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    Bringing home baby: When to call the doctor

    Most new parents are anxious when their infant has a fever, or is fussy, stuffy and simply not acting right. But how do you decide to call the pediatrician or to wait – especially in the middle of the night?

    “We understand the uncertainty that comes with bringing home a newborn, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” says Linda Ciampa, a registered nurse in the labor and delivery department of a Boston-area hospital. “Even at 2 a.m., most doctors’ offices are on call to give you assurance and advice. We would much rather have you call than be up all night worrying – or possibly overlook something important,” adds Ciampa. “Even for the pros – ruling out anything serious offers the best possible peace of mind for us all.”

    Ciampa encourages all first-time parents to take advantage of the postpartum care, newborn CPR and safety classes offered at many hospitals and community centers. Knowledge and information can reduce stress when your baby isn’t feeling well. She offers the following tips on what to look for when you suspect your baby may be sick:


    Fever helps the body fight infection and doesn’t always need to be treated. But sometimes, fever in a newborn can be serious. A temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher in a baby under the age of 2 months should be reported. Your doctor will likely ask whether the baby is feeding, urinating and sleeping adequately. Never give medicines or other home remedies to a baby without first consulting with a pediatrician.

    Historically, the most accurate way to determine a baby’s core-body temperature was with a rectal thermometer. Now, however, many doctors’ offices and hospitals use a forehead scanner, such as the Exergen TemporalScanner. One swipe provides a fast and accurate reading in just two seconds.

    Studies show that temporal artery thermometers are just as accurate as the more invasive methods of temperature taking, such as rectal. They take the stress out of taking a baby’s temperature – and work on grownups too.

    Seek immediate medical attention and call 911 if your infant is struggling to breathe or turns a shade of blue. Don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician if:

    * Your baby’s skin appears yellow or you suspect jaundice

    * The newborn’s stools appear red, white or black (aside from the first black meconium bowel movements)

    * Your little one has a persistent cold, cough or is vomiting (more than spitting up)

    * Your baby is unusually fussy, lethargic or not waking up for feeds

    * The baby is not wetting enough diapers (look for six or more daily after 6 days of age)  

    Health care providers are there to offer advice and reassurance whenever you are unsure about any health issue concerning your newborn. Health care providers want your baby to be healthy – and you to feel confident – so you can enjoy this special time with your precious, new arrival.

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