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Newborn Baby Health: 8 Woes From Cradle Cap And Colic To Whooping Cough

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on April 27, 2022.

1. Cradle Cap: Crusty Yellow Flakes on the Scalp

Cradle cap, also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis, looks like dandruff and commonly occurs in recently born babies. You may notice patches of waxy-yellowish flakes or scales on your newborn's scalp. Some babies may also have the condition on their eyebrows, eyelids, ears, armpits, or other creases.

Although cradle cap doesn't look that great, it is harmless and clears up on its own by the time your baby is six to twelve months old. Gentle brushing of your baby's scalp with a soft brush and shampooing once daily with a mild baby shampoo can help loosen the scales. Mineral oil or cradle cap products may also help. See your doctor if the patches have spread to your baby's face or body.

2. Colic: Calming The Fussy Baby

Colic is the name given to severe, recurrent abdominal pain associated with inconsolable crying in babies younger than five months old. Doctors are at a bit of a loss to explain the cause of colic and why some babies are prone to colic and others aren't; however, it tends to come on in young babies at around two to three weeks of age. Most grow out of it by the time they are three to six months old.

Most colic occurs in otherwise healthy, well-fed babies. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive crying, often at the same time each day (usually late afternoon/evening)
  • Crying is usually louder and higher pitched than normal "I'm hungry" or "I'm tired" crying
  • Crying episodes usually start and end suddenly
  • Babies may look flushed, clinch their fingers, arch their back, or draw their knees up to their chest during an episode
  • Babies may feel better after passing gas or dirtying their diaper; however, gas is not thought to be the cause of colic.

If your baby develops symptoms of colic, first get her checked out by her doctor to rule out any other potential causes of her crying such as food allergies or infection. Finding a solution for your baby's colic may take some trial and error, as what works for one baby may not work for another. A warm hot water bottle on the tummy, gentle massage, light motion, noise (and for some babies, quiet), swaddling, a bath, or a pacifier may help. Some studies have shown benefit for probiotics, while others haven't, but talk to your doctor first before giving your baby probiotics. Friends may recommend gripe water or anti-gas (simethicone/mylicon) drops, though neither has proven effective.

3. Milia and Baby Acne

Milia are tiny white spots that form across the nose, cheeks, chin, forehead and around the eyes of your newborn. Also called milk spots, they are a sign that the oil glands on your baby's face are still developing so are common to almost all babies. Milia look raised, but if you touch them they will feel smooth.Your baby’s milia spots should clear up on their own within a month or six weeks.

Your baby may also develop spots that look like acne. Baby acne is thought to be due to hormones circulating in your baby that were passed over from the mother during the pregnancy. Although the spots may be raised and angry-looking, your baby is usually unaffected by them, and they should disappear by the time your baby is about six weeks. Check with your doctor if any spots start to look crusty or ooze.

4. Diapers And Diaper Rash

No matter how fastidious you are about cleaning your baby's bottom, your baby may still develop diaper rash. Why? Because diaper rash can be caused by so many different things, from urine and stool irritation to antibiotics, laundry detergents, or food intolerance.

You can treat most cases of diaper rash yourself. Change your baby's diaper frequently and give them as much diaper-free time as you can. Apply a thin layer of barrier cream or ointment before putting on a clean diaper. If the rash looks particularly bright red, has spots or is oozing pus, or has spread up to the tummy or down to the thighs, see a doctor or talk to your pharmacist.

5. Baby Reflux, Spitting Up And GERD

While a small amount of spitting after milk feeding is common, projectile milk geysers may be a sign of infant acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in your baby. Other symptoms may include irritability or inconsolable crying after eating, refusal to eat at all or in limited amounts, and failure to gain weight. Symptoms typically become worse if you try to lie baby down.

If your baby is experiencing symptoms such as these, see your doctor. Several different types of treatments are available, although thickening feeds or mixing breast milk with rice cereal are usually tried first. Keeping baby upright after feeding is also recommended, and raising the head of baby's bassinet may relieve nighttime GERD symptoms.

6. Baby Constipation And Baby Diarrhea

By the time your baby is one year old you will be an expert in the subject of their bowel movements. Only you know what is normal for your baby. While formula or food-fed babies tend to have a bowel movement at least once a day, some exclusively breast-fed babies may only have one bowel movement per week.

Once you're atuned to your baby's bowel habits, watch for any signs of constipation, such as:

  • Your baby looks uncomfortable when she passes a bowel motion, and her bowel motions have been less frequent than normal
  • Hard, dry, pebble-like stools that seem difficult for your baby to pass, no matter how frequently she dirties her diaper.

Infant formula and solid foods - especially banana, rice cereal, and cooked carrots - are common causes of children's constipation. Children can also develop constipation if they are not getting enough fluids and become dehydrated. Sometimes, adjusting your child's diet or changing formula brands if they are bottle fed may resolve the constipation. Pureed prunes or prune juice may also help or talk with your pharmacist or doctor about over-the-counter remedies. Never give your child a laxative without your doctor's approval.

Diarrhea can be caused by infections, food allergies or too much juice. Dehydration is a real worry with diarrhea so make sure you keep feeding your baby, and see a doctor if it persists for more than a few hours or if your baby is vomiting as well.

7. Otitis Media: Ear Infection In Infants

Ear infections (otitis media) are the second most diagnosed illness in children in the US (after the common cold). Babies are particularly prone to ear infections because they have very short, almost horizontal, eustachian tubes which block easily.

Ear infections most commonly happen following a cold or sinus infection. Some babies may also get a noticeable discharge from their ears or tug on their ears - although babies often pull at their ears for no reason. See your doctor - they will determine if your child needs an antibiotic. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful for the pain, but closely follow dosing directions.

8. Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

If you need just one reason to vaccinate, then this is it. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, can cause violent and rapid coughing in some babies which forces them to gasp for breath with a loud "whooping" sound. Whooping cough can be deadly in newborns, and scary for parents to watch.

The best way to protect against whooping cough is vaccination. However, your baby cannot get the first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (also called the DTaP shot) until he is two months old. Which means that your baby relies on adults and older children around him to be whooping-cough free. Ideally, all adults that intend on having close-contact with your baby (includes grandparents and childcare providers) should have a one-time whooping cough booster (given as Tdap) at least two weeks before they come into contact with your baby. Pregnant women should have the booster between weeks 27 and 36 of every pregnancy.

Finished: Newborn Baby Health: 8 Woes From Cradle Cap And Colic To Whooping Cough

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  • Colic. Mayo Clinic.
  • Colic: What is it? Babycenter.
  • Colic: How to cope? Babycenter.
  • Cradle cap (infantile seborrheic dermatitis). Babycenter.
  • Diaper Rash. Mayo Clinic.
  • Kids health. Gastroesophageal Reflux.
  • Diarrhea in babies. BabyCenter.
  • Ear infections in babies. BabyCenter.
  • Spotty skin (milia). BabyCenter.
  • Infant reflux. Mayo Clinic.
  • Constipation in Babies. BabyCenter.
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough). Adult Vaccination. CDC

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.