- 1 TCM Infant: and Newborn Care
- 2 Western: Infant and Newborn Care
- 3 TCM Newborn Assessment: The Baby’s Body Constitution
- 4 Western Newborn Assessment: A Baby’s Apgar Score and Vital Signs
- 5 TCM: The Baby’s Birth Weight
- 6 Western: The Baby’s Birth Weight
- 7 TCM: The Baby’s Developing Organs
- 8 Western: The Baby’s Measurements and General Physical Attributes
- 9 Western: The Baby’s Nerves and Muscles
- 10 Western: The Baby’s Physical Maturity
- 11 Notes on Postpartum Care for Your Baby
There are differences between the TCM systems of care for newborns and the Western system:
TCM Infant: and Newborn Care
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the time period required for postpartum recovery is called “Chan Ru” (产褥). “Chan” means “childbirth,” and “Ru” means “cotton mattress.” Therefore, it is recommended to be on bed rest for 6 to 8 weeks following childbirth. This time period is also popularly called “Zuo Yue Zi” (坐月子), or “month-long period of confinement.”
Western: Infant and Newborn Care
In Western medicine, the postpartum time period starts after the delivery of the baby; it is a time in which the mother recovers and returns to her pre-pregnant state while at the same time dealing with the changes of having a newborn in her life. This period often lasts 6-8 weeks.
In Western Medicine, Healthcare professionals who practise neonatology, or the branch of paediatric medicine that involves infant and newborn care, conduct assessments of newborn babies within the first 24 hours after their delivery. These assessments are crucial for finding out how healthy each newborn is upon emerging from the womb, as well as whether there’s a need to implement more intensive neonatal care. Knowing that a baby’s health is most fragile during the first 28 days of their life, thorough assessment and timely intervention are key.
First-time parents of a newborn baby may feel trepidation about this exam. What exactly will it entail? How will the results affect the next few months of the family’s life together? Indeed, these are valid concerns for new parents to have.
If your baby’s birth is coming up soon, here’s a briefer on how they’ll be assessed by a healthcare professional. Let this knowledge put you at ease and prepare you for the next steps in taking care of your newborn baby’s health.
TCM Newborn Assessment: The Baby’s Body Constitution
In Chinese Medicine, a newborn’s body constitution will be assessed.
TCM holds that each person has a distinct body type. The body’s metabolism, working organs, and organ structure are referred to as the body constitution. These factors influence how resilient we are to external pathogens. TCM uses the body constitution as its guiding principle when diagnosing and treating related ailments.
The Nine constitution types in TCM are an important component of children’s health service. TCM constitution coordination is a key step to optimise children’s health, and the TCM understanding between constitution–disease relations ensures the efficacy and effectiveness in children’s health treatment.
When the unbalanced constitution of infants are improved by coordinating TCM constitution so as to restore the state of balance, many future diseases can be prevented, such as sinuses, eczema and so on.
For example, excess “dampness and heat” manifest in your child as excess mucus and phlegm in the lungs, stomachs and intestines, or fever, irritability, vomiting and nightmares. Typically, eating too much sugar is what results in “dampness and heat.”
The Spleen-Stomach digestive system is also linked to weak digestion and tendencies to be underweight.
For children who fall sick easily or have recurring sinus and cough, the recommended TCM procedure is to improve their lung functions.
Western Newborn Assessment: A Baby’s Apgar Score and Vital Signs
In Western Medicine, the very first thing that the neonatal team will check is the baby’s overall vitality. A doctor, nurse, or midwife will use what’s called the Apgar scoring system to assess how well the baby fared after their birthing process. Each baby is assigned a score between 0 and 2 for the five categories of heart rate, breathing effort, muscle tone, reflexes, and the colour of skin. Healthy newborns typically attain an Apgar score of 8 or 9.
The neonatal team will also check the baby’s vital signs like their pulse, breathing rate, and temperature. Hypothermia, a fever, or irregular breathing may be indicative of a health issue that needs to be treated right away.
TCM: The Baby’s Birth Weight
In TCM, an infant’s weight is highly related to their food consumption, and it is generally understood that infants need to eat a lot to gain weight and develop properly. As such, their digestive system works at almost maximum capacity and so any disruption is highly harmful.
“Spleen Qi Deficiency” is common in small children. According to TCM, children differ from adults in that they have weaker organs and a weaker “Middle Jiao,” rendering them more susceptible to disease.
The Spleen is considered to be responsible for the “transformation and transportation of food.” Accordingly, many gastrointestinal problems are related to disturbances in these organs and are treated by points on the Stomach and on the Spleen channel.
Western: The Baby’s Birth Weight
In Western Medicine, the baby’s birth weight will also be assessed by the neonatal team. On average, a healthy full-term baby born between the 37th and the 41st week of pregnancy will weigh about 3.2 kg.
A newborn whose birth weight veers either much lower or much higher than the average weight has a greater risk of developing further health problems. They may need to stay in the hospital’s nursery for longer, and their nutrition and fluid levels will need to be closely monitored by the neonatal team.
TCM: The Baby’s Developing Organs
The kidneys, lungs, and spleen in particular, as well as skin issues like eczema, are thought by TCM practitioners to be connected to children’s still developing organs. They are also more vulnerable to pathogens, notably wind, heat, and dampness, throughout the developing years because they have lower levels of qi, blood, yin, and yang.
Western: The Baby’s Measurements and General Physical Attributes
On top of their weight, babies will be measured for their head circumference, abdominal circumference, and height from head to heel upon birth. Measurements like these make it easy for medical providers to discern if the baby has health conditions like hydrocephalus, birth defects like microcephaly, or diseases of the abdominal cavity like necrotising enterocolitis.
The newborn will also be checked for their general physical attributes upon birth, which will often determine whether they have any additional health problems. The physical exam will involve checking the baby’s skin for rashes, checking their lungs by listening to their breathing patterns, checking their abdomen for masses or hernias, and checking their anus and genitals to ensure open passages for waste.
Western: The Baby’s Nerves and Muscles
Neonatal assessments also involve checking the newborn’s muscle and nerve functions. Among the factors that will be assessed are the baby’s initial posture, how far their hands can flex towards their wrists, how far their arms can recoil, how far their knees can extend, and how near the feet can be moved towards the ear.
An abnormality in the baby’s nerve and muscle functions may be a sign of nerve or muscle damage due to birth injury. While many babies actually sustain minor injuries during their birth, some are at higher risk of serious threats to their health—especially if the mother has had a difficult delivery.
Western: The Baby’s Physical Maturity
Lastly, a newborn will be assessed according to their physical maturity at their gestational age. Factors that neonatal healthcare providers will check are the baby’s skin texture, presence of hair, creases on the plantar regions or the soles of the baby’s feet, openness of the eyes and ears, and development of the baby’s genitals.
These attributes will look different for babies who are premature and babies who are postmature, or very mature in terms of their physical development upon birth. Premature babies are often born in delicate health and may require extra care in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), with the length of their stay depending on their physical condition.
Notes on Postpartum Care for Your Baby
Assessment is the first step towards getting appropriate and timely postpartum care for your baby. If the neonatal team can respond quickly and decisively to problems indicated in the newborn’s assessment, your baby will have better odds of growing up healthy.
As a parent, it’s important for you to coordinate with your baby’s care providers both immediately after the assessment and in the succeeding months. Observe your newborn’s progress in their health, and keep your providers in the loop.
Caring for a new infant may be stressful and overwhelming for you at first, especially since there are so many health factors to take account of. But soon it will become like second nature to keep track of your baby’s growth—and a joyful experience to watch them go through every milestone.
Need a professional assessment for your newborn? Or looking for TCM treatments for fertility and prepping the womb for childbearing? Contact us to book an appointment. Our professional physicians specialize in women’s and infant health and provide consultations to renew your health.