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Signs and Symptoms of Illness

Normal behavior

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your baby is sick, so it’s important to look for subtle behavioral changes. There are many normal behaviors that may concern parents.

These may include:

  • Quivering of chin or lower lip when preparing to cry
  • Hiccups (small, harmless spasms in the baby’s abdomen)
  • Sneezing (this helps the baby clear mucous, dust or milk curds from the nose)
  • Wet burps after feeding (small amounts of milk that come up with a burp)
  • Straining or getting a red face with bowel movements
  • Startle reflex (a physical response to noise or movement)
  • Yawning
  • Crossed eyes (this is usually due to immature muscle control and will improve as muscle strength increases)
  • Passing gas
  • Mild rashes

Signs of illness

If your baby is in distress (skin looks blue, having trouble breathing), call 911 immediately. Otherwise, call your healthcare provider if you observe any of the following:

  • Feeding difficulties
  • Poor feeding or sucking ability
  • No interest in feeding

Signs that your baby is not getting enough to eat:

  • Weight loss or poor weight gain
  • Difficulty awakening or sleeping for extended periods of time
  • Poor muscle tone or floppy like a rag doll
  • Wetting less than 6 to 8 diapers a day

Breathing problems:

  • Breathing fast (more than 60 breaths/minute) for more than just brief episodes while the baby is at rest
  • Tugging at chest or working hard to breathe
  • Grunting with each breath
  • Holding breath for extended periods of time
  • Changes in skin color

Other problems

Fever is any temperature over 99.4 taken axillary or under the arm. In the first three months of life, any fever should be reported to your baby’s health care provider immediately. Ask your provider at what temperature he or she wants to be notified.

  • Excessive crying or shrieking (as if in pain).
  • Vomiting more than one or two entire feedings in one day or forceful vomiting with each feeding.
  • Bowel movements that are extremely loose or watery, of increased frequency, or that contain blood or mucous.
  • Jaundice (yellow color of the skin) is often normal. If it develops after leaving the hospital, notify your healthcare provider.
  • Eyes, umbilical cord or circumcision site are red, foul-smelling, swollen or seeping blood or pus.
  • Thrush, or white patches in the mouth, that can’t be wiped away or don’t come off with gentle scraping.
  • Frequent coughing.

No one knows your baby better than you do, so notify your healthcare provider for any symptoms or unusual behaviors that concern you.

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