Between the great joy (and sleepy-eyed exhaustion!) of bringing home a newborn, you also have lots of little decisions to make as you care for your baby every day. In addition to feeding schedules, diaper changes and nap routines, you have to think through what to do next when your little one is sick, or when something just doesn’t seem right.
Sometimes it’s clear when you need to call the pediatrician. For instance, when your newborn spikes a fever. But what about the other times – including those middle-of-the-night times and those maybe-it’s-fine? times – here’s some guidance to help.
If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns about an allergic reaction or other life-threatening emergency, call 911.
Nurses representing Methodist Children’s Hospital are standing by to personally assist you with medical advice concerning your child when they are sick. If your child is having a non-life-threatening emergency and you do not need to call 911, you can call Call-A-Nurse for the appropriate advice.
Can it wait until morning?
Illnesses with babies don’t tend to keep regular business hours. But for some mild issues, it’s okay to wait until the doctor’s office is open. For example, some fussiness or a minor cough in an otherwise healthy baby can usually wait until morning. If you’re concerned about something though, it’s always okay to call.
Should I call right now?
Some issues you shouldn’t wait on, because they can be serious or could get worse quickly. You’ll always want to seek medical help immediately in any emergency, such as if your baby is having difficulty breathing, is having a seizure or is having trouble moving.
You’ll also want to always call the doctor’s office right away (even in the middle of the night) or visit the ER if your baby:
- Has a temperature of 100.4°F and is younger than three months old
- Has blood in his or her vomit or stool
- Has fallen from a height or is not acting normally after a bump to the head
Other important times to call
As you spend more time at home with your baby, you’ll get into a rhythm of feeding, sleeping, diaper changes and play, and will start to learn what “normal” looks like for your baby. If you notice an unexpected change to that normal, or if your baby won’t stop crying, you’ll likely want to call the doctor.
For example, if your baby:
- Has a rash
- Has diarrhea or excessive vomiting
- Has yellow skin or eyes
- Isn’t eating for multiple feedings in a row
- Isn’t wetting enough diapers or shedding tears when crying
What to tell the doctor
When you call your pediatrician’s office, you can have some information on hand to make your conversation go smoothly. Having it written down might help, especially if you are feeling anxious.
The office will likely want to know:
- Any medical problems your baby might have
- Any medications your baby is taking
- Your baby’s date of birth
- Your baby’s temperature
How to find help when you need it
Take a few minutes when you can to learn your pediatrician’s office hours and after-hours policy. This is easier to do when your baby is well. It can also feel reassuring that you have a plan if he or she starts to show worrying symptoms.
During office hours, it’s always best to call your baby’s pediatrician directly. Outside that time, you may have other resources to get answers to your questions. Nurses representing Methodist Children’s Hospital are always standing by to help with medical advice. For non-emergency help, you can call Call-A-Nurse
In an emergency, you can turn to the pediatric emergency care doctors at Methodist Children’s Hospital. For more information on their services and to learn more about what you can expect in a pediatric ER visit, visit Methodist Children’s Hospital ER online.
Listen to your instincts
Babies can be unpredictable, and there are many reasons you might need to call the doctor in their first few months. You have strong gut instincts as a parent — they can help guide you. When in doubt, call the pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby’s health or have questions. It’s always best to call just to be sure.
For more resources to help you during your new baby days, visit Methodist Children’s Hospital.