If you are anything like me, you watch your baby sleep and stare at her little chest to make sure it’s rising and falling with each breath. You wake up in the middle of the night to peer into your son’s crib just to be sure he’s okay.
When your baby makes a weird guttural sound, you Google "weird guttural sounds in babies". And then you regret your search because 500 terrible possibilities of what conditions could make your baby make that sound pop up and keep you awake all night.
Here are nine medical conditions I knew nothing about before having babies. Most of them are not cause for concern.
1. Anything can cause a rash.
Allergies, food sensitivities, viruses, heat, diapers, tags – you name it and it probably caused my daughter to have a rash when she was a baby. We would send weekly rash pictures to the pediatrician for assurances it wasn’t anything to worry about.
Most rashes go away without any treatment. Some are symptoms of a more serious illness. Here are three not-so-serious rashes that may still need extra help:
A. Diaper rash can be a persistent problem for some kids.
Some babies can’t tolerate certain diaper brands. (FYI, diapers and wipes are scented unless they specifically say they aren’t.) Some babies get diaper rash with certain foods. Some babies have to be changed very frequently – even in the middle of the night. I highly recommend using cornstarch or laundry starch on top of diaper cream for severe rashes.
B. Hives aren’t always cute little red circles with a white spot in the center.
One day our daughter woke up from her nap with swollen, red, furious-looking legs. We were ready to rush her to the hospital but a picture to our pediatrician confirmed hives from an allergic reaction. A serving of Benadryl and a bath later, she started to look like our child again.
That first time, the hives were caused by freshly-cut grass. Eggs and cats caused future hives.
C. Cradle cap is a misleading name.
Kids can have cradle cap well into their toddler bed years. It’s essentially thick patches of flaky yellow spots on the scalp that can create bald spots if you handle it incorrectly.
What you don’t want to do is scrape it off. It can leave red, raw patches on the scalp and the hair will come off with the flakes. As kids get older you can use dandruff shampoo on the spots. For younger kids you can rub coconut oil into the spot and use a soft toothbrush or baby hairbrush to gently remove the layers before you wash it. It will probably take several attempts to get it all and will likely return in the same patch in the future.
2. There are annoying colds and then there is RSV.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory infection that has landed several kids I love in the hospital for a few days. For most children, the symptoms will seem like a bad cold and go away on their own. For some kids, it gets really serious and can lead to inflammation in the lungs and pneumonia.
3. Kidney issues can be identified in utero.
The most common kidney issue in babies is hydronephrosis. It’s the swelling of a kidney due to urine back-up. A perinatologist may point it out to you on an ultrasound as something to keep an eye on and you may start to panic. But the truth is it’s fairly common (our doctor said especially in boys) and usually resolves itself without any intervention.
4. Umbilical hernias sound bad and look uncomfortable but don’t usually cause distress.
It’s pretty common for babies to have an umbilical hernia, which looks like a bulge near their belly button and may cause the belly button to protrude sometimes. They’re usually painless and go away on their own by toddlerhood.
5. Lip-ties and tongue-ties can cause major breastfeeding woes.
The frustrating thing about lip-ties and tongue-ties is these conditions can go undiagnosed long enough to seriously damage breastfeeding attempts. The good thing is they can be resolved with a fairly simple procedure (though it is never fun to watch your baby have any medical procedure).
6. Thrush can affect moms and babies.
Thrush is an overgrowth of yeast in the baby’s mouth that can be passed on to mom during breastfeeding and make feeding very painful for both parties involved.
Thrush often goes away by itself, but not before it causes breastfeeding issues. And, in some cases, mom and baby can keep passing it back and forth unless they both get treated at the same time.
7. Babies can get some serious acne.
Thanks, hormones. Because you didn’t wreak enough havoc on my face in my teen years, now you return for my baby’s face.
In general, you should do nothing to correct baby acne. It will go away on its own, usually by six months. Some people believe applying breast milk helps. I found cleaning my babies’ faces with gentle, tear-free baby soap a couple times a week (once they were about six weeks old) helped.
8. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, can lead to a really fussy baby and a ton of wardrobe changes.
GERD is essentially severe acid reflux. All babies have a little reflux. It’s what makes them have that cute little burp and spit after feeding. Some babies, like my son, projectile vomit like the scene in The Exorcist. We would go through an entire Aden and Anais large swaddle blanket at each feeding.
Though my babies’ acid reflux was not as severe as GERD (he was gaining weight and generally content) he did get fussy while feeding and could not be put flat on his back for at least thirty minutes after eating. We tried visits to the chiropractor (I know it sounds crazy but some people swear by it and I already had a chiropractor I trusted), medication, and eliminating dairy from my diet. With those three treatments, the vomiting and fussiness reduced significantly.
9. There’s a fussy baby and then there’s a colicky baby.
All babies come with some degree of difficulty. After all, they are living creatures entirely dependent on you to figure out what they need 24 hours a day. But some babies are just a whole lot harder than others.
A colicky baby is a baby who cries incessantly and without apparent cause. The only good news if your baby is diagnosed with colic is he’ll probably outgrow it after a few incredibly long, sleepless months.
I highly recommend you investigate all possible solutions before you accept you "just have a colicky baby and there’s really nothing you can do about it but wait it out". That may very well be true, but I’ve seen cases of GERD, underfeeding, and food allergies/sensitivities (accessed through breast milk or soy/milk based formula) labeled as colic. It’s a very important distinction because GERD, underfeeding, and food allergies are all problems with solutions. Colic is the great unknown.
A lactation consultant is a great resource. If your baby is gaining weight, the doctor may say that’s an indication there are no feeding issues. But my son had acid reflux and was gaining weight. Two of my friends had fussy babies who were gaining weight but were still hungry and not getting enough breast milk.
A lactation consultant has time to watch the whole feeding process from beginning to end. She can see how the baby behaves during feeding and will weigh the baby before and after to see exactly how many ounces are being consumed and spit up.
Luckily, most of these problems are temporary and usually minor (RSV is no joke but it’s treatable when caught early). None of it is fun, of course. But we all know families who would find it a luxury to worry about a little rash instead of the major medical issue they face.
May all our babies have good health and a talent for sleeping.