Guide for First Time Parents

Guide for First Time Parents: 7 Newborn Medical Issues Every New Parent Should Know

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Unlike every other guide for first time parents you’ve encountered, this one comes straight from the heart—and experience—of a paramedic turned mother.

Here, I’ll share the 7 newborn health issues that are often left out of the usual advice columns but are crucial for you to know. Read on for an authentic blend of professional expertise and the real talk of motherhood, ensuring you’re truly prepared for the year ahead.

We will learn about laryngomalacia, choking, febrile seizures, SIDS, jaundice, dehydration, and digestive issues, and provide practical advice for overcoming the challenges you may face in your first year of parenthood.

Key takeaways

  • Be prepared for common infant health concerns to ensure your baby’s well-being
  • Learn about potential risks and how to address them for a smooth first-year experience
  • Gain confidence in your parenting skills through knowledge, support, and practical advice.

Essential Guide For First Time Parents

1. Laryngomalacia

What Is Laryngomalacia?

Laryngomalacia is a common condition in newborns, causing noisy breathing due to soft and floppy tissues in the larynx (voice box) above the vocal cords. Often identified in the first few weeks postpartum, this softening of tissues can lead to a partial blockage of the airway, resulting in noisy breathing. As first-time parents, it’s essential to be aware of this condition and its impact on your baby’s breathing.

Recognizing the Signs

Noisy breathing is the primary indicator of laryngomalacia in infants. You may also notice your baby struggling or straining during feeds. This condition can sometimes affect breastfeeding, but with the right tips and guidance, you can still nurse your baby effectively. It’s essential to observe your baby’s breathing patterns and consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

x-ray of baby lungs

When to Seek Medical Advice

While laryngomalacia is common among newborns and often resolves on its own, you should seek medical advice if your baby exhibits the following signs:

  • Poor weight gain
  • Breathing pauses (apnea)
  • Blue skin or lip color (cyanosis)

These symptoms could indicate that your baby’s airway is more severely compromised and requires further evaluation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you ever have concerns about your baby’s health. Trust your instincts and remember that you’re doing your best as first-time parents navigating the world of parenting.

2. Choking Risks

Choking is a common concern that haunts many parents, often casting a shadow over the joyous milestones of a baby’s first year. It’s a valid worry, considering that choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in infants. To put this into perspective, one child dies from choking on food every five days in the United States, and more than 12,000 children are taken to emergency rooms annually for food-choking injuries.

Understanding the top reasons babies choke can help parents take proactive steps to prevent these frightening incidents. Here’s a table outlining the four leading causes:

RankReason for ChokingDescription
1Overly Rapid Milk FlowA flow that’s too fast during breastfeeding or bottle-feeding can lead to choking.
2Transition to Solid FoodsIntroducing solids can be tricky; large or hard pieces can become choking hazards.
3Small ToysToys with small parts can be easily mouthed and obstruct a baby’s airway.
4Household ObjectsCommon items like buttons, coins, or small batteries can be ingested and cause choking.
Top four reasons babies choke

By being aware of these top four reasons, parents can take steps to create a safer environment for their infants during mealtime and playtime.

Read my comprehensive post: Why Does My Baby Choke While Breastfeeding? Paramedic Tips

Steps to Prevent Choking in Infants

To reduce choking risks in infants, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Ensure all baby items, such as pacifiers and toys, are age-appropriate, and regularly inspect them for damage or wear.
  • Take time to babyproof your home thoroughly.
  • Always supervise your baby during meal times, and avoid giving them small, hard, or round foods.
  • Cut food into bite-sized pieces and avoid giving children under four years old items like nuts, raw carrots, and whole grapes.
  • Teach your child to sit down and not talk or laugh while eating. Encourage them to take small bites and chew their food thoroughly.

Learning Infant Heimlich Maneuver

It’s essential for every parent to learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on children over 12 months old as timely intervention can save a choking child’s life. Consider learning this vital life-saving skill from a qualified instructor or a certified first aid course.

However, if your baby is under 12 months old use a combination of backslaps and chest thrusts as demonstrated in the video below:

3. Febrile Seizures

Understanding Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures are convulsions that can occur when a young child has a fever above 100.4°F (38°C). They typically affect children between six months and five years of age. As a new parent, it’s essential to understand what these seizures are, what triggers them, and how they relate to your child’s immune system.

Febrile seizures are usually not harmful in the long term and do not cause other health problems. You can learn more about them and how they’re related to the immune system in this helpful post : Febrile Seizures: What every parent should know

Appropriate Responses to Febrile Seizures

If you suspect your child is having a febrile seizure, it’s crucial to stay calm and take appropriate action. Here’s what you should do:

  • Gently place your child on a firm surface, like the floor or a bed.
  • Remove any nearby objects that may cause injury.
  • Loosen any clothing around their head and neck.
  • Place your child on their side to prevent choking.
  • Time the seizure, if possible, and monitor their breathing.
  • Do not attempt to put anything in their mouth or restrain them during the seizure.
  • Stay with them at all times while someone else calls for help or use your mobile phone if you are alone.
baby lying on his side on flat surface

When Febrile Seizures Require Medical Attention

While most febrile seizures are not serious and will stop on their own, there are situations when you should seek medical help immediately. Contact your emergency healthcare provider if:

  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • Your child has difficulty breathing after the seizure.
  • Your child looks very ill or is not waking up after the seizure.
  • Your child has a rash that may indicate a more severe illness.
  • This is the first time your child has experienced a febrile seizure.

By understanding febrile seizures and knowing how to respond, you are better equipped as first-time parents to protect your child’s health and well-being.

4. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

The Basics of SIDS

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby younger than 1 year old, with a majority of cases occurring during sleep, which is why it is sometimes called “crib death.” SIDS commonly affects infants between two and four months of age, and 90 percent of cases happen before a baby reaches six months old.

Safe Sleep Practices to Reduce the Risk

safe sleep guidance for babies

To reduce the risk of SIDS, it is essential to practice safe sleep habits for your baby, like putting them to sleep on their back, using a firm sleep surface, and dressing them appropriately for sleep. You should also consider the room temperature, providing a comfortable sleeping environment that is not too hot or too cold. For guidance on how to properly dress your baby for sleep, you can refer to this helpful guide on dressing your baby for a good night’s rest.

Monitoring and Sleep Environment

In addition to practicing safe sleep habits, monitoring your baby’s sleep and creating a healthy sleep environment can help reduce the risk of SIDS. Using a baby monitor allows you to keep an eye and ear on your baby while they are sleeping, ensuring that you can quickly respond to any concerns or changes in their sleep patterns or breathing.

It’s also crucial to maintain a clean and clutter-free sleep environment for your baby, including their crib. Avoid keeping any loose blankets, stuffed animals, or pillows near your baby while they sleep, as these items can increase the risk of suffocation.

By following these guidelines, you can create the safest possible sleep environment for your baby and potentially reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

5. Newborn Jaundice

As first-time parents, it’s essential to be aware of newborn jaundice, a common condition in newborns. This section will help you understand how to identify it and provide proper treatment and care.

Identifying Newborn Jaundice

Neonatal jaundice occurs when there is a high level of bilirubin in your baby’s bloodstream. This can lead to a yellowish tint in the skin, sclera, and mucous membranes. To spot jaundice, examine your baby in natural daylight or under fluorescent lights. You may notice the yellowing beginning in the face and progressing to the chest, abdomen, arms, and legs as bilirubin levels rise.

Read my helpful post for more information: 4 Different Types of Jaundice in Newborns: A Comprehensive Guide for New Parents

During your birth plan discussions, it’s a good idea to let the nurses know that you’d like assistance in monitoring your baby for jaundice. Generally, newborn jaundice appears within 2-4 days after birth and can resolve on its own within two weeks.

baby with jaundice and yellow skin

Treatment and Care for Jaundice

Treatment and care options depend on the severity of the jaundice and its underlying cause. In less severe cases, increasing the frequency of feedings might help remove the excess bilirubin from your baby’s system. Make sure your baby has at least six wet diapers during a 24-hour period, and watch for stool color changes, which should turn lighter, looser, and “seedy”.

In more severe cases, or if the jaundice is due to an underlying medical issue, your healthcare provider may recommend treatments like phototherapy or even an exchange transfusion. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider and follow their recommendations on treatment options.

Remember, as first-time parents, it’s essential to stay attentive and vigilant for signs of neonatal jaundice. Speak with your healthcare providers, nurses, and support system to ensure your baby receives the proper care needed to maintain their health and comfort.

6. Infant Dehydration

Causes of Dehydration in Newborns

Dehydration in newborns and infants can occur for several reasons. One common cause is insufficient fluid intake, either through inadequate breastfeeding or formula feeding. If you are breastfeeding, look for signs of a well-fed baby to ensure they are receiving enough breast milk. Dehydration can also occur if your baby has been sick, or experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, or both.

Signs of Dehydration to Be Aware Of in Your Baby

As a parent, it’s essential to keep an eye out for signs of dehydration in your baby. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Sunken soft spot on the head (fontanelle)
  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Fewer wet diapers than usual
  • Dark yellow urine
  • No tears when crying
  • Drowsiness or irritability

If you notice any of these signs in your newborn, it’s crucial to take action immediately to prevent further complications.

Preventing and Addressing Dehydration

To prevent dehydration in your baby, make sure they are receiving enough fluids through breastfeeding or formula feeding. Offering the breast or bottle more frequently can help increase their fluid intake so it’s a good idea to ensure you have a healthy milk supply. If you suspect your baby is already dehydrated, consult your pediatrician promptly.

For mild dehydration, your pediatrician might recommend a home treatment by giving your baby small sips of oral rehydration solutions. Ensure your baby drinks these solutions as often as possible to replenish necessary fluids and electrolytes.

Remember, early intervention is key to addressing dehydration in babies, so do not hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns.

7. Newborn Digestive Discomfort: Colic, Reflux, and Gas

Understanding Colic, Reflux, and Gas

As new parents, it’s essential to be aware of common newborn digestive issues like colic, reflux, and gas. Colic is characterized by excessive crying in an otherwise healthy infant, usually starting around 3 weeks of age, and can last for several hours a day. Reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is common in babies, often causing them to spit up after feedings. Gas is frequent as the baby’s gut microbiome is developing, particularly during the first three months.

Both breastfeeding and formula feeding can contribute to digestive discomfort. However, recognizing the differences between these issues will help you manage them better. For instance, knowing the distinction between cluster feeding and colic can help navigate early parenting challenges more effectively.

Practical Tips for Managing Digestive Issues

illustration of a mother with baby on her lap patting his back

To help alleviate your baby’s discomfort, try the following methods:

  • Burp regularly: During feedings, ensure you burp your baby every few minutes to release any trapped gas.
  • Hold upright: Keep your baby in an upright position while feeding and for some time afterward to minimize reflux.
  • Tummy massage: Gently massaging your baby’s stomach in a circular motion can help release trapped gas.
  • Switch formula: If your baby is formula-fed, consider trying a different brand to see if it reduces digestive discomfort.
  • Diet adjustments: For breastfeeding mothers, pay attention to your diet. Certain foods may cause digestive issues in your baby. Consult your healthcare provider for guidance.

When Digestive Discomfort Indicates a Larger Issue

Although colic, reflux, and gas are common and usually resolve with time, it’s essential to monitor your baby’s overall health. If you observe ongoing issues, slow weight gain, blood in the stool, or frequent vomiting, it’s crucial to consult with a pediatrician to rule out more serious problems. As parents, it’s vital to trust your instincts and seek professional guidance when necessary.


Preparing for a new baby isn’t just about learning about breastfeeding and pumping or even babyproofing your home – it’s about educating yourself on what to expect and, crucially, how to handle the unexpected.

Seek wisdom from healthcare professionals and seasoned parents; their experiences are a treasure trove of insights that can guide you through the nuances of child-rearing.

Equipping yourself with this essential knowledge will bolster your confidence, enabling you to embrace the responsibilities of parenthood with a sure heart. Remember, achieving a healthy work-life balance is key. Prioritize self-care, and don’t hesitate to divide responsibilities with your partner or to reach out for support from friends and family. They’re your village, ready to support you on this journey.

As you and your child grow together, be prepared for an evolving series of challenges and joys. Savor each moment and trust in the knowledge that you are giving your all. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, so trust your instincts and welcome the beautiful transformations it brings. Here’s to the beginning of the most rewarding journey—best wishes as you turn this new page in your life’s story.

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