Everything you need to know about the Apgar test

You might be wondering what the Apgar test is and how it relates to you and your baby. We’ve answered some questions about the test which was developed by anaesthesiologist Virginia Apgar in 1952 to assess and rate a baby’s appearance, pulse, responsiveness, muscle activity and breathing.

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When it happens

The test is conducted on your baby immediately after birth. Doctors usually aim to carry out the assessment within one to five minutes after your baby is born.

How it happens

The test is usually carried out in the delivery room.

What Apgar means

The assessment looks at the key points below and rates them on a scale of 0 to 2 with 2 being the strongest.

Muscle tone

0 Limp, no movement

1 Some moving of limbs

2 Active motion

Respiration (breathing)
0 Not breathing
1 Weak cry; may sound like whimpering, slow or irregular breathing
2 Good, strong cry; normal rate and effort of breathing

Heart rate

0 No heart rate

1 Fewer than 100 beats per minute

2 At least 100 beats per minute

Reflex response
0 No response to airways being suctioned

1 Grimace during suctioning

2 Grimace and pull away, cough, sneezing during suctioning


0 The baby’s body is bluish grey or pale

1 Good colour with some parts of the body blue such as the feet

2Good colour over the whole body

How the scores are counted

The scores are combined, giving a total out of 10 and the doctor uses this to determine if your child needs urgent medical intervention. The one minute score will give an indication of your child’s health is and if a score lower than 3 is reached then resuscitation is required. If your baby scores between 4 and 6 then he may need some help breathing.

The five minute score will tell the doctor how much medical assistance your child may need if he continues to score lower than 3. The worst case scenario is your child may need to be rushed into the neo-natal intensive care unit, however this will be determined during the Apgar assessment and the necessary steps taken should that happen.

How to pack a hospital bag

At 36 weeks, baby is bound to arrive any day now and you want to be more than prepared for going to hospital.

Your hospital bag should have all the essential items that you need during your stay in hospital and for the days after you give birth. We’ve brought you some tips and a checklist on how to pack a hospital bag for the big day.

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Identity documents
Pack your id card or a form of identification that you can use when you check-in to the hospital. Ask your partner to keep these safe for you in case you are not able to access your bag during labour.

Birth plan

Your birth plan was structured according to your needs. Keep it near and handy.

Maternity bras
You might want to bring along nursing pads for coverage.

Head band or hair clips
Get a no fuss hairstyle like braids or plaits which you can tie up in a bun or ponytail.

Dressing gown
During the colder months you may want to pack a thick gown to keep you warm while during summer, a lighter gown will come in handy.

Flats or warm slippers
You want to be comfortable so a pair of pumps or bedroom slippers will keep you light on your feet. 

Hospital rooms can get quite chilly so a pair of socks are a simple item to keep your feet warm.

T-shirt or a gown to wear during the birth
You want to be comfortable at all times of the labour process so picking an old t-shirt or gown makes practical sense.

Essential toiletries
A toothbrush, lotion, body wash, towel, face cloth, deodorant and pads are some key items that you may want to pack.

Books, magazines and entertainment
For those moments that you find yourself alone, stay entertained by reading a magazine or a book.

Create a playlist that will get you in a relaxed mood.

Mommy tips
Motlatso Zandberg a mother to three children shares her own useful tip for packing a hospital outfit. “Less is more, choose a nice but practical going home outfit, if you plan on having more babies then buy a gender neutral outfit and you can use it for all the children like your very own special tradition.

Shamiso Chaibva, mom to a three-month old says she roped in help from her mother and mom-in-law to help her pack.
“My bag was packed by 38 weeks. I had a list from the hospital which they used as a guide to pack.”

Is organic food really better for your baby?

Shamiso Chaibva (36) of Kensington prefers organic food for her daughter, Ruvenego who is five months old.

Shamiso’s reasons are that organic food tastes better and she would rather have her child accustomed to natural food without pesticides, also lessening her exposure and risk of falling ill because of the pesticides.

“While I was pregnant I did a lot of reading on infant foods and I found there to be high levels of toxins in non-organic food. I also wasn’t satisfied with knowing that my baby would ingest this food on a daily basis which is why I started preparing to have her only eat organic foods.

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“I had to take into consideration our household budget and when I consulted my husband about this he was happy to pay a little more for organic baby food. It’s become a lifestyle for us because we too prefer organic food so it wasn’t too much of a change,” says Shamiso.

While organic food is easily accessible and sold at most food outlets and supermarkets, there isn’t any conclusive research that shows it is more nutritious than nonorganic food. According to Mayo Clinic, conventional growers use pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. When farmers spray pesticides, this can leave residue on produce.

Organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does conventional produce. Some people might buy organic baby food to limit their babies’ exposure to these residues — since infants might be more susceptible to harm potentially caused by pesticides than are adults.

However, residues on most products — both organic and nonorganic — don’t exceed government safety thresholds.

Whichever choice you make to you buy organic or normal baby foods, make it a habit to check the ingredients list to see what’s actually in the jar. According to Dr. Daryth Stallone and Dr. Michael Jacobsen from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, many baby food makers, replace real food with water and thickening agents, such as flour or chemically modified. These products contain less nutrients per gram than other, single-ingredient foods.

Mommy tip: Organic milk contains more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic milk. These fatty acids are found in oily fish, and have been shown to protect against heart disease. They have also been linked to improving children’s brain development.

Watch DIY recipes of organic baby food

Should you vaccinate your child?

Immunisations for babies against major and fatal diseases have become common practise in countries around the world to reduce the number of children who fall ill to deadly sicknesses.

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Vaccinations are often administered by government clinics and hospitals in South Africa, however they may also be given out at private hospitals. The purpose of vaccinations has also been to reduce the infant mortality rate and see more children survive into childhood. Some of the vaccinations given out include protection against measles, whooping cough and polio.

If you’ve had any doubt about why vaccinating your child is important to their survival and wellbeing, read on below.

According to immunisations can save your child’s life. Polio has been eradicated in the United States after a mass vaccination programme which saw millions of children receiving immunisations against the deadly disease which causes paralysis and death.

The website further reports that vaccinations are safe and effective and once given will only result in discomfort and pain at the site of injection. Side effects are rare and are not outweighed by the advantages of receiving vaccines which are life saving.

More benefits of vaccinating your child;

  • It protects others. The spread of fatal diseases is reduced by vaccines as more people are protected and the possibility of a disease being spread is limited.
  • The possibility of losing an income due to a child contracting a disease which could have been prevented by a vaccine is eliminated when the child is immunised. Certain vaccine preventable diseases can result in disabilities consequently taking it’s toll on a family’s financial means.
  • Vaccinations can eradiate diseases, leading to families no longer needing to vaccinate against certain diseases. This was the case with small pox and it may be a reality with other diseases becoming redundant and no longer posing a threat to future generations.

How to make vaccinations easier for your child

  • Distract your child by bringing a toy along or keeping their attention elsewhere by playing a song on a mobile device or tablet.
  • Be calm and relax, your child will pick up on your anxiety if you are also fearful and stressed.
  • Breastfeeding babies can feed while getting their vaccination to calm them.

Show your baby love and affection so that they feel safe and comforted after the initial discomfort of receiving an injection.

This is how you can raise a cultured baby

Shamiso Chaibva (35) mother of 3-month old Ruvenego from Kensigton, Johannesburg shares her personal experience of how she and her husband are raising a cultured baby. She writes;

Our daughter is still very young but her dad and I have committed ourselves to raising her in a way that will bring progress and development in her life in all aspects. We want our daughter to have a good background, one that is rooted in sound emotional, social, spiritual and physical development. We have started off by doing baby courses some of which are; baby massage course which helps to alleviate colic and helps her sleep. We have also introduced her to baby gym, power of play, hydrotherapy to help with emotional intelligence, self-awareness as well as physical development.

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These allow children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength which are important to healthy brain development. They help babies at a very early age engage and interact with the world around them. Which is what we want, we want to raise a child who is emotionally intelligent, who can socialise with different people without feeling like a misfit in any way.

“We want her to know who she is and be confident in who she is without being arrogant. We want her to respect herself and those around her, so we believe the stuff we have done so far is of great help. The courses teach you how to engage daily with your baby from talking to her to playing and practising this at home until it becomes second nature.

“We plan to do many other courses for each stage that will equip us as parents to raise our little one in the best way possible.

“It’s amazing how how eye opening some of these courses are, a simple example is not crawling correctly or long enough (sometimes babies are rushed to walk) this can affect your child in school because they do not have a strong upper body, therefore they slouch after a shortwhile after sitting in a desk. This can reduce their concentration levels especially in Mathematics.

“Ideally we want our child to sit upright and be attentive as required without slouching which can be interpreted as a sign of being disrespectful. We also would like her to be a well grounded Christian, and so we come with her to church, where she will learn what it means to be a Christian. We will also pray with her and teach her from home.”

Mommy tip: Visit the Bub Hub ( to explore baby classes, massage and baby yoga courses.


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