Newborn babies are really the greatest, aren't they? These little balls of mysterious flesh who can't tell us how they feel, what they can hear or see, or what they need to make them stop crying. And don't even get me started on that fontanel thing on top of their heads... it's like having a mouth that breathes on their skull. The reality is, as much as we absolutely adore our new babies and feel so connected to them that we can't breathe, they are a total mystery to us. Which is why there are a few common misdiagnoses for newborns that manage to trip most of us up... because they are the baby version of a Rubiks Cube.
I am not a massive fan of the whole newborn screening thing, mostly because it is not a true diagnostic test. The whole purpose of a newborn screening is to find out if your child "might" have a condition. In other words, it "might" scare the absolute hell out of you for no good reason. Or there might be a good reason, but you'll have to get follow-up testing to find out for sure. And do you want to know the worst part of it all? There are a few common things babies are misdiagnosed with, and that means a lot of worry and pain for parents who are waiting on second and third tests. Here are a few of the most common misdiagnoses for newborns.
A "false-positive" result is not that uncommon. Essentially, your baby could screen results outside the normal range and then be deemed fine after follow-up testing. Here is the trick, though: you have to believe the follow-up test and not getting frightened by a false-positive result. Though that's much easier said than done.
I blame all grandmothers for this one, or maybe just mine. Every time one of my babies cried she would say, "Oh, he's a colicky one!," essentially damning me to months of inexplicable crying jags. Well, it turns out that colic is often misdiagnosed (especially when you rely on family for your health care needs), and could actually be a condition called gastroesophagel reflux (GER). Pediatrician Dr. William Sears told Parenting that GER occurs when "the acidic stomach contents regurgitate back into the esophagus, causing pain. GER is common in babies because the circular band of muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach is immature."
GER can present the same symptoms as colic (baby cries for no clear reason, seems to be in pain), and can sometimes be remedied by smaller, more frequent feedings to stimulate saliva production and lubricate the esophageal lining. If the pain interferes with weight gain or sleep, it's time to call your doctor.
Dr. Jack Paradise, professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told The New York Times that ear infections are extremely easy to misdiagnose because:
You’re dealing with a tiny subject, the baby or toddler, where the ear canal is narrow and tends to be occluded with wax, which you must remove to see the eardrum, and doing that can be a harrowing experience.
The antibiotics prescribed to clear up an ear infection can be difficult for a baby to process, and the bacterial infection will clear up after a few days on its own in rougly 80 percent of cases.
Babies are a sweet, sweet mystery, and they like to take their time revealing their secrets to you. So try trusting yourself a little, your health care professional a lot, and you might get that mystery solved sooner than you think.