Caring for Your Newborn: When to Call the Doctor

Image for new baby article If you’re a new mom or dad, you probably have only one main concern—the health of your newborn. It’s only natural to worry. But, one way you can decrease any worries is to arm yourself with information. Learn what symptoms to be on alert for and when to get medical care.

First Things First

Get accustomed to your newborn’s usual routine. For example, how often does your baby eat and sleep? How many times do you usually need to change a diaper in one day? How does your baby normally respond to you? Your baby’s typical behavior will help you to determine if your baby is feeling fine or if something is wrong.

Also, go with your instinct. If you think your baby may be ill, call the doctor right away. It is common for parents of newborns to call the pediatrician with questions and concerns. So, don’t hesitate to get expert advice.

Be Prepared

You will feel more in control if you already have the following medical information close at hand:

  • The name of your newborn’s doctor and the phone number
  • The doctor’s office hours and call hours
  • Instructions that detail what to do when the office is closed
  • The location of the hospital that the doctor is affiliated with
  • The name, phone number, and location of the pharmacy that you use

If you do need to call the doctor, be prepared for any questions that you may be asked, such as:

  • What are your newborn’s symptoms?
  • What is your newborn's temperature? ( Note: Rectal thermometers are typically used with newborns.)
  • How many bowel movements, loose stools, or wet diapers has your newborn had?
  • Does your newborn have any allergies or conditions?
  • Does your newborn take any medication? If so, what kind of medication and what is the dose?

Also, keep in mind that you may need to write down any instructions that the nurse or doctor gives you. So, have a pen and paper handy.

Another way you can be prepared is by learning first aid and CPR for infants. The hospital may offer these classes or you can check online ( American Red Cross or the American Heart Association).

Medical Concerns

Call the doctor if your newborn:

  • Has a cough
  • Has any eye problems, such as mucus or redness
  • Has a runny nose making it difficult to breath, even after using nasal saline
  • Yellowish skin or eyes, without any other concerning symptoms
  • Is vomiting
  • Is eating less than usual or is having problems with breastfeeding, such as difficulty latching onto the nipple
  • Is not having regular bowel movements
  • Has stools that are much looser than normal
  • Is crying more than usual and is unable to be consoled
  • Has problems sleeping
  • Has blood or pus around the navel, or if circumcised, around the penis
  • Has a rash that is not responding to treatment
  • Has ear drainage
  • Is not responding to sounds

If your newborn has any of the following, call your doctor immediately:

  • Rectal temperature above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • Rectal temperature below 97.8°F (36.5°C)
  • Any breathing problems, like difficulty breathing or fast breathing
  • Other signs of not getting enough oxygen, like blue lips, nose, or fingernails
  • Extreme tiredness or drowsiness, difficulty waking
  • Is limp
  • Signs of dehydration, such as wetting less than 6 diapers in 24 hours, sunken eyes, sunken soft spot, no tears when crying
  • Soft spot on the top of the head looks bulging
  • Seizure
  • Bloody urine, stool, or vomit
  • Injury to any part of the body, especially the head

If you are extremely concerned and you think the situation is an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away .

You can care for your newborn’s health by knowing which symptoms to watch out for and by being prepared if medical care is needed. Remember that many moms and dads have felt the same way you do and have reached out for help and guidance from doctors and nurses. If at any time you feel concerned about your little one’s health, call the doctor.


American Heart Association

American Red Cross


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Canadian Red Cross


Medical care and your newborn. Kids Health website. Available at: Updated February 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Newborn baby: when to call the doctor. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: Updated March 10, 2016. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Sick-baby care. March of Dimes website. Available at: Updated June 2011. Accessed March 16, 2015.

Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated May 2014. Accessed March 29, 2017.

When to call your pediatrician. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: Updated June 2011. Accessed March 29, 2017.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 3/16/2015