When you are a new parent you learn there is a delicate balance. On one hand you don't want to overlook something in your newborn that could potentially lead to serious health issues, and on the other hand, you don't want to contact your healthcare professional for every little cough or bump either.
When do you know when to be concerned? Here is a list of six things that you should watch for that may be potential for concern.
When an infant (aged three months or younger) has a true fever, which is to say a rectal temperature of at least 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius, the infant should be taken to a pediatrician to be evaluated. There, a physical exam can be performed, because a fever isn't always an indicator to the problem.
Things that you may notice when your infant has fever include: a need for more fluids, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping, and/or they be cranky.
Here are a few more conditions that are typically associated with fevers in infants:
- Ear infections
- Sore throats
Meningitis and sepsis are also infections that may cause fevers as well. Some of these conditions that were just mentioned should require immediate medical attention, and you will need to contact your healthcare professional.
In older babies and infants up to five years of age, rare high fevers may trigger febrile convulsions (seizures). These are typically more genetically inclined, so if your family has a history of having these rare seizures, your child may have them. During this particular seizure, their arms and legs may shake, and they may lose consciousness. You should immediately call your child's physician. And, if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes, you need to dial 911 on your phone.
These febrile convulsions do not generally cause major damage, however, children who have these seizures are at higher risk to have more of them. They are also have a little higher risk of being diagnosed later with epilepsy.
Irritable or Nonstop Crying
A fact in life is that your newborn cries. It's how they communicate. However, nonstop crying may indicate that something more is wrong. Your newborn should be taken to your doctor for evaluation if the nonstop crying continues for long periods of time (hours), even after being fed, and diapers have been changed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average newborn may cry up to three hours a day for the first three months of their young lives. Once you are past that, the AAP says that one to two a day is expected. Generally speaking, most newborns are fussiest in the evening hours, between 6:00 pm and midnight.
Babies that tend to cry seemingly nonstop, day and night, may be an indicator they have colic. In addition to the crying that turns into screaming, babies that are colic, will often pull their legs upward and release gas. Though the actual cause of colic is not yet understood, it is commonly believed that there is a sensitivity by the baby to specific formulas or breast milk, or perhaps an even more serious health condition such as a hernia.
Should your baby be diagnosed by a medical professional with colic, below are a few ways that you may be able to comfort them:
- Offer them a pacifier
- Swaddle them
- Rock them or walk them around in their carrier
- Rub their back carefully while you hold them tummy-side down
- Play calming sounds like white noise, a clothes dryer, or a fan
Also, check with your pediatrician first to see if they recommend a probiotic for your child.
Vomiting or extreme spitting up
It's a given that babies will spit up, it's just a natural part of eating. However, vomiting or extreme spitting-up might signal you need to make a trip to see a healthcare professional.
Here are the reasons that babies spit up: they are full, and want no more food, their bodies have changed the position they were in, or they took in extra air while they were being fed. These are all normal, and generally doesn't cause any pain or discomfort.
But, if you ever notice them burping, spitting up and then crying, or they are vomiting a lot of milk after being fed, that's a red flag and your baby should be looked at by your pediatrician to see if they may have gastroesophageal reflux disease.
In addition, you will want to see a healthcare professional if you see blood in the vomit or your child is have difficulty gaining weight. To help prevent your child from spitting-up/vomiting, make sure that they are positioned well while being fed. Also, burp your baby when they stop eating, and be easy on the child not to jar them during or after eating. You can also speak with a lactation consultant if you continue to have difficulties with your child.
Inactivity or low energy levels
While newborn babies will sleep a lot, they should still wake up every few hours and have an appetite. They should appear alert, looking around, babbling at times, and they should react to loud noises and lights. If they are slow to react or seem inactive, and not acting like they normally would, then they are considered low energy.
Should your baby show one or more of these signs, please consult a healthcare professional:
- Too weak to cry, make noises or even look at you
- Lethargic when they are awake
- They won’t wake up for their feedings or it’s difficult to get them wake
Your baby will be checked out by healthcare professionals for bumpy, red, flat, or scaly rashes before they leave the hospital. You should check to see if any rashes appear later on, and contact your doctor if they do. It is also recommended that you take your baby to your pediatrician if they develop a fever, or a rash that looks to be blister-like, oozes, or is discolored in nature or appears to be wet.
For the first couple of days after your child's birth, a typical newborn will get rid of a substance know at meconium, and generally is black in color, odorless, and tarry. After one or two days of this, your baby's stool should appear dark greenish yellow in color, and should have the consistency and appearance of mustard. There should also be seed-like small pieces in it. Their stool may have a yellowish-tan, pasty appearance if they are receiving formula.
Should your newborn have bowel movements that are dark black or red, or white, contact your healthcare professional. It is possible that a dark black stool (after the meconium has passed) indicates a gastrointestinal bleeding. Get it checked out soon.
It is common for a newborn's stool to change colors, but still contact your doctor when you see the described changes in color, frequency, or consistency. Giving details to your healthcare professional will help them to determine what, if any treatment is needed.