New parents are often worried that they will not be able to tell if their newborn baby is unwell. There are precautions that you can take to help keep your baby strong and well. Washing your hands after each diaper change and staying away from sickly people is a good idea. If you have decided to breastfeed your baby, then try and keep doing this for as long as possible, at least twelve months if possible. Make sure your baby is properly immunized and never let anyone smoke around your baby. Placing your baby on his back to sleep reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
As time passes you will recognize your baby’s patterns for sleeping, eating, how he responds to you and asks for comforting. You will be able to tell if something is seriously wrong with his health. Also, remember all children get ill now and then, it is quite normal. There are things you can watch out for.
- Unusual crying – if you cannot seem to comfort your baby as you normally can and his crying seems to have dramatically increased then this is a sign that something could be wrong. If his cry has become weak or high-pitched then this could mean that something serious is wrong. Also, if your baby stops crying, he is unusually inactive or it is more difficult to wake him then it is best to call your doctor.
- Change in temperament – it is unlikely your baby is ill if he seems normally happy, contented and he is feeding well. If he has a fever or the sniffles then you could book a doctor’s appointment but a baby who is happy and has a runny nose is probably less sick than a baby who has the runny nose but is lethargic and inactive.
- Breathing difficulties – get medical help immediately if your baby has trouble breathing or his breathing is laboured.
- Appetite – day to day, your baby’s hunger can vary. If he is hungry then he should be feeding vigorously. If suddenly, he does not seem so interested in feeding when he should be hungry and loses the energy to suck then he is probably unwell. If your baby regurgitates his food more often, with more effort and the fluid is greenish in colour(color) this is a sign that he could be sick.
- Fever – a fever on its own is not necessarily a reason to be worried. A baby who is seriously ill can have a low-grade fever and a baby who is mildly ill can have a high fever. If a baby who is under three months has a fever higher than 100° Fahrenheit (or 37° Celsius) then he should have a medical examination. With an older baby who is suffering from a fever then assess whether he seems okay in other areas. If he seems fine in every other way then you can wait a day to observe developments of any other symptoms. If he does and the fever persists then seek medical attention. If you are unsure and nervous just book a doctor’s appointment. You need peace of mind and doctors are prepared to see newborn babies often. Doctors are well aware of how tiny babies can become ill quickly but remember they tend to improve and get better very quickly too!
- Abnormal bowel movements – newborns, especially breastfed babies usually have soft and often liquid bowel movements. If your baby has an upset stomach though, this can cause diarrhoea. If the diarrhoea persists, then make sure you keep your baby hydrated with lots of fluids or breast milk and ask your doctor to examine him. If your baby is suitably hydrated then he will wet at least six diapers per day. If your newborn has small, hard or dry faeces and seems unusually sleepy then call your doctor. Also if your baby’s stools include blood or jelly-like mucus then ask your doctor for an examination.
By Eirian Hallinan