It is normal for parents to be concerned about the health of their newborn babies. In most cases the worry is groundless; although new babies are small, they are quite robust. Following, there are some general guidelines to ascertain a newborn's health, but they are certainly not meant to replace a thorough examination by your family doctor or a pediatrician. A professional evaluation is a definite necessity to insure your child's welfare.
* Normal body weight for a full-term baby is anywhere from 5.5 to 10 pounds (2.5 to 4.5 kg.), with the average about 7.5 pounds.
* The average length of boys is 50 cm. (about 20 in.) and girls, 47 cm. ( about 19 in.) However, genetic factors may influence the results.
* Color: pink all over, or resembling the skin tone of the parents. However, it is estimated that about 60% of full-term infants will develop a condition called jaundice during the first 3 to 5 days of life. Jaundice causes the skin and the whites of the eyes to take on a yellowish tinge. Jaundice is caused by the immature liver being unable to process a substance in the blood, bilirubin, quickly enough. Jaundice is usually not harmful and will disappear by the time the baby is one week old.
* Heart rate: a baby's pulse is faster than that of an adult. It should average 120 to 160 beats a minute. Because a newborn's pulse is sometimes irregular, it is necessary to monitor it for a full minute.
* Respiratory rate: normally 30 to 60 breaths per minute. There should be no wheezing, grunting or whistling sounds when he breathes. When crying, he should emit strong, loud wails.
* Temperature: at normal room temperature, the baby should be able to maintain a temperature of 98.6 degrees F. ( 37 degrees C.)
* Muscle tone: he should exhibit strong, well-flexed movements of arms and legs.
* Elimination patterns: six or more wet diapers in 24 hours shows that the baby is getting enough liquids. It is normal for him to have one to three bowel movements during the same period.
* Rashes often develop within the first few days of birth. Although parents tend to worry about the blemishes, they are usually completely harmless and soon disappear.
* Odors: a baby will turn his head away from an unpleasant smell, but quickly learns the scent of his parents.
* Taste: although taste buds are not mature, an infant can tell sweet from sour, and he much prefers the former. Breast milk is very sweet.
* Hearing: sudden, loud noises startle babies and may make them cry, but soft, rhythmic sounds soothe them. An infant loves soothing music or hearing his mother sing to him.
* Sight: right after birth, an infant will instinctively shut his eyes against the bright light of the outside world, but when he is placed in more subdued lighting, he will scan faces around him with wide-eyed interest. He can see quite well at a distance of 8 to 12 inches, so wise parents bring their faces close when speaking to their new offspring.
When the baby comes home from the hospital, it is important to watch for any new or worrisome symptoms or behaviors. Wise parents will adopt the motto, "When in doubt, check it out." If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive from the first doctor, don't be afraid to request a second opinion.
Besides being his parent, you are your child's primary advocate in securing necessary medical attention and treatment. His health concerns at this vulnerable age are too important to be left to luck.