When to Take Your Newborn Baby to the Doctor: A Checklist

New parents can find it difficult to know when a newborn baby needs a doctor’s attention. For one thing, no baby comes with a manual. Also, it takes time to learn the habits of this new and demanding little bundle of baby.

Meantime, parents worry. They worry if the baby sneezes, or sleeps an hour longer than usual. They check the baby constantly to make sure he or she is still breathing.

Call The Doctor?

What parents really wish they had is a checklist of symptoms they can refer to to see the baby is in need of medical care. And that’s exactly what follows below. If your baby has a symptom from the checklist, you can feel safe calling your baby’s doctor for an appointment. And in fact, even if your baby doesn’t have a symptom on the checklist, but you’re still worried, you are perfectly within your rights as a new parent to make an appointment. It’s never wrong to consult an expert.

Is Baby Getting Enough fluids?

Signs of dehydration:

  • Only one or two wet diapers a day
  • Seems too sleepy, is sluggish, lethargicWhen to take baby to the doctor infographic
  • Lips and mouth are dry

Does Baby Have Tummy Trouble?

Signs of gastric distress:

  • No stool during first 48 hours home from hospital
  • Movements contain white mucus
  • Blood streaks or specks in stool

Is Baby’s Temperature Normal?

Signs of fever or low body temperature:

  • Rectal temperature is lower than 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit or higher than 100.4 Fahrenheit

Is Baby Having Trouble Breathing?

Signs of respiratory distress:

  • Makes grunting sounds
  • Nostrils are flared
  • Chest pulls in—you can see the skin being sucked in over the collarbone, between and below the ribs
  • Breathing is rapid and remains so over time
  • Breathing is heavy and noisy (wheezing, whistling, crackling)

Call 911 if:

  • Baby takes more than 60 breaths per minute
  • Area around baby’s mouth is blue

Is Baby’s Umbilical Cord Stump Not Healing As It Should?

Signs of umbilical cord stump issues:

  • Bleeding that persists
  • A foul odor at the site of the stump
  • Pus
  • Redness or swelling around the stump

Is Baby Yellow?

Signs of jaundice:

  • Whites of eyes are yellow
  • Skin is yellow (chest, stomach, arms, legs)

Is My Baby In Pain?

Signs of pain:

    • Crying that lasts for more than half an hour

Is My Baby Sleeping Too Much?

Signs that baby is too sleepy:

        • The baby isn’t awake enough to feed even four hours after the last feeding

Is My Baby Sick?

Signs of illness:

            • Coughing
            • Diarrhea
            • Skin is pale
            • Vomits forcefully after three feedings in a row
            • Sucks weakly
            • Sucking grows weaker over time
            • Doesn’t seem very hungry at feeding time
            • Wants fewer than 6 feedings in one day (one 24-hour period)

New parents may wonder whether they can trust their instincts. The truth is, trust doesn’t have to enter into the equation. If something seems wrong with your baby, or if you’re just not sure if your baby is okay, just pick up the phone and make an appointment with your baby’s doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s also lots better to be embarrassed that you rushed to the doctor for no reason than to take a chance that your baby’s symptom is probably nothing when it may very well be something.

Here’s to happy, healthy babies and reasonably calm parents!


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Varda Meyers Epstein is a mother of 12, communications writer, and education blogger at the Kars4Kids blog.