Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...


Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...


Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...


The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Why babies cry and how to soothe them

Babies cry as a means of communication, to indicate that they are hungry, tired, scared, in pain, and more. Even entirely healthy newborns will cry for between 1 to 3 hours per day, because they are reliant on other people to meet their basic needs. ....

Toddler Sleep

Do toddlers really need naps? Yes. Naps are essential for your toddler's good health until the age of 4 years. Research suggests that naps are crucial to a baby's brain development. Without them, a child's physical and mental development can suffer. ....

Toddler eating

Is it normal for my toddler to eat less than she did when she was an infant? Because growth slows after the first birthday, it is normal for a toddler's appetite to decrease. Why does her appetite vary so much day to day? Because toddlers are eager ....

Will I hurt my baby’s soft spot if I rub it when I wash his hair?

The medical name for a baby’s soft spot is called the anterior fontanelle. This is an opening in the bones of the skull that allows the cranium to grow. The fontanelle is covered with a very tough membrane so you will not hurt it when washing or br....

What’s the best way to clean the whitish material that builds up between a baby girl’s outside and inside vaginal lips?

Cleaning the discharge that accumulates between the labia majora (outside vaginal lips) and labia minora (inside vaginal lips) bother parents as much as cleaning a little boy’s testicles. A girl is often born with this discharge and it protects the....

I’m worried that I will hurt my son’s testicles when I clean him up after a poo.

Before puberty, it does not hurt if a boy’s testicles are manipulated. Although it’s logical to be gentle, don’t worry about causing your son any pain when you clean him up after a bowel movement.

When I’m changing my baby, I notice tiny opalescent beads around her anus and vagina. If I rub them between my fingers, they have a slight waxy feel. What is this?

It’s called an Epstein’s Pearl and is nothing to worry about. The pearl is composed of mucus cells trapped under a thin membrane. It will go away in the first few weeks of life. Babies often have two variations of this lesion that you may see in ....

Why does my baby get hiccups after she feeds?

Breastfed and bottle fed babies can often get hiccups after feeding. This happens because they reflux some stomach contents into their oesophagus after eating and the acid stimulates a nerve that causes the hiccups. Hiccups generally resolve after a ....

Although my baby takes her bottle without any problems, she spits her pacifier out. Why doesn’t she like it?

Babies don’t suck on things the way we do. Instead of creating negative pressure with their cheeks (that’s what kids and adults do), they lick with their tongues at the same time they work their jaws. Therefore, when a baby sucks on a pacifier, s....

When will I be able to tell the colour of my baby’s eyes?

Babies of European descent usually have dark, slate blue eyes at birth. Babies of Asian or African descent usually have brown eyes at birth. Final eye colour is usually apparent by six months of age, but occasionally remains a mystery until a baby is....

The whites of my baby’s eyes are blue. Is that normal?

The white part of the eye is called the sclera and the tissue inside the sclera is called the choroid. The choroid is bluish in colour and it can be seen through the sclera in the first few months of life because the sclera is thin. If an older baby ....

Can I take my baby out?

Of course. Going out for a walk is a great activity. If the baby is in a pram, protect them from direct sunlight and dress them warmly enough. If carrying them in a pouch, protect their head and face from the sun or wind. Take care not to overdress t....

Is it safe to leave my baby alone?

As long as the baby is in his cot, you can hear your child if he cries (get a monitor if necessary), the room is a comfortable temperature and he isn’t too hot then you can leave your baby to sleep alone. Do not leave a baby unattended on a couch, ....

How can I tell if my baby’s bowel movements normal?

When your baby is born his first bowel movements will be dark green or black and sticky, this is called meconium. They will then change to a mustardy yellow colour with small bits, often described as bird-seed like. A formula fed baby will have soft ....

Is my baby too hot?

Overheating is a recognized sign of Cot Death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To avoid overheating, place the back of your hand on the tummy or the neck, if it is damp or sweaty then your child is too hot, and you need to cool the baby down b....

Why does my baby cry all the time?

Crying is your baby’s only means of communicating. As you get to know your baby, so too will you get to know variances in his cries. He may just want attention or be lonely. He may also be uncomfortable, have a wind, be hungry, feel cold or hot. A ....

Is my child gaining enough weight?

Average, weekly weight gain is 200gms. Some babies only gain 100gms, some as much as 300gms. One week there might be a gain of about a 150 gm and the next will be about a 250gm weight gain. Bottle fed babies tend to start gaining weight from birth, w....

Can I really keep expressed breast milk in the freezer for 3 months?

Yes. Expressed breast milk can stay in the fridge for a maximum of 24hrs and in a good quality freezer for a maximum of 3 months. Frozen breast milk can be defrosted in the fridge or at room temperature. It should be warmed up to body temperature in ....

Do I need to clean my baby’s nose?

It is only necessary to clean baby’s nose if there is some congestion that may be interfering with feeding or sleeping. Saline nasal spray or drops are often sufficient to “wash” the congestion away. If it is thick nasal mucous, an aspirator ma....

Why must my baby face backwards in the car seat?

A baby should face backwards in their car seat for the first 9 months or until they weigh 9 kg. For the first 9 months, their head is approximately 1/3 of their body weight and if there is an impact it could cause a forward facing baby to be propelle....

My baby has crusty eyes in the morning, what can I do?

Newborn babies can get excessive “sleep” in the corners of their eyes due to an immaturity of the tear ducts. This can easily be wiped with moist cotton wool and it resolves itself by about 2 months. There can be an excessive amount of discharge,....

My baby just cries all the time, what can I do?

This depends very much on the circumstances behind the crying. (Read more: crying) or send me an e-mail: for a personal answer.

Do I need to give my baby water to drink?

Most babies under 5 months, drinking either breastmilk or formula do not require extra water to drink. One usually starts introducing cool, boiled water when introducing solid foods.

Can I travel with my little baby?

This depends on where, how and how long the journey will take. Send me an e-mail: for a specific answer.

Is it Ok for my baby to suck his thumb?

Yes. A lot of babies need to soothe themselves by sucking on their fists, which can become thumb-sucking as they get older. It is your choice if you wish to encourage this or the use of a dummy.

Can I feed my baby both breastmilk and formula?

This can be done and in various ways, however expressed breast milk and formula should not be mixed in the same bottle. Seek guidance from your clinic nurse or send an e-mail to for specific advice.

What is the difference between a posset and a vomit?

Bringing up a small amount of milk when a baby burps is called a posset. This is quite common, especially with breast fed babies. If the baby is healthy and gaining weight, there is no reason for concern. Larger amounts would be considered to be vomi....

When will my baby sleep through the night?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are many variables to the concept of “sleeping through”. Some parents see having 12 hours uninterrupted sleep as the goal, others only expect 8 hours uninterrupted sleep as ideal. Most understand it....

Can I use soap on my baby’s skin when I wash her?

It is advisable to use a very mild soap or aqueous cream when bathing baby for the first few weeks. Avoid soap on their face. If there is a reaction to any product that is used, seek medical advice to find a cleanser that is best for your baby’s sk....

My 3-month-old is drooling a lot and chewing on things. Does that mean she’s teething?

A few interesting things happen at three months of age: (1) a baby has enough motor skills to confidently grab objects and pull them to her mouth, (2) a baby likes chewing on things more than before, and (3) a baby’s major salivary gland (the parot....

My 6-week-old has a soft bowel movement twice a day. However, before she goes, she strains real hard and gets red in the face. What should I do to treat her constipation?

If your baby is feeding well and gaining weight, I don’t think she is actually constipated—the definition of constipation is producing hard, dry stools. Babies sometimes grunt and strain when having a bowel movement because of a reflex that tells....

My 2-month-old is losing her hair. When will it grow back?

It’s common for babies to lose their hair in the first few months of life. For some infants, the hair grows back quickly. For others, they may look like little old men until they are 9- to 12-months of age.

My 2-month-old baby hasn’t made a poo all week?

It depends on what baby is drinking. A baby drinking purely breastmilk can occasionally have no bowel movement due to growth spurts and as their digestive system matures. If there are plenty of wet nappies and the baby is comfortable give it another ....

What is the rash my 6 week baby has all over its face?

This is quite possibly millia, small tiny white spots usually spreading across the nose and cheeks and up onto the forehead and in severe cases over the whole face and into the neck. They can appear worse if the baby has very fair skin or is too warm....

My 3 week old is stuffy all the time and sneezes a lot. Isn’t he too young to have a cold?

Although your 3 week old is not too young to have a cold, the chances are he doesn’t. Babies have to breathe through their noses for the first few months of life. Their nasal passages are small, however, which explains the “stuffy” sound you he....

My son was circumcised three days ago. His penis was red at first, but now there’s some yellow pus on the head. What should we do?

Right after a newborn is circumcised; the head of the penis is bright red and has a “wet” look. Over the next few days, the head becomes drier and takes on a dull red appearance. The head returns to its normal skin colour about a week after the c....

My 3-week-old’s big toenails are in-grown. Is this normal?

Although this is a common observation, it is not usually due to truly ingrown nails. A newborn’s toenails have the consistency of parchment and because of intrauterine positioning; the nail may grow up against the fleshy part of the toe. The reason....

My 2-week-old has a small amount of milk coming from his nipples. Is this normal?

Male and female infants can be born with swollen breasts, due to the effect of maternal hormones on their breast tissue. A small percentage of babies also get a milky discharge from their nipples which resolves in a few days. You should not squeeze t....

My 10-day-old still has his umbilical cord. It’s gooey and smells bad. What should I do?

It is not unusual for the cord area to have an unpleasant smell a few days before it falls off. The reason for this is because the cord remnant is actually decaying, i.e., the umbilical stump does not have a blood supply and the body’s immune syste....

If I carry my newborn in a carry pouch, will it hurt his back?

Infants are very flexible and carrying them in an infant carrier will not cause back pain. The main thing to be concerned about when you use an infant carrier is that their head is well supported and that they don’t get too hot.

My newborn has overlapping toes. Should I tape them to straighten them out?

Things are pretty tight in the uterus and babies have a few “problems” because of this. Their shins are bowed because their legs were crossed in-utero, and their toes may overlap as well. If your newborn has overlapping toes because of these intr....

For the first week of my son’s life, I kept finding a pink stain in his nappy. Does he have blood in his urine?

Your baby was excreting uric acid crystals in his urine. This is a common finding in the first week or two of life. Although parents often report seeing “blood” in their baby’s urine, on further questioning we find out that there is a pink or s....

This morning I saw some blood coming from my 5-day-old’s vagina. Should I worry?

Baby girls commonly have a small amount of whitish discharge from their vagina. In some cases, this discharge turns bright red—it happens because the baby is shedding the lining of her uterus just like women do when they have their periods. This is....

My 1-week-old is peeling and has very dry skin around his wrists and ankles. What should I do about this?

During the pregnancy, babies are floating in amniotic fluid. For most of this time, they are covered with a greasy white material called vernix caseosa. Unfortunately, by the end of the pregnancy, the concentration of vernix lessens and the baby’s ....

My 3-day-old has a blister on her upper lip. Do you know where this came from and when it will go away?

This is called a sucking blister. It doesn’t bother the baby and usually falls off in a few days. Often a baby will get more than one in the first few weeks of life.

Is it normal to have piles after giving birth?

One third of women can develop piles during pregnancy. They are swollen veins around the rectum that may itch and ache or cause extreme discomfort. Ice packs can be applied to reduce the swelling as well as specific topical haemorrhoid ointments. Ple....

Why am I still bleeding a month after the birth?

Vaginal bleeding after the birth of your baby is from the uterus at the area where the placenta was attached. It can take up to six weeks for the uterus to return to its normal size and for the bleeding to stop. The blood should be dark in colour and....

Newborn reflexes

newborn reflexAlthough newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect newborns and ensure their care. Most of your baby’s activities in the first few weeks of life are reflexive. For example, if you place your finger in your baby’s mouth, they don’t think about what to do but suck by reflex. Similarly, when confronted by bright light, infants automatically close their eyes. While some of these primitive behaviours occur spontaneously as part of a baby’s usual activities, others are responses to certain actions. In some cases, reflexes turn into voluntary behaviour.

Rooting reflex

For instance, gently touching or stroking the corner of a baby’s mouth stimulates the rooting reflex. The rooting reflex prompts baby to turn their head in the direction of the stimulus and open their mouth in preparation for sucking. This reflex helps baby locate the breast or bottle and secure nourishment. At first babies tend to root from side to side, turning their heads towards the nipple/bottle and then away in decreasing arcs. By three weeks most babies turn their heads and move their mouths into a sucking position. The rooting reflex is prominent in the first 3-4 months, but may persist until the child’s first birthday.

Sucking and swallowing reflexes

Rooting helps a baby become ready to suck. A newborn will reflexively suck, when the roof of their mouth is touched, with a finger, breast, bottle or dummy. The sucking reflex can sometimes be strong and rapid, appearing like a chomping action.

Yawning, sucking a thumb and swallowing amniotic fluid can first be seen in babies at approximately 12-13 weeks of pregnancy. The sucking and swallowing reflexes only mature fully at 36 weeks gestation. Babies needs to co-ordinate these reflexes, in what is known as the “sucking-swallowing-breathing” sequence in order to feed.

Coordinating these rhythmic movements is a relatively complicated task for newborns and a skill that needs to be learnt and practiced. Infants first need to place their lips around the areola and squeeze the nipple between the tongue and palate. This action forces out the milk and is called “expression”. During the second phase, the infant’s tongue needs to move from the areola to the nipple. This whole process is assisted by the negative pressure, or suction, securing the breast to the baby’s mouth.

Over time, rooting, sucking and bringing the hands to the mouth will become more directed. Your baby may begin to use these movements as a source of comfort, for example, by sucking the thumb or fingers, or accepting a pacifier.

Gag reflex

The gag reflex is essential for survival and is closely related to the swallowing, coughing and sneezing reflexes. The gag reflex is triggered when babies swallow too much milk. The innate response is for babies to close off their throats, and use their tongues to push the excess milk out the mouth. This prevents choking and suffocation. When babies start on solid and finger foods, they tend to gag more frequently, as they become accustomed to new foods and textures.

Occasionally, newborns gag when excess mucus builds up in the back of the throat. This can be a scary experience for parents, as babies look momentarily distressed and turn blue. Although the gag reflex helps babies manage on their own, placing your baby over your shoulder, will help them swallow or spit out the mucous.

Startle or Moro reflex

Another more dramatic reflex in the first few weeks is called the Moro reflex. The Moro reflex usually occurs when a loud sound or movement startles a baby. A feeling of falling or a baby’s own cry can also startle them and trigger the reflex. The Moro reflex causes a baby to extend the arms, legs and fingers, arch the back, draw the head back, and then draw the arms and legs towards the chest, with fists clenched. This reflex lasts for approximately 4-6 months.

The Moro reflex is tested by gently placing a baby in a near-seated position with their head supported. The tester allows the baby’s head to drop back slightly, and catches the head before it hits a pillow or mat behind it. This will activate the Moro reflex, causing the baby to startle and lift its palms upwards, with its thumbs out. When the tester catches the baby’s head, the infant will return its arms back to its body.

Tonic neck or fencing reflex

One of the more interesting automatic responses is the tonic neck reflex, also known as the fencing posture. If a young baby is placed on their back, they will assume a “fencing position”, with their head to one side, arm on that side extended, and the opposite arm bent up at the elbow. This reflex is believed to prevent baby from rolling over. Do not feel alarmed if you do not see this response. It is subtle, and if your baby is disturbed or crying, they may not perform it. The fencing reflex tends to disappear at 5-7 months of age.

Babinski’s or plantar reflex

You will see another involuntary response when the sole of a baby’s foot is stroked. This action results in the big toe flaring upwards toward the top of the foot and the other toes fan out. This reflex is naturally occurring until about age 2, when the foot and toes will curl inwards.

Palmer grasping reflex

Similarly, if you stroke the palm of a baby’s hand, their fingers will curl around and cling to your finger (or any object). The grasping reflex can be strong, even in premature babies. This reflex remains present for the first 3-4 months of life.

Walking or stepping reflex

If a baby is held upright with their feet touching a solid surface, such as a table, they will lift one foot and then the other, appearing to take “steps” or “dance”. This reflex tends to disappear after two months and then recur as a learned voluntary behaviour, in the form of walking, toward the end of the first year.

Traction response

Although we often think of babies as utterly defensive, they have several protective reflexes. If a baby is held by both wrists and lifted forward into a sitting position, their head should first “lag” back, then straighten and fall forward. The infant will flex and elevate their shoulders, arms and wrists. This primitive reflex enables the child to hold onto the mother while being pulled. Traction helps stabilize the head before the child gains voluntary control.

The Galant reflex

The Galant reflex is present for the first 9 months and may be used by your paediatrician to test your baby’s spinal nerves. If a baby is held under their stomach and you gently stroke one side of their back, they will respond instinctively by arching their body, and pulling their pelvis towards the side that was stroked. This response is similar to us being tickled on one of our sides.

Reflexes and development

Some reflexes are present in infancy and last into adulthood, such as the gagging, yawning or blinking reflexes. Other automatic responses are unique to newborns and provide information about their health, development and gestational age. The presence and strength of a reflex are important indicators of nervous system development and functioning. Infants typically grow out of these reflexes a few months after birth. A reflex that persists beyond the expected age can be a sign of brain or nervous system damage. Consult your paediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s development or notice that they are continuing with their baby reflexes after the recommended cessation times. In some cases, infant reflexes can recur in adults who sustain brain injuries or have a stroke.