.
By the time they’re adults, kids tend to resemble their parents in size.
Genetics, as well as good nutrition and your attention, will play a large part in how your baby grows in the years to come.
Whether your baby starts out large, small, or average, in the next few months you can expect your little one to keep growing fast.
How do you get rid of a baby's hiccups?
Baby hiccups are caused by a contraction of the diaphragm and the quick closing of the vocal cords.
The rapid closing of the vocal cords is what creates the sound of hiccups.
Since hiccups tend to bother adults, many people assume they bother babies as well.
However, babies are usually not affected by them.
In fact, many babies can sleep through a bout of hiccups without being disturbed, and hiccups rarely interfere with or have any effect on a baby’s breathing.
But if you want to get rid of your baby’s hiccups, here are some tips:
- Burp your baby.
- Give them a pacifier.
- Let the hiccups run their course.
- Feed your baby gripe water.
1. Take a break and burp
Taking a break from a feeding to burp your baby may help get rid of the hiccups, since burping can get rid of excess gas that may be causing the hiccups.
Burping will also help because it places your baby into an upright position.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests burping your bottle-fed baby after every 2 to 3 ounces.
If your baby is breastfed, you should burp them after they switch breasts.
2. Use a pacifier
Infant hiccups don’t always start from a feeding.
When your baby starts to hiccup on their own, try allowing them to suck on a pacifier, as this will help relax the diaphragm and may help stop the bout of hiccups
3. Let them stop on their own
More often than not, your baby’s hiccups will stop on their own.
If they aren’t bothering your baby, then you can just let them run their course.
If you don’t interfere and your baby’s hiccups don’t stop on their own, let their doctor know.
While rare, it’s possible for hiccups to be a sign of a more serious medical issue.
4. Try gripe water
If your baby seems to be in discomfort because of their hiccups, then you may want to try feeding them gripe water.
Gripe water is a combination of herbs and water that is believed by some to help with colic and other intestinal discomforts.
The types of herbs can vary and may include ginger, fennel, chamomile, and cinnamon.
Though gripe water has not been shown to help with hiccups in babies, it’s a fairly low-risk product.
Before you give your baby anything new, it’s always recommended that you discuss it with your baby’s doctor.
There are a few ways to help prevent hiccup episodes.
However, it’s difficult to prevent your baby’s hiccups completely as the causes aren’t always clear. Try these methods to help prevent hiccups:
Make sure your baby is calm when you feed them.
This means not waiting until your baby is so hungry that they’re upset and crying before their feeding begins.
After a feeding, avoid heavy activity with your baby, such as bouncing up and down or high-energy play.
Keep your baby in an upright position for 20 to 30 minutes after each meal.
When are hiccups cause for concern?
Hiccups are considered normal for an infant who is younger than 12 months old.
They can also occur while the baby is still in the womb.
However, if your baby gets hiccups a lot, particularly if they’re also upset or agitated when hiccupping, it’s a good idea to talk to your baby’s doctor.
This could be a sign of other medical issues.
Also, talk to a doctor if your baby’s hiccups are disturbing their sleep or if bouts of hiccups continue to happen often after your child’s first birthday.
It’s important to note that doctors advise that you avoid many of the stereotypical cures for hiccups when your baby gets them.
For instance, don’t startle your baby or pull their tongue.
These methods don’t usually work for infants, and they may do more harm than good.
Learn more: The 6 best colic remedies »
It’s not always clear what causes a given bout of hiccups in infants.
However, as long as your baby is not vomiting with their hiccups, does not seem bothered by them, and is under the age of 1, hiccups can be a normal part of development.
The hiccups should go away by the time your baby reaches their first birthday.
However, if they continue after that time, or if your baby seems upset by them or abnormally cranky, talk to your doctor.
A doctor will be able to rule out any other possible causes.
Medically reviewed by Karen Gill, MD on April 14, 2017 — Written by Diana K. Wells
- related stories
- Recognizing Acid Reflux/GERD in Infants
- Formula for Infants with Acid Reflux
- GERD in Infants: How Can I Help My Baby Sleep?
- How to Use Gripe Water to Soothe Your Baby
- All Natural Remedies for Toddler Hiccups
16 Cross-Generational, Home Remedies Mothers Swear By
How do you play with a newborn?
What Is My Newborn Learning?
Play is the chief way that infants learn how to move, communicate,
socialize, and understand their surroundings.
And during the first month of life, your baby will learn by interacting with you.
The first thing your baby will learn is to associate the feel of your touch, the sound of your voice, and the sight of your face with getting his or her needs for comfort and food met.
You can encourage your newborn to learn by stimulating your newborn’s senses in positive ways — with smiles, smoothing sounds, and gentle caresses.
Even at this young age, newborns are ready to learn about the world around them.
A newborn loves to look at faces, especially mom’s.
Likewise, in the first days and weeks of life, newborns can recognize their mother’s voice.
Your infant will respond to your voice (or other interesting sounds) by looking alert and becoming less active.
The baby may try to find out where the sound is coming from by looking around and turning his or her head.
When you smile and talk to your infant, your face and the sound of your voice will become a familiar source of calm and comfort, and your little one will learn to associate you with getting nourishment, warmth, and soothing touch.
The “Rooting Reflex”
Babies are born with reflexes or programmed responses to certain stimuli, such as touch.
These reflexes help ensure survival. But they also provide an opportunity for a baby to interact with the world.
For example, the rooting reflex is elicited by gently stroking a newborn’s cheek.
The infant’s response is to turn head and mouth to that side, ready to eat.
By the time they’re 3 weeks old, babies will turn toward the breast or bottle not just out of a reflex, but because they’ve learned that it’s a source of food.
Asleep, Active, or Alert?
During the first month of life, your newborn will spend much of the day sleeping or seeming drowsy.
Over the next several weeks to months, your baby will mature and be awake or alert for longer periods of time.
It’s important to recognize when your baby is alert and ready to learn and play and when your little one would rather be left alone:
A baby who is quiet and alert will be attentive and responsive and interested in surroundings.
A baby who is awake but active (squirming, flapping arms, or kicking legs) or fussing will be less able to focus on you.
The baby may seem agitated or start to cry when you try to get his or her attention.
These are signs that your baby may be getting overstimulated.
Over the coming weeks and months, you’ll learn to recognize when your infant is ready to learn or overstimulated.
Encouraging Your Newborn to Learn
As you care for your newborn, he or she is learning to recognize your touch, the sound of your voice, and the sight of your face.
In the first few weeks you may want to introduce some simple, age-appropriate toys that appeal to the senses of sight, hearing, and touch, such as:
- textured toys
- musical toys
unbreakable crib mirrors
Try toys and mobiles with contrasting colors and patterns.
Strong contrasts (such as red, white, and black), curves, and symmetry stimulate an infant’s developing vision.
As vision improves and babies gain more control over their movements, they’ll interact more and more with their environment.
Some Other Ideas
Here are some other ideas for encouraging your newborn to learn and play:
Put on soothing music and hold your baby, gently swaying to the tune.
Pick a soothing song or lullaby and softly sing it often to your baby.
The familiarity of the sound and words will have a soothing effect, particularly during fussy times.
Smile, stick out your tongue, and make other expressions for your infant to study, learn, and imitate.
Use a favorite toy for your newborn to focus on and follow, or shake a rattle for your infant to find.
Let your baby spend some awake time on his or her tummy to help strengthen the neck and shoulders.
Always supervise your infant during “tummy time” and be ready to help if he or she gets tired or frustrated in this position.
Never put an infant to sleep on his or her stomach — babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Talk to your baby.
Keep in mind that babies develop at different rates, and there is a wide range of normal development.
If you have any concerns about your newborn’s ability to see or hear, or your baby doesn’t seem to be developing well in other ways, talk with your doctor.