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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 6, Lesson 1

Health Priorities for the Newborn

There are four main priorities in the newborn and infancy period.

First is the establishment of a reliable source of good nutrition. This may be accomplished by breast-feeding which is considered the preferred method when a mother is able to successfully provide this method of nourishment. Another method is bottle-feeding with a formula that simulates the nutrients found in breast milk.

Second is protection from infectious diseases. Well child care and routine visits to the primary pediatrician or health practitioner is a must. Infant care includes standard infection control, good hygiene, and vaccinations at specified times.

Well child care begins with the first examination at birth and a period of observation. The newborn is examined to determine the presence of congenital anomalies and conditions. However, it should be noted that some of these are not determined until a much later age.

Additionally, metabolic screening is considered a part of well child care. It is provided throughout the United States, but each state specifies which tests are included in their screening process. In Florida, a universal newborn hearing screening program is in place so that sequelae related to hearing loss can be minimized. Vision screens are conducted as part of the routine medical examination. If the need is indicated, more in-depth vision tests are performed for premature infants to rule out retinopathy of prematurity and its sequelae.

Some of the metabolic conditions that are included in Florida's newborn screening program are phenylketonuria (PKU), hypothyroidism, biotinidase deficiency, sickle cell disease, and cystic fibrosis. What other tests are included in Florida's newborn screening program?

Third, is the establishment of a nurturing environment. This is essential to the bonding and attachment process and the development of trust. The development of trust is vital to the emotional, as well as physical, well being of the infant during the first year of life.

baby sleepingFourth, are other health measures to reduce morbidity and mortality. This could include immunizations, hearing testing following failure of newborn hearing screening, reduction of trauma, use of car seats, instructions for parents regarding putting infants to sleep on their backs, and the prevention of shaken baby syndrome.

Putting babies to sleep on their backs has been found to reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Information on SIDS can be found through the SIDS Organization and the SIDS Alliance and the National SIDS Infant Death Resource Center provides information to families and professionals who serve families that are dealing with SIDS. Information is available at the SIDS Center


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