ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 29

Your new arrival depends on you

Your baby is born and it seems, all your dreams have come true. However, many young mothers are quite inexperienced when it comes to caring for a newborn. Here, Dr. Pujitha Wickremasinghe, Consultant Paediatrician at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for children speaks to Melanie Amarasooriya on what new mothers need to know.

Growth of the baby at birth

A well grown child born around the expected date of delivery will weigh about 2.8 to 3.5 kg. The length and head circumference are the other two important parameters that are used to assess the baby's growth and should be around 50 cm and 35 cm respectively. However if a child's measurements of growth are a little less or more and it is nothing to be alarmed about.

If the weight is less than 2.5 kg it is considered as low birth weight.

Still if your child's growth occurs parallel to the lines in the 'child health development record' (the booklet that is used to record a child's growth and development) there is hardly anything to worry about.

If the child's weight drops or increases crossing the coloured lines in the weight chart you may need medical advice.

Immediately after birth

The baby should be wiped dry immediately after the birth. This is usually done by the midwife or the nursing officer. Thereafter the child should be wrapped in a dry cloth, since it is important to maintain the temperature of the child.

Before birth the child was inside the mother's womb, in an environment where the temperature is about 370 Celsius. Once born, the baby is exposed to an environmental temperature of about 270 Celsius and since a baby's ability to maintain the body temperature is not mature as in an adult, it is important to keep him dry and warm.


Starting breast feeding early is recommended for any mother with very rare exceptions. Unless you are specifically told not to breastfeed you can start feeding within half an hour of the delivery if you are well. The initial portion of milk contains a yellow substance called colostrum.

Feeding the child with this helps prevent infection and to boost baby's immunity. Colostrum is produced in the initial two to three days after the delivery and only in small quantities.

Many young mothers feel that the amount of milk produced is not sufficient for the baby. Usually in the first two to three days, milk is produced in small amounts. Nevertheless, this is sufficient for the baby. It is only when the baby sucks that the glands get stimulated and more milk is produced. It is only on very rare occasions that the mother actually does not produce sufficient milk.

If the mother feels that she is not producing enough milk, medical advice should be taken. Starting on formula milk on your own is never recommended.

(More next month)

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