Common Newborn Conditions and when to see a Doctor

These conditions are very common in new born babies. Should you notice any of these symptoms you should seek medical advice.

Abdominal Distension

If in between feeds your newborns tummy sticks out and is quite hard when you touch it or he is vomiting or hasn’t had any bowel movement for 2 days, it may be a sign of an intestinal problem. It could just be that he has bad wind or constipation but you should get him checked by a doctor.

Birth Injuries

Birth injuries happen and can often go unnoticed. The most common birth injury is a broken collar bone or muscle weakness. A broken collar bone will heal reasonably quickly, particularly if you are made aware of it and have kept it as motionless as possible. In some cases, a small lump is spotted a few weeks after birth at the site of the injury. This is the new bone forming and is evidence your newborn is healing.

Muscle weakness is caused by stretching of the nerves attached to your little ones muscles during labour/birth. If one side of your newborns body (usually an arm or shoulder) or face doesn’t appear to be as active as the other side you should seek medical advice, you will be given advice on how to handle, hold and feed your baby in order to promote healing. This usually corrects itself after a few weeks.

Blue Baby

Your newborn may have blue hands or blue feet when cold and may have a blue face, tongue and lips when crying excessively. Once your child has warmed up or has calmed down her skin colour should return to normal shortly afterwards. If your baby’s skin is blue more often than this it may be a sign of a heart or lung problem, particularly if this is coupled with breathing and/or feeding difficulties. Blue skin is a sign that your child is not receiving enough oxygen, this requires immediate medical attention.


Your child may cough and splutter when drinking too fast, when trying water the first few times or if your breast milk has a fast flow, however, if he coughs or gags routinely when feeding you should consult your doctor. This may be caused by a lung or intestinal problem.

Excessive Crying

Newborns cry for many reasons and you should firstly ensure she is clean, fed, not tired, burped and warm. If this, along with you cuddling and comforting her doesn’t work and her cry is different to her normal one such as shrieks of pain or it is prolonged for an unusual amount of time, you should seek medical advice. It may be your baby is in pain or is ill.

Forceps Marks

When forceps are used to help deliver a baby, they will usually leave marks or scrapes on your newborns skin. On some occasions there will be lumps, this is due to the tissue bring damaged under the skin. If you are concerned about the marks left by forceps you should discuss this with your midwife/health visitor but, on most occasions these marks and lumps will clear up within 8 weeks.


Many healthy newborns have a mild case of jaundice; a slight yellow tinge to their skin. However, in some cases it can be extremely serious and lead to brain or nervous system damage. Jaundice is most commonly caused by a newborns liver not yet functioning properly, the liver is responsible for removing bilirubin from the blood stream. Bilirubin is formed by the body’s natural breakdown of red blood cells. If your midwife is worried about jaundice in your newborn, tests will be arranged and appropriate treatment given if required (usually light therapy). Breastfeeding 8-12 times a day will also help a newborn suffering from jaundice (it seems to be more common in breastfed babies, possibly due to not feeding well). You should always check with your midwife or doctor if you are worried about jaundice or jaundice has developed/worsened since your newborns last check.

Sleepiness and lethargy

Newborns tend to sleep for the majority of the day to begin with, thus is completely normal. If your baby doesn’t wake for feeds, doesn’t seem interested in feeds when awake or seems uninterested or lethargic you should seek medical advice immediately, particularly if this is a change to your newborns usual behaviour.

Breathing difficulties

Three or four hours after bring born, your baby should have already developed carefully breathing pattern. If you notice a change in this pattern or if she is taking over 60 breaths per minute you should seek medical advice.
In most cases, breathing problems are caused by a blocked nose which can be easily fixed with saline drops and a bulb syringe, these are available from pharmacies. If however you notice any if the following symptoms you should seek medical advice immediately:

  • Breathing faster than usual (more than sixty breaths in one minute), although babies do breathe more rapidly than adults.
  • Retractions (sucking in the muscles between the ribs with each breath, so that her ribs stick out)
  • Flaring her nose
  • Grunting whilst breathing
  • Persistent blue skin coloring
  • Reference: AAP,