Is This the Time to Call the Doctor?

Learn the symptoms that demand attention.

Is there any greater cause for celebration than bringing a new baby home? And as every parent knows, caring for a newborn can cause more than a few anxious moments. Is the baby eating enough? Is spitting up normal? Is my baby sick? Should I call the doctor?

New parents can see the patterns their baby is establishing, says Joel Singerman, MD, a community pediatrician associated with Cincinnati Children’s who practices at Springdale-Mason Pediatrics Associates. With experience, and with guidance from a pediatrician, parents quickly develop a sense of what’s normal. “But if something starts to go wrong,” Singerman says, “parents should be confident that it’s OK to call the pediatrician’s office. They will be taken seriously.”

He suggests that parents should seek medical advice if the baby has a persistent feeding problem, especially when paired with fewer wet diapers; an increasing yellow color to the skin and eyes, particularly when paired with sleeping through feeding times; or a fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Spitting up is generally not an emergency,” Singerman says, “if the child is in general eating well, gaining weight and urinating. Sleeping through feeds occasionally is something that new parents sometimes worry about. But if you have a healthy, vigorous newborn who is feeding well and is in generally good health, then he may just not be hungry.” 

Call the doctor if your baby:
- Has bleeding that you cannot stop
- Has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Has a seizure
- Becomes unusually floppy or stiff
- Is not able to move
- Sleeps more than usual or will not wake up
- Changes color (blush around the lips and face, significant jaundice)
- Has a red, tender and swollen navel
- Has difficulty breathing, swallowing or nursing
- Cries for a long time and can't be comforted
- Has severe cough, cough that brings up blood or cough that lasts a long time
- Has a swollen stomach and pain
- Has urine that is very dark
- Has pain, redness or swelling around a joint, not caused by injury

Source: Joe Leanza, MD, a pediatrician associated with Cincinnati Children’s who practices at Springdale-Mason Pediatrics Associates