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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with Dr. Angelia Chua, Consultant Family Physician, NHGP.

Abdominal Distension/Bloating

A distended or bloated belly after feeding can be a sign that your baby has swallowed too much gas during the feeding. Your little one is still learning how to swallow properly and his newborn digestive system is still developing.

Your baby might also be irritable and cry more than usual because of the discomfort in his tummy. He might pass more wind than normal, and may burp, belch or pass gas excessively.

Don’t worry! A bloated tummy is harmless and usually goes away without treatment. Here’s how you can help your baby feel less bloated:

  1. Feed your baby in a slightly reclining position. This helps reduce the amount of air he swallows.
  2. Don’t overfeed the little one. Stop feeding him if he refuses or turns away from the bottle or breast.
  3. Burp during and after feeding to avoid the build-up of air in your baby’s tummy.

If you’re worried about your baby’s distended abdomen, take him to the doctor, especially if the little one won’t stop crying and seems to be more irritable than usual. The distension can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Related: Breastfeeding Your Baby

Bronchitis and Bronchiolitis

If your baby is wheezing—making a high-pitched whistling sound when he breathes out—and is breathing rapidly or has troubled breathing, it might be a case of bronchiolitis. This is an infection in the small airways of his lungs.

Make sure to keep your child hydrated with plenty of fluids (breast or formula milk), and avoid smoky places and tobacco smoke, which can worsen the condition.


Take your baby to the doctor if you notice any of these signs:

  1. This is the first time he is wheezing.
  2. His breathing is laboured.
  3. He refuses to eat.
  4. He appears to be low in energy and lethargic.

Related: Bronchitis

Cold

Blocked or runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. These signs could mean that your little one is having a cold. He might also have a mild fever. His mucus might start out clear, then turn green or yellow.

If you notice these symptoms, make sure to give him plenty of fluids (breast or formula milk) to keep him hydrated, and keep him away from sick people and crowds. Bring him to a doctor, especially if his symptoms do not get better over the next few days or his fever worsens.

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Coughs and Colds

Colic

Your baby’s crying more frequently and intensely than usual, and you’ve tried everything: feeding him, burping him, swaddling him… Chances are he has colic.

The exact cause of colic is not known, but fortunately, there are things you can do to help comfort your baby:

  1. Give him small and frequent feeds, and burp him well and regularly.
  2. Soothe him with cuddles, or sway and rock him.
  3. Talk or sing softly to him.

Colic can cause mummy and daddy more stress. Make sure you find ways to de-stress, for example by taking a break and having grandma and grandpa take care of the little one for some time.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Your Baby's Crying

Constipation

Constipation in children is a common condition in which the child experiences infrequent bowel movements or hard and dry stools.

Constipation can be caused by changes to his diet. You can help ease the constipation by encouraging your baby to eat more fiber-rich fruit and vegetables and by giving him more fluids (breast milk/formula/water if your baby is above 6 months old). You may also bring your baby to see a doctor if the condition persists.

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Constipation

Cradle Cap

As you hold your baby in your arms, you lean in to kiss his forehead. That’s when you notice greasy, crusty, scaly patches on your baby’s scalp. Don’t be alarmed: this is a common condition called cradle cap that usually disappears after 1-2 months.

The condition doesn’t cause your baby any pain, and you can continue to wash your baby’s hair with a gentle, non-drying shampoo. Soften the scales so you can wash them off more easily by applying some olive oil and leaving it on for a few hours to soften them.

If your baby’s cradle cap doesn’t go away, and instead seems to be increasing, see a doctor for advice.

Related: Care of the Newborn

Diaper Rash

If the skin around your baby’s diaper area looks red and irritated, he might have a case of diaper rash. Possible causes are wet diapers—when urine and faeces mix, the resulting ammonia can cause rashes—and chafing.

Here are some things you can do to help ease diaper rash:

  1. Change your baby’s diaper frequently and keep the area dry and clean.
  2. When drying the area, pat it dry instead of rubbing.
  3. Apply a layer of barrier cream at each diaper change. Make sure the cream is suitable for your baby’s sensitive skin.
  4. If the rash does not improve, consult your doctor to rule out any fungal infection, which would require medication to improve.

Related: 9 Must-Have Items for Your Baby

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is when your baby passes more frequent or more watery stools than he normally does. Don’t be alarmed! Continue feeding and ensuring that your child is properly hydrated with small amounts of breast or formula milk throughout the day.

You may also consult the doctor and give your baby oral rehydration fluids, designed to replace water and salts lost during diarrhoea.

Bring your baby to the doctor immediately if you see the following signs along with diarrhoea:

  • Dry skin, mouth, and tongue
  • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of baby’s head, if your baby is younger than 18 months)
  • Green vomitus
  • Stools contain a lot of mucus and blood
  • Your baby passes very little urine compared to his usual amounts
  • Your baby refuses to drink
  • Your baby has passed six or more watery stools or vomited three or more times in a day
  • Your baby has severe abdominal pain
  • Your baby is lethargic
  • Your baby has shallow breathing and a fever

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Diarrhoea

Eczema

Eczema can cause distress and discomfort to the little one. These light red or tan-pink patches of rough scaly skin on your baby’s cheeks and body may be caused by a number of factors.

The laundry detergent you use might be a bit too harsh for your baby’s delicate skin. What you can do is to check your home for anything that could have irritated your baby’s skin, such as bedsheets and clothes, and change your laundry product if needed. Make sure your house is clean and dust-free too.

The weather in Singapore might just be too hot for your baby. Adjust your room’s temperature so it is not too hot or too cold for your baby.

Another possible cause: perhaps you’ve begun using a new formula to feed your baby. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned, and try switching brands.

If the condition still does not improve, discuss it with your doctor, who may prescribe some medication for your baby.

Related: Atopic Dermatitis

Fever

Fever is a symptom of an infection; it’s not a disease. Your baby has a fever if he has a temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius.

What can you do if your baby has a fever? The answer’s simple: take him to the doctor, especially if

  • he is below 3 months old,
  • he is below one year old and has a fever for more than 24 hours, or
  • he has a high fever (above 38.5 degrees Celsius).

You can help him feel better by:

  1. Dressing your child in thin clothing and cooling the room. Do not wrap him in thick blankets to “sweat it out” as it will prevent him from losing heat.
  2. Giving him plenty of fluids (breast or formula milk, in small volumes throughout the day) to prevent dehydration.

Do not give your child any medication without first talking to the doctor!

Related: Fighting Childhood Fevers

Food Allergies

Most children with food allergies suffer mild reactions such as skin rashes, itching, and coughing. Other reactions include vomiting, diarrhoea and hives. Do go to your doctor if your child shows such signs after a feeding.

If your child is wheezing, has trouble breathing and there’s facial swelling, then the allergy is life-threatening. Call 995 for an ambulance immediately.

Here’s a list of common food allergens:

  • Eggs
  • Soybeans
  • Peanuts
  • Cow's milk
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Unique food allergens:
    • Edible bird's nest from swiftlets
    • Royal jelly
    • Buckwheat


To minimise the risk of allergic reactions:

  1. Talk to your doctor for the latest information on allergy prevention.
  2. Breastfeed your baby—breastfeeding can help reduce the possibility of food allergies.
  3. Exercise caution when introducing something new to your child’s diet, and introduce them one at a time, in small amounts. This helps you pinpoint the cause of your child’s allergy quickly if he does have an allergic reaction.

Fret not, mummy and daddy! There’s usually little cause for concern as most children grow out of their allergies.

Related: Food Allergy

Heat Rash

This rash often appears as clear or red spots on the forehead, face, and the folds of the neck, chest and arms. They can cause itchiness and discomfort to your little one, but heat rash is not a serious condition.

Some things you can do to make baby more comfortable:

  1. Dress your baby in cool, lightweight clothing when the weather is hot. Avoid overdressing him.
  2. Keep your baby cool: use the fan or the air-conditioner.

Don’t worry, heat rash will usually go away on its own.

Related: Skin Infections (Child)

Jaundice

If you’ve ever stopped by the hospital’s nursery ward, you may have noticed some babies “getting a tan” under a special blue light.

That’s because they have jaundice, a common condition that affects babies during the first few weeks after birth. That “tan” they’re having is a treatment known as phototherapy.

You will be able to tell if your baby has jaundice by the yellowish discolouration in your baby’s skin and the white of his eyes.

Your baby will be checked and treated for jaundice routinely during his birth and hospitalisation. While most babies’ jaundice level should reach a safe level upon discharge, it is best to check with your doctor if your baby needs to continue treatment.

References

  1. Jackie Carmichael. Abdominal Distention in Infants. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.livestrong.com/article/498228-abdominal-distention-in-infants/
  2. Common Conditions in Newborns. Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Common-Conditions-in-Newborns.aspx
  3. Diaper Rash. (February 2017). Retrieved November 2018 from https://www.babycenter.com/0_diaper-rash_81.bc
  4. Heidi Murkoff and What to Expect editorial team. (November 15, 2017). What Is Thrush in Babies?. Retrieved November 2018 https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/health-and-safety/thrush-in-babies