Newborns and Infants: When To Call the Doctor

9 Reasons To Contact Your Baby's Doctor

9 Reasons To Call The Baby's Doctor Right Away
Is it a fever? Should you call the doctor?. STOCK4B/Getty Images

Calling the Doctor: Can It Wait or Should You Act?

When is a temperature a fever? When is a sleepy baby too sleepy? As parents, there are times when it's perfectly clear that we need to call emergency services or 911. Then, there are other times when it's not as obvious, and we have to decide if we should call the doctor right away or if it can wait. Here are some guidelines to help you make that decision.

When to Call Your Baby's Doctor

  • Refusal To Breastfeed: If your child is nursing poorly or refusing to breastfeed, especially if your child is a newborn or infant, call the doctor right away. Lack of nursing or poor nursing could mean that your child is sick. This can quickly lead to serious problems including dehydration, weight loss, and jaundice.
  • Fever: For newborns and young infants up to 2 months of age, call the doctor immediately for any temperature of 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) or greater. For children over 2 months old, call the doctor if the baby has a temperature above 101 degrees F (38.3 degrees C). A fever is a sign of an illness or an infection. It could quickly turn into a dangerous situation for your baby.
  • Vomiting: If your baby is vomiting everything they eat for more than about 6 hours without any other symptoms, call the doctor. Vomiting accompanied by other symptoms such as a fever, diarrhea, enlargement of the belly, or a green color of the vomit should be reported to your baby's doctor immediately.
  • Excessive Sleepiness: Many newborns are sleepy during the first few days of life. A little bit of sleepiness is normal. However, if your child is so sleepy that you are unable to wake him or her for most feedings, then it's time to call the doctor.
  • Less Than 6 Wet Diapers In 24 Hours: By the time your baby is five days old, he or she should have at least 6 wet diapers each day. If your child is not producing enough urine, call the doctor.
  • Diarrhea or Bloody Poop: It's normal for breastfed babies to have dirty diapers at every diaper change. But, if your child develops diarrhea, call the doctor. Also, any bowel movement that looks black or contains blood should be reported to your baby's doctor right away.
  • Uncontrollable Irritability: If you cannot console your child, he constantly appears hungry even after feedings or he appears to be in pain, call the doctor and seek immediate medical attention.
  • Signs of Dehydration: A baby that is showing signs of dehydration, such a dry mouth, dry lips, a sunken (curved downward) soft spot on top of the head, and/or a decreased urine output (less wet diapers), should be taken to the doctor or the emergency room immediately.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Many things can cause breathing issues including viruses, blockages, and allergic reactions. If your baby has difficulty breathing don't wait, get help right away.

You Should Feel Comfortable Contacting The Doctor  

It is important to have a good relationship with your baby's health care provider.

While you do not need to call the doctor for every little thing, you should feel comfortable enough to call if you have any questions or concerns. Remember, if you feel that something is not right, it's always better to ask and have it be nothing, than to wish you would have called when you didn't.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Continue Reading