As an infant, your baby will be constantly changing and developing at an ever increasing rate. Because of this, it is important to give them the best start possible and that means taking care of all their immediate health needs in their first few days.
It may seem like a bold claim, but how you act in your first few days can actually have a lifelong impact on your child and their health. With that in mind, here are five important steps to take in order to maintain your baby’s health in those first five days.
Bank your baby’s cord blood
Freezing blood from a baby’s umbilical cord is becoming more and more common due to the incredible benefits cord blood can bring. Cord blood contains stem cells, which basically function as the building blocks of fresh new cells. Stem cells from bone marrow are currently used to help cancer patients, but soon scientists hope that stem cells could be used to help those will spinal injuries or degenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s Disease. Banking cord blood is not just good for your baby but for your entire family, as many types of stem cell treatment actually require stem cells that are a match to you, but not actually from you. That means the stem cells you get from your baby may not help themselves in the future, but could help any brothers or sisters your baby may already or eventually have. There are hundreds of organizations that bank cord blood, with organizations like familycord working hard to freeze and maintain the cord blood (and therefore stem cells) for later use.
Get a full health check
Before leaving the hospital (and in many countries, again after a few months), your baby should have a full health check by a physician. This is most often to check that everything is as it should be, and usually involves a quick check of the heart, breathing and mobility. This check should pick up any obvious problems your baby has at the beginning of his or her life, which is helpful in case they need any further treatment.
Get your baby’s hearing tested
Congenital deafness can go undiagnosed if your baby does not have a hearing test at the beginning of their life, so it is important you ask your doctor about checking the baby’s hearing as soon as possible (the test is often mandatory in many countries and states). The test simply involves placing an instrument similar to an earphone in your baby’s ears, and is completely painless. If your baby fails the first part of the hearing test, do not immediately worry. Inconclusive tests are common, and the physician should simply do another more conclusive test to see if anything is wrong.
Ensure your baby has a blood spot test
Either before leaving hospital, or very soon afterwards, your baby will need to have a blood spot test in order to test for certain conditions. A small amount of blood is taken from your baby’s heel and is used to test for numerous conditions, including cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria (PKU), hypothyroidism and sickle-cell anemia. Almost all of these conditions are important to catch early, so it is important that your baby has the test so that, if something is wrong, your baby can have treatment as quickly as possible.
Organize your baby’s immunizations
Your baby may have some of his or her first immunizations before he or she even leaves the hospital, but there will be plenty of others to come. Immunization is important as it is one of the few ways to ensure that you baby will not get rehabilitating illnesses like hepatitis or diphtheria. Immunizations also work on the basis of herd immunity, and therefore as many healthy babies need to take the vaccine as possible in order to ensure that the percentage is high enough to cover those who cannot get the vaccine for health reasons. Immunizations therefore do not just protect your child—they protect other vulnerable babies and children too.
This is a guest post by Marianne Ross, a freelance writer on health topics. You can read her articles on various blogs.