By Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health
Unlike older children, babies have fewer resources to deal with illness. When a baby gets sick, you want to be on the alert and careful. While you don’t want to call the doctor all the time, most doctors prefer you call them earlier rather than later. For a physician it is easier to provide guidance earlier in the course of a baby’s illness. The help will likely protect you and the baby from having to make a trip to the emergency room or the doctor’s office.
Often infant and baby problems with colic and listlessness are connected to the formula you are feeding your baby. A new study in Nutrition Journal found that infants have similar tolerance for regular and hypoallergenic formulas. The study was conducted by Mead Johnson, a company who markets various infant formulas and included 335 healthy full term babies followed for 60 days. The symptoms parents used to switch infants to hypoallergenic formula were “excessive crying and fussiness”. 47 % of parents who switched their infants to hypoallergenic formulas did not seek medical advice. This is important to keep in mind when you are faced with a baby with colic. Of note is also the fact that if you are breast feeding, colic may also occur. Breast milk is a reflection of the food you eat and sometimes you and the baby do not like the same food.
Stay away from spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. They will make the baby’s belly hurt and keep both you and the baby up.
Other important tips on making the distinction between something that needs medical support or something a new mom can handle without much concern:
1. Fever. Infants should not have high fevers. In the first 6-12 weeks of life most infants carry mother’s immune antibodies that protect from common illnesses. If a newborn has a fever of more than 100.4 F rectally a doctor should be contacted.. Fever dehydrates newborns very quickly so focus on keeping your infant well hydrated.
2. Cough. Infants should not have coughs. Sneezing is normal but coughing is not. Keep in mind infants don’t move so secretions will drip to the back of their throat and they have to be removed by caregiver. Call a doctor if an infant has a cough.
3. Change in appetite. Infants should be hungry and eat well at feeding time. If the baby doesn’t eat, skips meals or sucks poorly, call a doctor.
4. Cranky. Babies are usually in a great mood. They coo and giggle. If you see a change in your baby’s mood, it’s usually a sign he/she isn’t feeling well. Check to make sure they don’t have a fever, have belly pain, diarrhea or constipation. Do not ignore mood changes.
5. Vomiting. While it isn’t unusual for infants to spit up after they finish a meal, it is unusual for them to vomit. Projectile vomiting- vomiting that shoots out across the room is associated with digestive problems and congenital narrowing of the digestive tract. If the baby projectile vomits or just stats vomiting call a doctor. Infants get easily dehydrated and dehydration is the most common cause of children requiring hospitalization.
6. Colds. Colds are uncommon in newborns. Sneezing is okay but if the baby starts having a cold that interferes with breathing by creating nasal congestion, call a doctor.
7. Rash. Rashes are unusual in newborns so any rash that covers more than the diaper area should be looked at by a physician. Often formula allergies may cause the rash.
8. Eye discharge. A rare occurrence but certainly something to keep in mind. If the baby has a discharge coming out of one or both eyes, you should consult a doctor.
9. Ear problems. If a baby tugs on his/her ear or an infant rolls his/her head to one side associated with crying and often fever, you are probably dealing with an ear infection so do take the baby to the doctor.
10. Crying. It is rare to have a baby that doesn’t spend much of her awake time crying. Usually crying is not a sign of illness or of concern. For the most part babies sleep most of the time so crying is reserved for feeding and changing time. If however, your baby cries all the time, doesn’t sleep and is inconsolable do call your doctor.