Guide to help your newborn baby to stay healthy and develop adequately

newborn baby


The birth of a child to an expectant parent or couple is often a moment of joy. While many (first time) parents may be ecstatic at the birth of their child, not too many parents are prepared for the changes in their life that may soon follow. Now don’t start sweating already because as you’ll see (and I hope you do see), these changes can turn out to be exciting! It suffices to say that, anticipating the changes in our lives that may follow the birth of a child can help parents to better manage and cope with them.

Here are some practical health tips to help you with the challenges of making sure your newborn baby stays healthy, grows properly, and develops adequately!

If you’re ready, then let’s begin.


While the concept of preconception care may not yet be popular in this part of our World, it is worth mentioning. In simple terms, pre-conception health care refers to the process of ensuring the (good) health of women and men during their reproductive years (i.e. during the time they can have children) in order to increase the chance of having healthy babies.

Therefore, it is important that people take measures to stay healthy in order to ensure both that planned and unplanned pregnancies invariably produce healthy babies.

Pre-conception health care may be different for individuals because health care providers design it to suit each individual depending on his/her unique health needs.

Overall, before getting pregnant, you need these:

• Choosing, fostering and sustaining good health-seeking behavior.

• Giving up habits such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse etc. which may adversely affect your health and that of your baby.

• Seeking proper medical care for any existing medical condition such as sexually transmitted infections (STI), diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, etc.

• Receiving vaccinations against diseases like Hepatitis-B virus infection, etc.

• Family planning. It isn’t enough to just know when, how, and where to get family planning. It is important that you ask your healthcare provider about how your choice of family planning may affect your timing of conception if you decide to get pregnant. Some family planning methods still work to delay pregnancy up to 6months after they were stopped. While for some others, pregnancy may be achieved immediately or a few weeks after they are stopped.

• Mental, emotional, and financial preparation for pregnancy, delivery, and afterward. e.t.c.


Sometimes I can’t help but think that perhaps one of the reasons babies have to take about 9 months from conception to delivery is so that parents who missed out on pre-conception care can catch up, sought of!

It is amazing how some pregnant women (and their partners) sometimes go into labor unprepared! And then their partners begin to wander from pillar to post dazed and confused as to what to do, where to go, and so on!

Here are a few tips on how to be prepared during the 9 months of pregnancy:

• Enroll for, and attend ante-natal care in a nearby health facility as soon as you confirm your pregnancy. Ask your health care provider questions on caring for yourself and your baby.

• Visit a hospital if you have any health concerns or illnesses during pregnancy.

• Please avoid self-medication as it may pose a health risk to you and your pregnancy.

• Men, encourage and support your partners financially, emotionally, physically, e.t.c. Re-assure her often with a kind word to remind her that you’ll always be by her side.

• Start saving some money for your baby. Meeting the needs of a baby or babies can be economically-challenging if you are not prepared. Those diapers, baby wears, toys, baby toiletries, and baby feed you see on TV and in stores are not free o! As they Nigerians say: “better soup, no money kill am “.

• Your EDD (expected date of delivery) is only an estimation. Therefore, you should bear in mind that medically, it is still normal if you go into labor 2 weeks before or after your EDD.

• Once you are in the last 3 months of your pregnancy you should have a readily packed bag containing basic delivery and post-delivery items you and your baby may require. [Ask your health care provider about this].

• Consider all possible options of reaching a hospital by the safest and fastest means possible and plan ahead before labor sets in.

• Give prior notice to someone (e.g. a neighbor who owns a car, or who is a health personnel) whom you might call on for help.

• Have little money (and little recharge card) ready at all times, at least something you can use for a start in the event that labor beckons on you in the odd hours.


• It is a standard medical practice for the mother to be shown their babies as soon as they are born, not just to visualize the baby but to identify the gender. This is for medico-legal reasons.

• Please always take a good look at your baby and note the gender — male or female. Because whether you believe it or not, babies can inadvertently get mixed up. However, standard hospitals have measures to avoid such mistakes. e.g. tagging each baby with some vital information.

• A physical examination is usually performed on your baby. And your baby may be screened for some inherited harmful diseases.

• Your baby’s first immunizations may be administered before you’re discharged home. Ask your nurse/doctor for the immunization schedule applicable.

• A newborn baby should immediately be able to suck on the mother’s nipples. So if you notice your baby is unable to suck or isn’t sucking as well as he or she used to, you should draw the attention of the nurse/doctor.


Arguably, one of the first tasks a parent is confronted with is what and how to feed a newborn baby. Usually, this is a subject that is discussed with expectant mothers during their ante-natal clinic.

In most cases, health care providers recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed. However, you should always consult with your healthcare provider for other feeding options if you have been told (or you feel) you cannot breastfeed your baby.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), exclusive breastfeeding is when a baby is fed on only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. No other liquid or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or, medicine.

Thereafter, in order to meet the evolving nutritional requirements of the baby, adequate complementary feeds (like pap fortified with milk e.t.c.) that are safe should be given while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond.

• Positioning yourself and the baby properly helps the baby feel better with less effort. It also makes you less fatigued during feeding.

• Do not expel the first breast milk (colostrum). Contrary to what some people may believe colostrum is beneficial to the baby as it is rich in substances (antibodies and immunoglobulins) which help to protect your baby from disease. It also helps your baby to expel the first stool (meconium).

• Feed your baby on demand. In other words, feed your baby whenever he/she is hungry, this can be about every 1-3hours.

• It may be expedient sometimes to gently wake up your baby to breastfeed.

• You should burp your baby (i.e rub your baby’s back gently until he/she burps or belches) midway through each feeding as well as at the end of the feeding.

• If you are to use any breast milk substitute, ensure you consult your healthcare provider. Also ensure that the breast milk substitute is affordable, feasible, accessible, sustainable, and safe.

• Before weaning your child off breast milk ensure that he/she has adapted fully to eating other foods (the family meals).

• Avoid suddenly weaning your child. Rather gradually tail off breast steadily reducing the frequency of breastfeeding over time.


• The stool of babies is usually dark within the first few days. Then it gradually becomes greenish-yellow, loose or soft.

• Regularly check your baby for wet/soiled diapers. Ensuring regular diaper/napkin change when necessary helps to keep to baby’s buttocks dry, clean, and free of skin infections.

• After removing a wet diaper, wash the baby’s buttocks with soap and water and dry with a clean cloth.


• Newborn babies sleep a lot, often up to about 16hours a day. This is usually not a one-time stretch of sleep. Most babies sleep for about 2-4 hours at a time, day or night, during the first weeks of their life.

• Babies continue to wake up several times at night to feed or because they need a diaper change.

• It is therefore important that you adjust your daily routine/chores to fit with this irregular pattern of sleep while it lasts.

• You may need to get a helping hand, a relative or a nurse e.t.c, whichever suits you best.

• Husbands, you can help to take turns to care for your baby so that the mother can get some rest.

• You may also have to express some breast milk into a clean cup for storage in the fridge and for use with 24hours. So that your spouse or someone else can wake up to feed your baby using cup and spoon, after warming the milk by placing the cup of milk in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

• Babies gradually begin to learn to sleep longer at night as they grow. This may begin as early as 6weeks to 5-6months of life.

• You can help teach your baby to sleep more at night by establishing a routine every night. For example, you can bath your baby every night, feed him/her, change the clothes and diapers, lay him/her down, turn off the lights, and sing a lullaby e.t.c.


• A vigilant and sensitive parent would usually know when a baby isn’t acting normally like he/she used to. Having said that, some of the following may indicate a sickness in your baby;

Failure to gain appreciable weight over time and stunted growth.

• Poor suck or inability to suck during breastfeeding.

• Excessive crying.

• Fever.

• Coughing during (breast) feeding.

• Difficulty in breathing.

• Yellowish discoloration of the eyes.

• Crying during urination or defecation.

• Body weakness, lethargy, apathy i.e. a previously active and playful baby becoming suddenly weak and easily irritated.

• And so on.

Always seek proper medical attention if your baby has any health challenge.


• It is dangerous to assume that babies/children should take half the dose of any medication used by an adult.

• Take time to learn basic first-aid and some recommended home therapies like preparation of oral rehydration salt solution e.t.c. it might be useful someday.


Children are not little adults, they are children! And as their faces differ, so do their peculiar needs. Hence effort, time, and resources should be devoted to empowering yourself to be better prepared to receive them into this world and help them grow and develop so that when you are senile and in your age-stricken body has returned to being a child, the man/woman you raised would be happy and able to care for you!


Dr. Adindu Ikenna is a Clinician in Special Treatment Clinic at Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.

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