How to Spot Signs of Sickness in Newborns


A new baby's immune system is immature at birth, which can mean that your little one can catch anything from a case of the sniffles to a serious illness in the first few months of life. Because your newborn can't tell you when he's feeling under the weather, you'll need to watch for the signs of illness in his behavior and feeding and sleeping patterns. Once you recognize the signs of illness, talk to your pediatrician to see if your little one's illness requires treatment.

Things You'll Need

  • Thermometer
  • Take your newborn's temperature rectally or under the arm. Seattle Children's Hospital warns that a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit denotes some type of illness. While a low-grade fever may not require medical attention in older kids, it may be a concern for a newborn, so contact your pediatrician.

  • Offer your newborn the breast or the bottle and then observe how he eats. A healthy newborn has a strong suck and is interested in the breast, while a baby with a weak suck or who has a sudden change in eating patterns -- nursing more or refusing to eat -- could have an illness.

  • Check your little one's diapers after feedings as well, as diarrhea is a sure sign of sickness. Also, count up the wet diapers throughout the day. A healthy newborn should wet at least four to six diapers per day, according to Ask Dr. Sears.

  • Check your little one's nose for mucus and listen for a cough. Both are signs of a cold virus. If you are concerned your newborn has a cold, contact your physician immediately.

  • Observe your newborn's behavior. While your baby still sleeps much of the day, sudden changes in behavior, lethargy, unusual crying and moaning and reduced muscle tone (flopping when you move him) can be cause for concern. Contact your doctor immediately for treatment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Call 911 or visit the emergency room if your newborn isn't moving, is very weak, struggles with breathing, or is unresponsive and difficult to awaken.


  • Photo Credit SW Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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