For new moms and dads, an infant’s first few months of life are thrilling—and a little nerve-wracking. Everything is so new, and your infant seems so fragile. “Between birth and three months, there are a lot of things that new parents especially worry about,” says Victoria Riese, M.D., of Flatiron Pediatrics in Manhattan. These can include baby acne, constipation, noisy breathing, and other frequent—but not worrisome—conditions. So, when can you relax, and when should you reach out to your pediatrician?
Baby's Digestive Issues Are Normal
Does your baby have gas? Constipation? Act a bit fussy when feeding? These are all normal things, Dr. Riese says, and don’t require a doctor’s call unless they start to interfere with baby’s development. “When babies are having so much trouble eating that they’re crying or losing weight, we want to make sure that it’s not something more serious,” she says.
Noisy Breathing Is Not Bad
Your baby’s air passageways in the nose are quite small, Dr. Riese points out. This can lead to funny breathing or wheezing—it may even seem like your baby has a snoring problem. Not to worry! “Noisy breathing is not a sign that the baby is in distress,” Dr. Riese says. So long as your baby is acting normally while awake, and can eat and breathe at the same time, he’s most likely just fine.
Milia Are Benign
Skin conditions are common in babies. For example, those little white bumps on her nose or face? “These are called milia and are caused by trapped skin debris near the surface of the skin. They are benign and will pass with time,” says Dyan Hes, M.D., F.A.A.P., pediatrician and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in Manhattan.
Baby Acne Is, Too
Another skin ailment, baby acne can look red and inflamed—but it’s completely benign. “It can come out in the first month or two of life. It is due to hormonal changes in the baby, either from the birth itself or sometimes from breast milk,” Dr. Hes says. She recommends cleaning baby’s face daily with a mild hypoallergenic baby soap.
Jaundice Isn't Terrible
If your baby has jaundice—or slightly yellow skin—he’s far from alone. “About half of all babies have some amount of jaundice,” says Jennifer Janco, M.D., board-certified pediatrician and chairman of pediatrics at St. Luke’s University Heath Network in Bethlehem, PA. “The yellow color in the skin is a result of elevated bilirubin levels in the blood,” she adds, noting it can take a few days for a healthy baby’s liver to mature and handle bilirubin properly. If you are breast-feeding, supplementing with formula for the first few days will often treat the condition, Dr. Hes says, but some babies require phototherapy in the hospital. Therefore, if your baby appears yellowish, it’s a good idea to reach out to a pediatrician, Dr. Hes advises.
Bluish Skin Is Fine–To an Extent
A faint blue cast on your newborn’s hands or feet sounds like an alarming symptom—but it’s not necessarily a cause for worry. In fact, Dr. Janco says it’s quite common, because your baby’s body is still figuring out temperature and circulation regulation. Though, “a baby who appears blue in the face, tongue, or around the lips should prompt immediate evaluation,” Dr. Janco warns. Call your doctor or 911 if the situation does not resolve.
Heat Rash Is Treatable
Too much time in pajamas or a warm stroller can lead to heat rash, Dr. Hes says. Apply an over-the-counter baby eczema cream twice a day for a week. “If the rash spreads, let your doctor know,” she says.
Thrush Is Not an Emergency
A yeast infection known as candida, thrush is also common in newborns, Dr. Janco says. The white patches on the sides of cheeks, inner lips, or tongue can’t easily be wiped off. “Let your doctor know if you suspect thrush,” she says—it’s easily treatable and not an emergency.
Cradle Cap Happens to Many Babies
Does your baby have yellow or white crusty patches on his scalp? This benign condition is known as cradle cap or seborrhea capitis, Dr. Hes says. The biggest downside is your baby may lose some hair as it spreads. “Initially, I like to treat mild cradle cap with some olive oil on the scalp to loosen the flakes, and then comb it out with a fine baby comb,” she says. “Parents can also apply dandruff shampoo to the baby’s scalp, leave it on for two to three minutes, and rinse it, away from the baby’s eyes.” If neither of these options work, check in with your pediatrician.
Here's When You Should Call Your Doctor
Your pediatrician expects you to have concerns and questions—after all, these curious symptoms are new to you. So, “in between visits, write down questions if they can wait,” Dr. Riese advises.
When in doubt, call. And always get in touch with a doctor if your baby has a fever (any temperature above 100.3 in a newborn), Dr. Riese says. The other big warning sign: Your baby isn’t acting like herself, including not wanting to wake up, not interacting as usual, or not feeding. In these cases, contact your pediatrician immediately.