6 things you need to know about reading the signs… (in the first year)

Emmy Samtani
Emmy Samtani
Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Created on Oct 15, 2023 · 6 mins read

Whether it’s your baby or yourself, looking out for signs and symptoms is very important. The body is an incredible machine and it’s programmed to send signs and cues to alert you when something isn’t quite right. Remember to always trust your gut, when something doesn’t feel quite right, it’s probably not. Always ask the questions – there are no silly questions when it comes to the health of you and your baby! Here are what the experts want you to know…

1. Watch for the tired signs

Chris Minogue, Registered Mothercraft Nurse – The Nurtured Way

A lot of people tell you when you take the baby home to watch out for them getting overtired. Because if they get overtired, it’s much harder to get them to sleep. But what are they talking about?

So the overtired newborn baby can be very hard to distinguish.

So if we’ve fed our baby well, after that feed the baby should be nice and calm and relaxed. Now depending on their age, they might have a short period of being available to be awake. They will then go from this very calm state to a state of jerky movement, it can be subtly one leg, slight jerking movements, and that low winge that might work up to the cry. These are the very early signs of an overtired baby.

So watch out for them, they’re very subtle. If you can get them down at that point, you’ll notice that it will be much easier to get them to sleep.

2. Understanding your baby’s cries

Genevieve Muir, Obstetric Social Worker and Parent Educator – Connected Parenting

If you speak to any new parents, one of the hardest things to get used to is the sound of our babies crying. It really is designed by nature to be a little bit heartbreaking.

So when babies cry often the message is you’ve got to work out what’s wrong and fix it. Sometimes it’s a feed or wrapping them up, changing their nappy or getting them to sleep.

While that’s true, sometimes babies are going to cry because it’s communication, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to fix it. So when that happens, parents can find themselves feeling really frustrated – like they’re getting it wrong.

I love parents to know that crying is healthy, and it is normal. It peaks around six weeks of age. We need to just realise that one of our jobs is to just be there sometimes to say to our little babies, ‘It’s Okay, I hear you and I’m here’.

We don’t have to solve it, we don’t have to fix it. We just have to be there, and acknowledging this can actually make us feel a lot better, which in turn can help our babies.

3. Recognising the warning signs

Sarah Hunstead, Paediatric First Aid – CPR Kids

Little babies can’t tell us when they’re sick, but they do show certain signs and symptoms that can alert us to know that there is something wrong.

If your baby is feeding less than normal or having fewer wet nappies than usual, you should seek medical help.

If they’re having any difficulty breathing, if they are floppy or drowsy, if they are difficult to rouse or if their colour is different to what it normally is (mottled or blue or grey), then you need to call an ambulance urgently.

And of course, if your baby is under the age of three months, and they have a temperature measured above 38 degrees Celsius your child needs urgent medical help.

But the most important thing is to always trust your gut. You know your child better than anyone. And if in doubt, seek medical help.

4. Look for signs of dehydration

Mandy Sacher, Paediatric Nutritionist – Wholesome Child

When you’re taking care of everyone but yourself it’s important to look out for dehydration. So things like feeling thirsty, having a dry mouth, seeing that you’re going to the toilet less often and having headaches are all signs of dehydration.

Remember to keep your water intake up and aim for two litres of water per day.

The next thing is iron deficiency. If you are a little bit low in iron you may start to feel irritable, you may have headaches, you may feel fatigued or just not have the energy you’re used to having. And we need energy when it comes to looking after babies and toddlers.

So focus on iron-rich foods, things like red meat and liver or plant-based options such as spinach, lentils and apricots. If you are following plant-based options, opt for vitamin C-rich foods to help absorption.

5. Know the signs of postnatal depression and anxiety

Jaimie Bloch, Child and Family Clinical Psychologist – Mind Movers Psychology 

It’s really important to talk about postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety. It can be really hard as a new parent to know what are the signs and symptoms to look for when you’re experiencing that.

What’s really important to know is that 1 in 5 women experience postnatal depression and anxiety, and 1 in 10 Men. So it’s really common.

Are you overly checking your baby and noticing different signs and symptoms in them or researching and feeling quite consumed with different health issues in your child? These can be a really good indicator of anxiety.

Another one is having frequent panic attacks around potentially leaving the house or having guests coming over. A panic attack can feel like a mini heart attack, so it’s very physiological.

With postnatal depression,, a really common red flag is when you’ve noticed that you’re not enjoying things you used to enjoy anymore like having people come over or exercise. Also noticing you’ve been thinking about death and suicide a lot.

It can be very common with mums who might be thinking it would be better off if I wasn’t here, so those types of things that I would look for red flags.

If you or someone you know is struggling with postnatal depression or thoughts of suicide or death contact Lifeline on 131114 or visit COPE.org for information and support.

6. Don’t ignore your pelvic floor

Lyz Evans, Women’s Health Physiotherapist – Women in Focus 

Gone are the days when we should actually just ignore, not talk about or accept signs and symptoms. What I want you to know is that after having a baby 60% of women will report some degree of pelvic floor issues often not talked about.

So the things that I want you to start to look out for in your pelvic floor would be any type of leaking, whether that’s to do with coughing, sneezing or an approach to the toilet. Look out for any feeling of heaviness in the vagina – like something’s kind of falling out – any issues with bowel control or wind control, as well as any pain in this area or if when returning to intercourse it doesn’t quite feel like it used to. Don’t ignore or just accept any of these feelings. Make sure that you talk to your GP or your Women’s Health physio and get some help.

There’s also a lot of other symptoms that come up in personal care particularly if you’ve had a Caesarean section. Ongoing tenderness around the wound, sensitivity or back pain are all things that I want you to look out for because it’s a sign that your body is telling you that it’s not quite right and something needs to be done.

Click through for 6 things the experts want you to know about feeding your baby (in the first year)…

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Mustela.

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