A paediatrician's guide to your baby's development and milestones
A letter to you from Dr Veronica Toh, neonatologist and paediatrician at Raffles Hospital.
Congratulations to you! After enduring several months of bodily and emotional changes, everything is about to shift as you embark on your new role as a mother.
From the moment your baby cries her first cry, a thousand “What do I do?” questions will race through your mind. Kind friends and relatives will share their experiences and opinions with you while the internet bombards you with a plethora of answers. Relax…this is where your paediatrician steps in to help.
Your newborn is a night owl, sleeping when mummy is awake and demandingly ravenous at night. This short phase will soon ease into a daytime wakefulness and night somnolence in a few weeks and no amount of sleep training your baby will usher in the new routine sooner. Go with the flow! Your baby may be only 3kg but she is armed with instinctive survival skills and will not stay quiet when she is hungry. Unless your newborn is premature or underweight, your baby will guide you with regards to how frequently and how long she needs to be fed by the one instinct she knows, crying. You will find yourself at the paediatrician’s clinic a few times in the first month of life. The doctor will be closely monitoring your baby’s wellbeing ranging from newborn jaundice, umbilical cord care and weight gain.
Before you know it, your baby has settled into a regular feeding routine and is gaining weight. You will soon notice she gazes into your eyes when she feeds, quietens when she hears your voice and starts to smile when she is pleased. Your little one will gradually skip a feed or two in the night in exchange for a longer uninterrupted sleep. By two to three months, she will start cooing and may even hold a conversation with you, especially in the mornings when they are at their best after a long night’s rest. Babies normally roll over between three and four months. Her vocalisation begins to sound more elaborate now. She starts being funny, blows raspberries and chuckles when she is happy. When you start introducing food to her, remember to get your camera ready. She will demonstrate a plethora of reactions which will tickle you to tears. Gradually, she starts to creep and crawl and eventually starts to walk at around one year. Her cooing will evolve into babbling and you may catch her calling you Mama between nine to 12 months. By a year, she is waving, clapping, dancing and tottering around the house. Even though her spoken vocabulary may be quite limited, you will notice she understands much of what you tell her.
Her vaccination starts at about four to six weeks and continues quite closely for the first six months. At each visit, you will find the paediatrician checking your baby’s weight, wellbeing, and development. Most babies catch their first cold or diarrhea after six months when the antibodies conferred by you in utero have dwindled. Breastfeeding reduces this risk and that is one reason why breastfeeding is strongly encouraged for at least six months.
Before long, your fragile babe is now a feisty toddler with her own character. You will look back nostalgically and wonder how time has flown by so fast. Your paediatrician who has walked you through the first year will also share the same pride with you.
All the best,
Dr Veronica Toh | Raffles Hospital
Dr Veronica Toh has been a paediatrician and neonatologist at Raffles Hospital for more than fifteen years, having previously practised neonatology and paediatrics in KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. She obtained her basic medical degree from the National University of Singapore and her postgraduate degree of MRCP (Paeds)(UK) from Edinburgh. She is accredited with the Specialist Accreditation Board and is a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine Singapore (FAMS). Her special interests are in the care of premature babies, perinatal asphyxia and neonatal encephalopathy. She spent a year training in cerebral and whole body hypothermia for perinatal asphyxia in the Leeds General Infirmary and Hammersmith Hospital under the Health Manpower Development Plan scholarship.
Dr Toh is a mother of three grown up boys and she has a wealth of experience in bringing up her children. She is passionate about her profession and loves her little patients.
Dr Tan Siew Pin | Olive Tree Baby & Kids Clinic
Dr Tan graduated from National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lon School of Medicine 1985, and with a MSc (Paediatrics) in 1989. She worked as a specialist paediatrician at NUH from 1989 - 1998, and started Olive Tree Baby and Kids Clinic in April 1989. She is a mother of four children and a strong advocate of breast feeding.
Olive Tree paediatric practice is run primarily by Dr Tan as the anchor paediatrician. On Tuesdays, Dr Mary Lim Li Anne is the in-house paediatrician and fills in for Dr Tan. They provide medical service from newborns up to 18 years of age.
The following services are provided: newborn assessments and checks on hospital-born babies, breastfeeding advice, well-baby visits from birth onwards including developmental assessment, vaccinations, general paediatric healthcare, and management of acute and chronic illnesses. Dr Tan has admitting rights to oversee hospitalised patients at Mount Elizabeth, Gleneagles, Thomson Medical Centre, Mount Alvernia, and East Shore Hospital.
Dr Leo Hamilton | Kids Clinic Novena
Dr Leo Hamilton trained in the United States. He became US board-certified in 2003 in the speciality of paediatrics and, in 2006, in the sub-speciality of paediatric haematology and oncology. Dr Leo spent several years as a private practice paediatric haematologist/oncologist before relocating with his family to Singapore in 2011 and has since continued as a paediatrician in Singapore. Dr Leo cares for children, from newborns to teenagers, in his clinic at Royal Square Novena, as well as the private hospitals -Mount Elizabeth Hospital Novena, Mount Elizabeth Hospital Orchard, Gleneagles, Parkway East, and Thomson Medical Centre.
Dr Leo has a strong belief in practising modern, up-to-date medicine that minimises interventions and medications. During his training, he learned that most of everything he knows about Paediatrics changes, hence sticking to evidence-based medicine is his guiding principle. The basic care he provided 20 years ago when he started as a paediatrician has changed tremendously, and he knows it will continue to do so.
Dr Leo is a strong believer that most children need few or no medications, and enjoys working with parents to determine what medicines will help, and what is unnecessary. Knowing when a test is needed is an important part of being a paediatrician and a central part of his practice.
Dr Natalie Epton | SBCC Baby & Child Clinic
Dr Natalie Epton is a paediatrician and neonatologist practising at Mount Elizabeth Hospital Novena. She has special interests in neonatal medicine, including neonatal intensive care, early childhood development and childhood nutrition.
Dr Epton received her medical degree from the University of Birmingham, UK, in 1999. She completed her postgraduate paediatric training in Birmingham Children’s Hospital and KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, obtaining her membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health in London in 2004. She then went on to complete her advanced specialist training in paediatrics and neonatology, becoming one of the first doctors in Singapore to receive advanced accreditation in both specialties.
Dr Epton has served as a clinical lecturer at both the Yong Loo Lin undergraduate medical school and the Duke-NUS postgraduate medical school for several years, and personally mentored many junior doctors. Her research has won awards at several regional conferences, and she has had the privilege of being an invited speaker at an international congress. She is committed to patient education and has served as a member of the editorial advisory board for Young Parents magazine for over five years.
Dr Epton is a passionate advocate of breastfeeding and, as a mother of three, she has a wealth of personal practical knowledge and experience.
Contact her clinic on 6255 5017, 38 Irrawaddy Road, #05-46/47 Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Singapore 329563.
Dr. Belinda Murugasu-Koh | Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
Contact her clinic on 6734 5833, 3 Mount Elizabeth, #15-17 Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, Singapore 228510.