Your Baby’s First Hours of Life

August 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Baby Problems

The moment you’ve awaited for nine months has finally arrived, when you hold your baby in your arms. You can’t help but ask, “Is she all right?” The obstetrician says that she looks just fine, and then a nurse or attendant whisks her away…

But the doctor’s quick assessment is only the beginning of the detailed evaluation your new son or daughter undergoes immediately after delivery. Here’s a look at the typical medical procedures that take place just after a child is born.

Medical Procedures

As soon as your baby’s head emerges, the obstetrician uses a bulb syringe to clean out any fluid in his or her mouth and nostrils, explains Ulana Sanocka, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. Clearing the airways enables the baby to breathe more easily.

Once the rest of the body has been delivered, the umbilical cord is clamped in two places, and a doctor, nurse, or parent cuts between the clamps. A sample of the baby’s blood is taken from the cord to be analyzed later.

Not Like the Movies

If this is your first child, you may be surprised at how she looks. She won’t resemble the pink, perfectly shaped cherubs you’ve seen in commercials! But, then again, you will probably think she is the most beautiful child you’ve ever seen.

If you had a vaginal delivery, your baby’s head is molded from passing through the tight confines of the birth canal. (It will take on a more normal shape within a few days.) Her hands and feet may be slightly blue because her circulation isn’t efficient yet. Upon the first breath after your newborn cries spontaneously, or with a little physical encouragement (by rubbing his back or tapping his feet), the infant will “pink up.” “When the child actively cries, there’s usually a simultaneous increase in chest and limb movements,” says Dr. Ian Laing, MD, fellow in Newborn Medicine at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Gradually, over the early minutes of life, a baby goes from a rather gray-blue color to an attractive pink.” Even then, the toes and fingers may retain a slight blueness, which may last for a few hours.

Baby’s Breathing

Don’t be alarmed at your child’s strange breathing. The baby coughs, sputters, and wheezes to get rid of all the fluid she’s inhaled and begin the new experience of breathing air.

“When a baby is born vaginally, the infant has been squeezed in the birth canal,” says Dr. Sanocka. “About fifty cubic centimeters {one and 2/3 ounces} of fluid is actually squeezed out of the baby’s lungs this way.” “The big squeeze,” as she calls it, facilitates easier breathing. Infants born by cesarean section will take shallower and quicker breaths until the fluid is cleared from the airways.

Even after an infant gets the hang of breathing, the respiration is different from an adult’s. “A baby’s normal breathing is irregular or periodic,” says Dr. Kim Harvey, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in Palo Alto, California. “A newborn will take some big sighs and a few pants, hold her breath, and then breathe very quickly.” A newborn’s respiratory rate is much faster than an adult’s too—about 40 to 60 times a minute contrasted to an adult’s rate of 20 times per minute. The heartbeat is quicker as well: 120 beats a minute, compared with 70 for an adult.