• Caring for Your Newborn: When to Call the Doctor

    Image for new baby article If you’re a new mom or dad, you probably have only one main concern—the health of your newborn. It’s only natural to worry. But, one way you can decrease any worries is to arm yourself with information. Learn what symptoms to be on alert for and when to get medical care.

    First Things First

    Get accustomed to your newborn’s usual routine. For example, how often does he eat and sleep? How many times do you usually need to change his diaper in one day? How does he normally respond to you? Your baby’s typical behavior will help you to determine if he is feeling fine or if something is wrong.
    Also, go with your instinct. If you think your baby may be ill, call the doctor right away. It is common for parents of newborns to call the pediatrician with questions and concerns. So, don’t hesitate to get expert advice.

    Be Prepared

    You will feel more in control if you already have the following medical information close at hand:
    • The name of your newborn’s doctor and the phone number
    • The doctor’s office hours and on-call hours
    • Instructions as to what to do during after-hours
    • Location of the hospital that the doctor is affiliated with
    • The name, phone number, and location of the pharmacy that you use
    If you do need to call the doctor, be prepared for any questions that you may be asked, such as:
    • What are your newborn’s symptoms?
    • What is his temperature? (Note: Rectal thermometers are typically used with newborns.)
    • How many bowel movements has he had? Does he have loose stools? How many wet diapers has he had?
    • What vaccines has your newborn had? Are they up-to-date?
    • Does he have any allergies or conditions?
    • Does your newborn take any medicine? If so, what kind of medicine and what is the dose?
    Also, keep in mind that you may need to write down any instructions that the nurse or doctor gives you. So, have a pen and paper handy.
    Another way you can be prepared is by learning first aid and CPR for infants. The hospital may offer these classes or you can check online (eg, American Red Cross or the American Heart Association).

    Medical Concerns

    Call the doctor if your newborn:
    • Has a cough
    • Has any eye problems (eg, mucus or redness)
    • Has a runny nose, which can make it difficult for your newborn to breath
      • Note: You can use a rubber bulb aspirator to clear the mucus from his nose.
    • Is vomiting
    • Is eating less than usual or is having problems with breastfeeding (eg, difficulty latching onto the nipple)
    • Is not moving his bowels
    • Has stools that are looser than normal
    • Is crying more than usual and is unable to be soothed
    • Has problems sleeping
    • Has blood or pus on his navel or penis
    • Has a rash
    • Has drainage coming from his ear
    • Is not responding to sounds
    If your newborn has any of the following, call your doctor immediately:
    • Rectal temperature above 100.4°F (38°C)
    • Rectal temperature below 97.8°F (36.5°C)
    • Any breathing problems, like difficulty breathing or fast breathing
    • Other signs of not getting enough oxygen, like blue lips or fingernails
    • Extreme tiredness or drowsiness, difficulty awakening
    • Is limp
    • Signs of dehydration (wetting less than six diapers in 24 hours, sunken eyes, sunken soft spot, no tears when crying)
    • Soft spot on the top of the head looks swollen
    • Seizure
    • Yellowish skin or eyes
    • Bloody urine, stool, or vomit
    • Injury to any part of the body, especially the head
    If you are extremely concerned and you think the situation is an emergency, call 911 to have an ambulance come.
    You can care for your newborn’s health by knowing which symptoms to watch out for and by being prepared if medical care is needed. Remember that many moms and dads have felt the same way you do and have reached out for help and guidance from doctors and nurses. If at any time you feel concerned about your little one’s health, call the doctor.


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/

    American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/


    Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca/home/index%5Fe.aspx/

    Canadian Red Cross http://www.redcross.ca/


    How will we know if our newborn baby is ill? Baby Center website. Available at: http://www.babycenter.ca/baby/newborn/babyillnessexpert/. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Medical care and your newborn. Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/medical/mednewborn.html. Updated October 2008. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Neff D. Discharge instructions for newborn jaundice. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated March 10, 2011. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Neff D. How to change your newborn’s diaper. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated September 20, 2010. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Neff D. How to take your newborn’s temperature. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/.Updated March 8, 2011. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Newborn appearance. Doernbecher Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/services/doernbecher/patients-families/health-information/md4kids/symptom-index/newborn-appearance.cfm?WT%5Frank=3. Updated December 11, 2009. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Newborn baby: when to call the doctor. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy%5Fliving/infant%5Fcare/hic%5Fnewborn%5Fbaby%5Fwhen%5Fto%5Fcall%5Fthe%5Fdoctor.aspx. Updated September 24, 2010. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Newborn illness—how to recognize. Doernbecher Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/health/services/doernbecher/patients-families/health-information/md4kids/symptom-index/newborn-illness.cfm. Updated December 11, 2009. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    Sick baby? When to seek medical attention. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00022. Accessed April 8, 2011.

    When to call your baby’s doctor. March of Dimes website. Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/sickbabycare%5Fcalldoctor.html. Updated August 2008. Accessed April 8, 2011.

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