Sometimes trying to figure out if your baby is sick feels like one big guessing game. For one, babies can't really communicate. The other challenge is that babies do things on a daily basis that parents, freak out about or consider weird, that in all actuality are normal and not signs of sickness. I can't tell you how many times I called my daughter's pediatrician asking "is this normal?" Thankfully, there are definite ways your baby is trying to tell you they're sick that you can pick up on once you know what to look for.
My first born daughter used to have what I perceived as weird breathing patterns. They were like snorts, grunts, and audible gasps alternated with shallow breaths. I didn't know what to make of it ... ever. I'd call her pediatrician and say, "She's really breathing weird right now, I don't know if something's wrong."
The nurse on the other end of the line would politely ask her routine questions including, "Did she swallow anything like a coin or a battery?" I responded, "No," but who could ever really be sure, right? I drove myself crazy (probably the nurse too), and in the end always opted to bring my daughter in for an examination with the doctor. Nothing was ever found and my doctor would tell me over and over again, "Babies just breathe weird."
Thankfully there are some surefire indicators to whether or not your baby is actually sick, which could either save you a trip to the doctor's office or indicate that you need to get your baby seen ASAP. Here are seven ways to tell if you're baby is sick.
1. Your Baby Is Crying
Babies cry to tell us stuff in general because they can't talk. Crying is their big communication tool, but really it's how they cry that indicates a lot about what's going on with them. If your baby is doing a weak and moaning cry, Web MD explained it might be because they're sick. Parents also noted that a screaming or howling cry might indicate that there is an ear infection or some type of significant pain.
If you have a colicky baby this may be really hard to discern because let's be honest, they're pretty much always crying.
2. Your Baby Is Not Playing
Your baby will likely not want to play anything, not even peek-a-boo with you, while they are sick. The Health of Children website explained that children who are temporarily ill don't have the strength, attention span or interest in playing. The site also noted that spontaneous play is a big indicator of a child's health. You can still offer a sick baby play time by reading a book or offering a favorite stuffed animal.
3. Your Baby Is Sleeping More
This sounds like a blessing in your sleep deprived state of babyhood doesn't it? Unfortunately, more sleep means something might be up with your baby. The Baby Sleep website explained that just like sick adults sleep more, sick babies need more rest too. If your baby is wanting to take more naps, showing signs of wanting to go to bed earlier, and sleeping late you might have a sick baby on your hands.
4. Your Baby Is Not Sleeping
This is the opposite of what you just read, but the same Baby Sleep article noted that if your baby is waking up a lot at night or during a nap time it may be sign that they're sick. Sick babies might still sleep a long time total, but with several bouts of waking up in between.
5. Your Baby Refuses Breast Or Bottle
If your baby is refusing to nurse or take the bottle, they may be telling you they are sick. Think how sucking might hurt a baby that has an ear infection or how a baby with a cold might have a sore throat. Kelly Mom website suggested if a baby is refusing to eat you can try feeding them breast milk or formula from a cup, dropper, spoon, or syringe. You can also try freezing your milk until it's slushy and let the baby eat it with a spoon. The same site noted that it might be hard to watch your baby not eat, but don't totally freak out. They will eat again when they feel up to it.
6. They Are Acting Lethargic
If your baby is sluggish, drowsy, and not responding to visual or noise stimulation your baby might be battling an illness, according to About Kids Health. Your baby isn't necessarily red flagging you with this symptom, it's just one you'll just have to really watch for and observe. You know your baby's behavior best, so if they seem less energetic than usual it might be their body's way of showing it's sick.
7. They Are Really Clingy
This is the one that used to kill me. The extreme clinginess I could not deal with. Some babies are just naturally more needy than others so it's totally based off of each little human's personality. According to Today's Parent if your child becomes extra clingy and attached they might be telling you in their own baby way that they are not feeling good or they're in pain. Monitor the situation for any other signs that might pop up and give lots of cuddles.
Without the more obvious signs of illness like fever, it may be hard to tell if your baby is sick or not. Before making the call to the doctor just check on these few signs. Your baby may be trying to tell you something even if they don't have the words yet.