When to Call Your Pediatrician

Whether you are a first time parent or an old-timer, few people have mastered the art of knowing when to call their pediatrician about their newborn. Call too much or too early and you’re labeled a nervous parent; call too late or not enough and you’re labeled incompetent. We’ve compiled a list of guidelines – keep in mind, they are no more than guidelines – to help you sort out the times that you should definitely call your pediatrician.

Your baby is crying inconsolably.

Inconsolable crying involves crying non-stop, or practically non-stop, for three to four hours or more despite attempts by the caregiver to comfort the baby. In other words, you have tried feeding, burping, swaddling and holding your baby, you’ve tried changing her diaper, you’ve tried all the things you know will usually calm your baby down and none has worked.

Your baby has a fever (rectal temp >100.3 F).

Be sure you are using a thermometer that is intended for rectal use and it is inserted properly, with a little Vaseline or other ointment on the end. Even a temperature of 100 F, while frightening for a parent, is not defined as a fever and will not warrant a full work-up of your baby. At times, a baby may be overbundled and this may lead to temperature elevations. Consider, though, what made you take the baby’s temperature in the first place – perhaps he has other symptoms that aroused your concern and those may be symptoms that will require a call to your doctor.

Your baby is lethargic or unarousable.

A baby that is difficult to awaken may have an infection in her spinal fluid or other serious medical conditions that must be taken care of on an emergent basis.

Your baby is not eating, not wetting diapers or not stooling as he regularly does.

It is always important to keep track of the number of diapers you are changing in the course of a day, as this will help your pediatrician know if your baby is, in fact, getting less nutrition than he normally does. Babies will often undergo a normal change in their stooling habits after several weeks of life, which is not a cause for concern, but this type of normal change is not accompanied by a decrease in feeding and urination.

There is no question that bringing home a newborn can be frightening for any parent. Even those parents with a lot of experience taking care of newborns can feel overwhelmed by the prospect of caring for a newborn. The above list is a compilation of “absolute musts” that we hope will serve as a guide for you to know when a call to your pediatrician is a necessity.

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