It's normal for new parents to worry about their baby's health. Even if you can see that your newborn is strong and sturdy, babies are small and vulnerable and need our protection. But how do you know when something's really wrong?
You know your baby best, so trust your instincts – and call the doctor if something doesn't feel right. Here are some key areas to keep an eye on.
If your baby seems like his or her usual sunny, happy self and is feeding well, you're probably not dealing with a serious illness. A baby who has a runny nose and a big smile is usually not as sick as a baby who has a runny nose and is lethargic.
If your baby suddenly starts crying more than usual and can't be comforted in the usual ways, or if his or her cry is weak or unusually high-pitched, take heed. The opposite is also true – if your baby seems unhappy and he or she doesn't cry but is unusually inactive and difficult to wake up, call your doctor.
Your baby's appetite will vary from day to day. But when your baby's hungry, he or she should feed vigorously. A baby who tires easily from sucking or loses interest in nursing or feeding is probably sick. Also, call your doctor if you notice your baby spitting up more than usual, with more effort, or if the spit-up is greenish in color.
Abnormal bowel movements
Young babies, especially breastfed babies, often have very soft or liquid bowel movements. But if the stools become extra watery, your infant may have diarrhea.
Monitor your baby's bowel movements and see whether the diarrhea continues. Make sure your baby is breastfeeding or bottle-feeding as often as usual so he or she doesn't get dehydrated. Your baby should wet a minimum of six diapers a day. If he or she seems lethargic and begins to have small, hard, or dry bowel movements, or if your baby's stool is streaked with blood or mucus, or has the consistency of jelly, call the doctor.
If your baby's breathing is labored or if he or she is having trouble breathing at all, get help immediately.
Although fever in a baby is a signal that he or she is sick, the fever alone usually isn't worrisome. A baby can have a low-grade fever and be seriously ill, or a high fever and be only mildly ill. But if a baby under 3 months old has a fever of 100.4 degrees F or higher, he or she should be examined.
A final note: If you're in doubt about anything related to your baby's health, call your healthcare provider. It's important for you to get peace of mind, and it never hurts to check with your doctor.