Monday, July 20, 2009

5 tips for identifying baby's mystery conditions.

Why is my baby's spit up clear? What is causing the trembling in my infants legs? When my newborn suddenly sleeps for five hours straight, should I worry? So, you've read the books, taken the classes and watched the videos, your baby doesn't seem to care. There are mystery symptoms popping up all the time. Which ones are normal and which ones should you call your pediatrician for? While I believe that you should call your pediatrician any time that you feel in your gut that something is wrong, here are a few common conditions which are more sheep in wolves clothing than anything else.

1. Clear spit up.
Whether your baby is teething or not, sometimes your little drizzle swizzle will simply drool, this is completely normal. Babies salivate a lot, especially at night. When you lay your baby down on her back to sleep, the excess saliva is all running right down her throat and getting swallowed. When swallowed, this moisture tricks your baby's stomach into thinking she has begun to eat food, causing a higher level of stomach acids, which when they have nothing to digest can be somewhat irritating to your baby's delicate stomach lining. The result is clear, and completely harmless, spit up.

2. Trembling legs.
It can be pretty scary when you are snuggling your new baby, and you notice his legs tremble for a moment or two when he pushes his feet against something. Your first thought might jump to worst case scenarios involving intense physical therapy and crutches for years to come, but chances are that it is nothing to worry about. Your baby's muscles are faced with the doubly difficult task of growing at an enormous rate, and retaining her strength and tone while doing it. At times, her new muscle tissue has simply not had time to tone fully as it is integrated into muscle tissue that she already has. Think of your own legs the day after a rigorous workout, when you try to walk down stairs, those first couple of steps are pretty shaky. This is basically the same thing that is happening with your baby's legs. With just a little kicking and pushing her legs should be back to their normal steady state.

3. Hives.
Hives, those red bumps that appear suddenly on your baby's face and chest, are pretty frightening when you first encounter them. They are generally a reaction of an allergic nature. As soon as you notice them, take note of a few things, 1-if you are breastfeeding what did you eat over the last 24 hours and if you are not, have you changed your infant formula recently, 2-has your baby tried on any new clothing or played with any new toys recently and 3-have you changed laundry detergent or has anyone new held your baby who does not normally hold him? These three questions will help you pinpoint more quickly possible causes for your baby's reaction. Chances are that the hives will disappear within a few minute of when they began, as long as what is causing them has been separated from immediate contact. There is usually no need to worry too much about the reaction, just make a note of the cause, and bring it up with your pediatrician at your next visit. Most sensitivities, both of skin and food will disappear over your baby's first few years, so don't give up hope if your baby shows a reaction to something particularly troublesome, like wheat, or perfume. Do get your baby tested for suspected allergies though, sometimes your guess as to the cause of the reaction is wrong, and you may be needlessly restricting your baby's environment.

4. Large amounts of spit up.
I'm not talking exorcist levels here, but if your baby throws up a particularly large amount of milk there are a couple potential causes for it that are relatively harmless. The most common reason for a sudden extra large amount of spit up is an air bubble. Basically, if your baby has a burp that needs to come up, but he continues to eat, that milk will sit on top of the bubble unable to fully digest. Until eventually the bubble forces it's way out, pushing all of that trapped milk up ahead of it. The best way to prevent this from happening is to burp your baby in the middle of the feeding at least once. The other potential cause for a strangely large episode of spit up, is perhaps something about the last feeding disagreed with your baby's tummy. If you bottle feed, it could be that a bottle was left out for a bit too long, causing some bacterial growth. This can happen pretty quickly, so it is important to keep an eye on how long you allow mixed formula to sit out. If you breastfeed, it could be that something you ate was particularly difficult for your baby to digest. There are a few other things that can cause excessive spit up, so you should check with your pediatrician if it continues regularly.

5. Suddenly takes very long naps.
Babies eat so often that we get used to a regular schedule of eat, sleep and poop during the first couple of months. However, those naps are usually only about an hour or two long at maximum, so if your baby suddenly sleeps for 3 or 4 hours it can be concerning. There is probably no need to worry though, it is completely normal for babies to have periods of extended sleep. Babies basically bulk up by eating food that they store as fat, and then while they sleep they build bone, muscle, nerves and skin. I often tell parents to watch for the larger pattern of "plump and stretch" that babies cycle through. This cycle looks like this: For a few days your baby will be ravenous, wanting to eat all the time and hardly sleeps at all. Then for a few days your baby will hardly eat, sleeping long and well. Next, you'll notice that your baby's cheeks are getting plump, and her thighs are filling out. But as soon as you notice this, she will have some periods of long sleep, and after a few days of heavy sleep your baby will look slimmer. Then she will be eating like an elephant, and will have suddenly outgrown her cutest jammies. This is probably what is going on with your baby's long naps, but if you find that your baby is difficult to wake up, seems very sleepy in between naps, or has been having fewer wet diapers than normal, talk to your pediatrician right away, there could be a more serious underlying issue at work.

It can be hard to know when something that your baby is doing is normal or not, and if you ever have any doubts or concerns you should talk to your pediatrician right away. You have parental instincts that are far more reliable than any medical website or baby book when it comes to knowing when there is something wrong with your own baby. Most of the time your baby will be fine, and there is no need to worry, but if you know which things are not cause for concern it can help you pin point those that are far more quickly. If you have found these tips helpful please pass them on to any new or expecting parents you might know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!


  1. This is great information for newer parents!

    I'd like to add 2 things that I've found about the major spitups:

    - What looks like baby's entire meal is usually only about an ounce. As a newborn my daughter was eating about 3 ounces, and at 6 months now she's up to about 5-6 ounces. We learned this by weighing her pre-feed, post-feed, then post-spitup at a breastfeeding clinic. So don't panic, baby is still eating enough.

    - And if you get a couple of days with lots of big spitups, your baby might be teething. This is our daughter's only sign when she's teething.

  2. Great tips!
    Thank you for taking the time to comment, I had not heard of big spit ups being related to teething. It's always good to learn something new!

    It's also a great idea to get your baby weighed after breastfeeding so you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they are getting enough to eat.

  3. Yeah, its really nice to see these good article on infants