Having a newborn is such a wonderful experience, but man is it busy work! With so much to do and so much on your mind already, the last thing you need to add to the plate is fear. Not knowing whether your baby has something truly wrong with their health is scary. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here are 10 times when you NEED to take your newborn to the doctor.
First off, congratulations on your new bundle of joy…or soon to be bundle of joy! Giving life to, gestating and birthing a human is an incredible miracle, and you deserve kudos for the amazing work!
Go ahead and give yo’ self a nice pat on the back.
Of course with every good thing, there are obstacles and challenges. You have to worry about feedings, and diaper changes, and cribs.
Don’t forget about sleepers, your other kids, babies crying, keeping things tidy, feeding the rest of the fam… and then trying to sleep somewhere along the way. As a father of four, trust me, I get it.
With so much on your mind already, who needs to add wondering about potential health problems to the mix? Let’s see if I can help you down that path.
A Word to the Wise
For those of you who may already have children, some of these problems may not seem like such a big deal. They may be things you’ve already dealt with in an older child.
Heck, after having your boy try to superman off the second story, some of the things on this list may sound like a cake walk.
However, newborns are a particularly delicate age group, and are more susceptible to some not so great problems and infections.
While some of these tips carry over throughout the first year of life, this list is geared towards infants < 3 months old.
The tips here are NOT meant to scare you or cause anxiety, but rather to keep you informed.
More often than not, your baby will be just fine and never experience any of these.
But the info here could very well save your child’s life and/or a mountain of headache and stress.
Keep in mind, babies this young need pediatric expertise. Certainly you may luck into a provider with a background in pediatrics who can help you in, say, urgent care but that’s always a crap shoot.
I wouldn’t risk it.
If your baby needs to be seen by a medical professional and the pediatrician can’t get you right in, your best bet is a children’s hospital.
1 – Fever
Most…no, ALL parents have undoubtedly had to deal with a febrile child. Strep throat, flu, ear infection, UTI. It’s never fun.
Infants, however, should not be getting fevers. They are susceptible to more emergent and problematic infections within the first 3 months of life.
Any temperature approaching 100° F (37.8° C) should be evaluated.
2 – Rash
So this one can be a little tricky. There are some very common rashes that are not dangerous by any stretch of the imagination. Stork bite and infantile acne to name a couple.
HOWEVER, rashes can be such a pain in the butt…even if it’s not a diaper rash (see what I did there ?)
I swear, even dermatologists (skin specialists) have a hard time with rashes.
The point is pay attention to a rash. For anything that EITHER isn’t merely coming and going over the course of a day or two OR if there are any kind of ill symptoms in conjunction with a rash, take your bebe in.
3 – Inconsolable
Babies cry. Some are much better at in than others. They may be teething, or gassy or simply don’t like the way you looked at them.
Aside from my professional experience in pediatrics, I’ve been there with my own kids…four times. I know first hand how it goes.
I recall my first baby girl. She would not take a bottle for me. All I would accomplish by trying to give her one was getting her more PO’d at me.
I had to take her in to mom’s work multiple times a day…it was…a challenge.
But she would always calm right back down after eating.
Yes, even infants can throw some pretty impressive tantrums, but if they seem inconsolable no matter what you do, take them in.
They may be having pain and just can’t relate it to you in any other way.
4 – Lethargic
Lethargy gets misinterpreted all the time.
Infants sleep…A LOT. They are growing at an incredible rate when they’re this young, so they need tons of sleep to help accomplish that.
Lethargy and sleepy are definitely not the same.
Lethargy has to do with a state of limited consciousness. They are very difficult to arouse when sleeping and seem out of it even when their eyes are opened.
If you even think this may be happening, take your kiddo in. It’s better to be wrong and find out your baby is just really tired than have a lethargic baby getting worse.
5 – Not eating
Babies are good at a handful of things. Pooping, sleeping, eating, crying, and looking super cute.
A baby who isn’t eating, for whatever reason, needs to be checked. Especially infants. They NEED those calories from the milk to grow everything from their bones to their brains.
Even if your baby came out a ten pound bowling ball (that was my sister with her FIRST baby…ouch), they still don’t have a lot of room for weight loss.
6 – Lack of Messy Diapers
Whether it be poop or pee, this is one stage in life where we WANT the waste pumping out plenty.
The poop can be incredibly variable. I come from a background working in pediatrics and we had a saying and newborns and poop.
The PG version is that they can poop 7 times in a day or once in 7 days.
It usually takes several weeks for the bowels to establish and get on a regular schedule.
BUT even if they aren’t pooping, they should be urinating enough to produce AT LEAST 5-6 wet diapers a day.
7 – Bloody Stool
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had parents bring their kids in to me for what they were sure was bloody stool, but guess what it turned out to be? Food coloring!
Yep, it was the diet turning the poop red.
However, your wee bebe should not be eating anything at this early stage in life, so there should be no semblance of red whatsoever.
After those first few days of black, tar, dinosaur killing poop, Infant stool is usually yellow speckles when breastfed or sometimes a brownish green if bottle fed.
Pro Tip: If you are able, I always say breast is best
If you notice any red discoloration, take that little one in.
8 – Breathing Difficulties
For those of you with children already, you know that sometimes when a baby has a stuffy nose, they sound like a freakin’ warthog when trying to eat. It’s terrible.
That congested schtuff is a lot different than a true difficulty breathing which actually happens down in the lungs.
Usually breathing difficulties will happen in conjunction with illness, but there are some troublesome heart and lung issues that can cause this without acting sick otherwise.
Have a low threshold for taking your baby in with SOB, and I don’t mean your in-law or your scummy ex. SOB is our acronym for shortness of breath.
One side note to remember about the congestion. Even when it is just in the nose, congestion in an infant can still be a problem.
Think how those wee ones eat. A nipple jammed into the mouth with no space to breathe. If they then can’t breathe through their nose, well, they’re gonna choose to breathe instead of eat.
Out goes the nipple and farewell to the nutrients. The baby will simply stop eating…or at least get ticked off and scream at you every time they keep trying.
9 – Jaundice
Most parents have at least heard about jaundice before. It happens when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in the body.
This causes the skin and sometimes the white part of the eyes to turn a yellowish hue.
Sometimes, in infants, the skin will turn more of a bright red than yellow.
Most often this happens and is caught during the initial hospital stay after delivery, but it can start after your bebe has been discharged home.
Jaundice can be very dangerous and even life-threatening if left untreated.
The chance of jaundice increases if your baby isn’t pooping well, so be extra cautious if that is the case for you.
10 – Blue Baby Syndrome
Pink babies, yellow babies, red babies, blue babies. Betcha never thought a munchkin could be so many colors.
Well, unless you shacked up with a smurf, turns out having a blue baby isn’t so great.
Fortunately this is very uncommon…the blue baby thing, not the hooking up with a smurf thing.
Even when it happens, this is usually observed in the hospital before your baby is discharged and is dealt with promptly and appropriately.
But it’s super important to know about because this blue discoloration can mean your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen for some reason.
It could be heart or lung related or a blood condition. In any event, it’s an emergency.
Don’t confuse this with a tantrum. Yes, sometimes kids will scream so hard they’ll turn blue. They may even try to set a world record for holding their breath and end up passing out.
That’s not what we’re talking about here. In blue baby syndrome, the color change will occur even when they are calm.
If this begins happening after you leave the hospital, and wasn’t previously mentioned to you, take your baby right in the hospital.
11 – Wellness Check
What? 11 tips?! I know what you’re thinking, “But Clint, you said this article would have 10.” Well, since you were so amazing and stuck with me thus far, I’ll give you a bonus.
This one isn’t so much a condition, but sometimes gets overlooked.
It may be that this wasn’t communicated from the pediatrician or the parent simply forgets, but the pediatrician well checks are important.
The first well check should be within the first 2-5 days of life.
Now, you may get out of the first one especially if your baby is given the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital.
If so, and your baby is otherwise healthy, your pediatrician may say it’s ok to skip that initial visit.
The next vaccines won’t happen until 2 months old, but the next wellness check should actually be at 1 month old.
It’s important to have these frequent checks early on in order to detect any problems and intervene before they have a chance bare their teeth.
And there you have it. If you stuck around ’till the end you are now empowered with knowing 10 times you need to take your newborn to the doctor.
Remember, chances are your baby will be just fine and grow and flourish as you make cherished memories together.
Just keep these tips available, heck print them out if you want, so you know when and how to act should the need arise.
Have you ever experienced any of these with a baby? What is your biggest concern about a newborn? Share your thoughts or stories in the comments below.