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Common Concerns in the Early Weeks - Part Three

This article covers the following topics: Eyes, Discharging Eyes, Red Streaks in Eyes, Baby's Mouth, Thrush, Treatment, Sharing thrush, Lip Blisters.  There will be two more parts to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

So much happens so fast as your baby adjusts to life outside the womb and you adjust to life with this little person. Knowing what to expect and understanding why babies do what they do will help you ease more comfortably into parenting.


Discharging Eyes

Most newborns' eyes begin tearing by three weeks of age. These tears should drain into the nose through tiny tear ducts at the inside corners of the eye. During the first few weeks or months you may notice a yellow, sticky discharge from one or both eyes. This is usually caused by a blocked tear duct. At birth, the nasal end of these ducts is sometimes covered by a thing membrane that usually breaks open shortly after birth, allowing proper drainage of tears. Often this membrane does not fully open, causing the tear ducts to remain plugged and tears to accumulate in one or both eyes. Fluid that does not drain properly becomes infected. If this happens, the discharge from your baby's eyes will be persistently yellow, indicating infection in the region of the blocked tear ducts.

Here's how to unclog your baby's tear duct. Gently massage the tear duct that is located beneath the tiny "bump" in the nasal corner of each eye. Massage in a downward and inward direction (toward the nose) about six time. Do this tear-duct massage as often as you think of it -- for example, before each diaper change (after washing your fingers). Massaging the tear duct applies pressure on the fluid backed up within the ducts and eventually pops open the membrane and clears the ducts.

If you still notice persistent tearing or yellow drainage from one or both eyes, during your well-baby checkup ask your doctor to instruct you in how to massage the tear ducts. If the yellow drainage persists, you doctor may prescribe antibiotic ointment or drops to treat this infection. Mothers often report that squirting a few drops of this breast milk (which is loaded with germ fighting substances) will clear up the eye discharge.

Blockages may recur intermittently, but tear ducts usually remain open by six months. Occasionally this conservative treatment does not work, and between nine months and one year it becomes necessary for an eye doctor to open these tear ducts by inserting a tin wire probe into them. This is usually a short minor office procedure but may require out-patient surgery under general anesthesia if done after one year. Discharge from the eyes in the first few months is almost always caused by blocked tear ducts; in the older infant and child, discharging eyes may be caused by an eye infection called conjunctivitis, or more commonly, may be part of an infection in the ears and sinuses.

Red Streaks in Eyes

Shortly after baby's birth you may notice a red streak in the whites of one or both of baby's eyes. Don't worry! These are called conjunctival hemorrhages and are caused b y blood vessels broken during the squeeze of delivery. These do not harm baby's eyes and disappear with a few weeks.

Baby's Mouth

You look inside your baby's mouth and see white cheesy patches on the inside lips or cheeks or on the tongue or the roof of the mouth. These spots weren't there before, and new spots bother new mothers. You can't wait to share your newly found spots with the doctor, who is only a phone call away.

Hold the phone -- it's only thrush, a yeast infection inside baby's mouth. Yeast is a fungus that normally resides in warm, moist areas of the skin, such as the mouth, vagina, and diaper areas, and thrives on milk. Yeast infections commonly flare up following antibiotic therapy, since antibiotics also kill the good bacteria that normally keep the yeast germs under control.

Unless it is left untreated, thrush seldom bothers babies, though it may itch and cause an irritable soreness in the mouth. It is more a nuisance than a medical problem, although some babies with thrush may become quite cranky during feeding. Milk deposits on the tongue and membranes of the mouth may be confused with thrush, but milk can be easily wiped off; thrush cannot. When you try to wipe the thrush off the tongue or mucous membranes, it may leave a superficially eroded area, and sometimes even tiny points of bleeding.

Most likely your newborn did not "catch" thrush from another baby, Rather, it is probably due to an overgrowth of baby's own yeast organisms, which normally reside in the mouth and skin, usually living there harmoniously without anyone's knowing they're there. In fact, baby was probably first introduced to yeast during passage through your birth canal.

Notify your doctor (no emergency call necessary), who will prescribe an antifungal medication. Using your fingertips or the applicator that comes with the medicine, paint the thrush medicine on the patches of thrush and the rest of the mucous membranes of your baby's mouth and tongue four times a day for ten days. Here's a simple home remedy to use in addition to the medicine for thrush: Spread a fingertipful of acidophilus powder (available in capsules in the refrigerated section of a nutrition store) on the thrush twice a day for a week.

Yeast residents may often be resistant to eviction from the mouth. Several courses of treatment may be needed. If baby is using rubber nipples, teething toys, or pacifiers, boil them for twenty minutes once daily. Oral thrush may be accompanied by a fungal diaper rash. (See suggestions for treatment of diaper rash later in this chapter).

Sharing thrush.
Your baby's first bit of sharing may be to transfer his oral thrush to your nipples during breastfeeding. Sings of nipple thrush: Your nipples are sore; they are slightly reddened or pinkish; the skin is slightly puffy, dry, and flaky. Your nipples may feel itchy and burn, and you may experience a deep shooting pain, which radiates inward from the nipple after feeding. The same treatment as for your baby's oral thrush, a prescription antifungal cream medication, will chase the yeast from your nipples. If the fungus infection on your nipples is severe, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication. Mother can take acidophilus capsules as directed to help clear up this nuisance.

Lip Blisters
During the first month blisters or calluses may develop on your baby's upper lip. Called sucking pads, these develop in response to baby's vigorous sucking and subside toward the end of the first year. They are normal and do not bother baby, so leave them alone. You may also notice a few tiny white cysts on baby's palate or gums, Dubbed "pearls," these usually resolve with a few months.

There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

Article Tags: Tear Ducts, Discharge From, Both Eyes, Blocked Tear, Tear Duct, Baby's Eyes, Baby's Mouth, Oral Thrush

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