Many first time parents do not realize that their new baby will have to undergo a test for Phenylketonuria (PKU) shortly after birth and again at two weeks of age. Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a rare condition in which an infant is born without the ability to properly break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. Testing involves sticking your newborn's heel and milking out enough blood to fill the circles on the test form. The first test will be performed in the newborn nursery before you leave the hospital.
You will need to take your baby to the lab, usually at the hospital where they were born, for the second mandatory testing. The heel stick is painful and will most likely make your newborn cry. This can be very hard on a new mom and may cause her to cry as well. Happily there are several things you can do to make this necessary procedure less stressful for both mom and baby. Prior to the PKU test be sure to give baby a good feeding before leaving home. Be sure to burp baby well to prevent a tummy ache and put on a clean, dry diaper. It can greatly reduce the stress of a new mother to take a trusted friend, family member or postpartum doula with you for the procedure. Allow this person to hold the baby during the procedure. Many new mother's will become very stressed if they try to hold their baby during the heel stick.
Infants are quick to pick up on mom's stress and this can make them cry even more. Have your support person hold the baby on their shoulder as though they were going to burp the baby. Cover with a warm blanket so that they do not feel exposed. Hold their body close and allow baby to suck a pacifier or your finger throughout the procedure. Sucking is a very important self-soothing method for newborns. If the baby is crying, loudly shush in their ear. Your shushing should be continuous and as loud as the baby is crying. This loud shushing provides a white noise similar to what was heard inside the mother's womb. This white noise will help to calm your babies cries.
The majority of babies will quickly stop crying once the procedure is finished. If your baby has a hard time calming down after the procedure find a quiet place to nurse or give a bottle. Rest assured your sweet baby will forget the pain of the heel stick much more quickly than mom and dad. Congratulations you have just successfully navigated a stressful, new parent hurdle.
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