Sunday, December 19, 2010

::22 weeks::

Baby's growing

The baby now looks like a miniature newborn. Lips are becoming more distinct and eyes have developed; though the iris still lacks pigment, his eyebrows and eyelids are in place. His pancreas, essential for hormone production, is developing steadily and the first signs of teeth are showing beneath his gum line. Before you know it, your baby will be smiling at you.

The baby now weighs almost one pound / 430 grams, measures nearly 11 inches / just over 27 centimetres long from crown to heel, and is proportioned like a newborn, albeit a thinner version since her baby fat hasn't yet developed. Although she's getting heavier every day, her skin still appears wrinkled because she needs to gain more weight. The lips are distinct and the eyes are formed, though the iris (the coloured part of the eye) still lacks pigment. The pancreas, essential in the production of hormones, is developing steadily.

Even this early, the first signs of teeth appear in the form of tooth buds beneath the gum line. Before you know it, your baby will be born, and soon after, her first teeth will come through.

You've probably gained between 12 and 15 pounds / 5.4 and 6.8 kilograms. Starting now, you'll begin to put on weight more steadily, averaging about half a pound / 225 grams per week. You may crave certain foods and you may notice an increased (but not bloody) vaginal discharge. Both are a normal part of being pregnant.

How your life's changing

At this point, you'll probably notice a steady gain in weight - about 225g/half a pound each week. You may also notice that your appetite's increasing. It's okay to give in to an occasional yearning for Maggi mee or kuih lapis, but try to find a healthy substitute if you constantly long for junk food.

Sometimes it's difficult to look much beyond the birth but it's worth finding out about babies before you hold your own. For example, you may be surprised at what a newborn looks like or you may need a crash course in changing nappies.

Changing your baby's diapers regularly is important, as urine combined with the bacteria in faeces can make skin sore and lead to diaper rash. Expect to do it before or after every feed (except at night, when changing may disrupt her sleep), plus when she has done a poo.

Babies poo several times daily to begin with, and wee every one to three hours. It's amazing how much time we, mums, spend inspecting our baby's diapers, trying to figure out whether the frequency, colour and consistency is normal or not. But what's normal for your baby can depend on how old she is, whether she's breastfed or formula fed, and whether she's started solids. Your baby's stools will change regularly as she develops from a newborn through her first year and you'll soon be able to tell what's normal for her.

There is no set frequency for how often your baby should pass stools. In the early months this will depend on whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby. Breastfed babies who are not on solids may pass stools four times a day or more, or only once every three days, but you shouldn't worry about the frequency as long as the stools are soft and easy to pass. But formula fed babies normally need to pass a stool each day to avoid constipation.

Your baby's stools may regularly change in consistency and colour, too, going from soft and mustard-yellow to yellow with green specks, and then back again the next day. This is completely normal. Wetness doesn't bother most babies so don't expect her to cry or show discomfort every time she needs changing. Disposables absorb moisture particularly well, so you may not always be able to gauge their wetness until they're saturated. To avoid the problem, check for wetness every couple of hours (put a clean finger into the nappy).

Which diapers are better - disposable or cloth? This is one of the great debates of parenting. The basic argument in favour of cloth diapers is that they're less expensive and some people feel they cause less diaper rash. Also, disposables have plastic liners that don't decompose, while cloth diapers can be recycled, thus lessening the impact on our landfills. Millions of disposable diapers are thrown away every day. Then again, frequent laundering of cloth diapers can harm the environment, too, especially if you use bleach or non-biodegradable detergents.

It's worth thinking it through before your baby is born, but be aware that you may change your mind afterwards, so don't invest too heavily in lots of expensive diapers. Think about practical issues such as whether you have a washing machine and possibly a tumble dryer (yes, even in sunny Malaysia -- think of how little sun we can get during the haze or the monsoon season). If you opt for disposables, can you easily buy regular supplies and do you have somewhere to store them? Talk to friends with young babies and find out what choices they made. Compare prices for cloth diapers, disposables and all the accessories that go with them. You may also want to include having a second or third child in your calculations.

Even if you choose to use cloth diapers, you may find disposables useful for when travelling or for emergencies.

What should I have handy for each diaper change?

Before you change your baby, be sure you have everything you need nearby:

• A safe changing area with a hygienic, washable surface

• A clean diaper

• A bin or bag to dispose of the dirty diaper

• Diaper wipes or cotton wool balls and warm water

• Diaper cream if your baby has diaper rash

• A change of clothing in case the old diaper has leaked

• A diversion - change your baby under a mobile or give her a stuffed toy to distract her attention from what you'll be doing below the waist.

Once you've got the hang of it, diaper changing will become second nature, and you will have plenty of opportunity to practice, since your baby will need eight to 10 diaper changes a day to begin with. But those first few changes can be challenging.

You may also have noticed some changes down below. It's common in pregnancy to have an increased vaginal discharge as the result of increased blood flow in that part of the body. Needing to go to the loo a lot is another side-effect of pregnancy but don't forget that you are also more susceptible to urinary tract infections too - see your doctor if you suspect a bout of cystitis. You may also experience bleeding from the back passage, particularly if you have developed haemorrhoids.

• Note: Experts say every baby develops differently - even in uterus. These foetal development pages are designed to give a general idea of how a foetus grows in the womb.

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