6 Alarming But Totally Normal Things Babies Do That Worry New Parents

When you're a new parent, you'll have moments of panic about your baby's health. Here are some of the most common and totally normal things you'll probably freak out about.

baby typical
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You're a new parent—so you're probably feeling a mixture of joy, fear, exhaustion, and let's face it, confusion. Babies are amazing creatures, but they also do some weird things. From those startle reflexes and crying to pooping and gassiness, there's a lot to learn about a newborn.

One of the first lessons you should learn as a parent is that it's definitely OK to ask all the questions. Find a pediatrician you trust who doesn't mind you running a quick question by them. When in doubt, always ask.

But if you're looking for just a little more information about some of the issues you might encounter during your baby's first year of life, we're here to help. Here are six very common things your baby will probably do that might worry you. (But at least now you'll be prepared!)

1. Cry...A Lot

It's not breaking news that babies cry—a lot. But when it's your baby who's in your arms screaming for hours at a time, you can't help but wonder if something is terribly wrong. "For the first three months, every night at about 5 p.m., Gavin would get really fussy," says Tricia Heiserman of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. "You couldn't put him down. It made me depressed because I thought I was doing something wrong."

Nearly all babies, no matter how placid, get downright cantankerous as night falls and the "witching hours" begin. "Inconsolable fussiness between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. is natural," says Benjamin Danielson, M.D., medical director of Odessa Brown Children's Clinic at Seattle Children's Hospital. This crying typically starts within the first two months, heightens between weeks five and eight, and is usually gone by the third month.

While crying sprees are upsetting and inconvenient, they're entirely normal. To help avoid overtired tears, put your baby down for naps throughout the day. (Newborn babies typically need 16 to 18 hours of sleep per day!) And if all else fails, try going for a walk outside; many parents swear by a little fresh air when it comes to soothing cranky kids.

Wondering if your baby may have colic? Dr. Danielson explains that colic is a more intense version of the crying that most babies go through, and the same tactics that soothe a crying baby may soothe a colicky one.

And remember, it won't last forever. "Meredith cried for hours every evening from the time she was 7 weeks old, and we'd do anything to try and stave it off," says Caroline Warthen of Greenville, South Carolina. "Then at 3 months, it ended, and all of a sudden we had a smiley baby."

2. Spit-Up

The word "spit-up" brings to mind something small, like drool. But there's nothing minute about massive spit-ups that splatter all over the floor. These usually start immediately after birth and crescendo at around 3 months. "From the time my milk came in, my son was spitting up huge puddles that covered everything, about 10 times a day," says Kimberly McCreight of Brooklyn, New York. "The sheer volume was so startling that I asked about it every time I went to the doctor."

It's not the volume that matters, says Gregory Germain, M.D., associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, but how your baby is doing overall with eating and growth. There's no need to worry about a baby who's steadily gaining weight and seems happy even when they're spitting up a lot. "It's shocking," Dr. Germain adds. "A baby can spit up so much that it covers the floor, but when you measure the amount, it's just a fraction of what they ate."

Your baby may need to be evaluated further for something like acid reflux if they appear to be in pain during or directly before or after spitting up; if they're gaining weight very slowly; or if your baby has recurrent respiratory problems, such as wheezing or pneumonia. Otherwise, trust that by about 6 months, the spit-up saga will be behind you.

3. Stop Pooping

In your newborn's first few weeks, it can seem like all you're doing is tallying wet and dirty diapers and hoping the daily sum adds up to the normal six wet and six soiled. And it probably will—at first. But as your baby gets older, there may be something of a shake-up in the poop department.

"When Blake was about 6 months, he went from pooping once every four days to once a week, and it put me over the edge," says Cindy Myers of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. "He wasn't disturbed by it at all, but I was."

Although it can be hard to imagine, Dr. Danielson says infrequent stools in infants usually aren't a worrisome sign. "Somewhere around 1 month, most babies go through a sudden slowdown in terms of bowel movements," he explains. "So they will be perfectly healthy, but they may have a bowel movement only once every seven days—and that's fine if what comes out is soft and mushy and not difficult to pass."

Breastfed babies can also go up to a week or so without pooping—breast milk is digested almost completely by a baby's digestive system, so it leaves very little leftover to pass. As long as your baby is gaining weight appropriately and not having issues when they do poop, it's perfectly fine for several days to pass without a dirty diaper.

You'll know your baby is truly constipated if they cry or scream while trying to poop and if their bowel movements are hard round balls. In these cases, you should talk to your pediatrician, who will suggest safe ways to ease your baby's symptoms.

4. Resist New Foods

Your baby's first bite of real food is one of the biggest milestones of their first year. But it may not always go smoothly.

"Babies have very varying degrees of responsiveness to solids," says Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a nonprofit educational organization in Washington, D.C. "There are babies who will eat anything, and then there are discriminating eaters who have very specific preferences."

It can be demoralizing to continue offering spoonfuls of oatmeal or peas only to have the food flung across the room. But there's little chance that your picky eater will starve. Dr. Germain assures that, except in rare cases, as with children who have anemia or acid reflux, babies don't need anything besides breast milk or formula for their entire first year. So if your baby is protesting, it's best to back off and try again later.

"When I give Gavin rice cereal, he just spits it out," Heiserman says of her 4-month-old son. "But the pediatrician says that right now feeding is more of a play activity to teach him how to eat."

Take pleasure in experimenting with tastes and textures, and keep the process fun and relaxed. "Getting into power struggles is detrimental because nobody wins and mealtime becomes fraught with tension," Lerner says. "If the baby is pushing away the spoon and arching their back, one option is to put away what you've offered and offer it again an hour or two later." If your baby doesn't take to new foods at breakfast, try again at dinnertime.

5. Have Sleep Setbacks

For parents with a newborn, sleep deprivation is unavoidable. But just when your baby starts to sleep soundly through the night, they might suddenly resort right back to the newborn days of frequent wake-ups.

"Meredith was sleeping through the night at 12 weeks, but then, a few months later, she started waking again at night, screaming," Warthen says. "We'd have to go in and calm her down, put the pacifier in her mouth, sometimes a couple of times a night."

The truth is, even the dreamiest sleeper will experience plenty of setbacks during the first year. "At about 2 months, there's a honeymoon period with sleep where you feel like you're getting into a real rhythm with your child. But that starts to wane at about 4 months," Dr. Danielson says.

As your baby grows, sleep setbacks and regressions can be very normal. For instance, even little life disruptions can have a big impact on sleep, so things such as traveling, being sick, teething, growth spurts, or nearing a developmental milestone can make your baby start waking again temporarily. In these instances, stick to your bedtime routine and soothe your child with comfort but not overinvolvement. (For example, pat your baby on their back, but don't pick them up and bring them into bed with you.)

One of the most common stumbling blocks parents encounter pops up at about 9 months. "Children start to understand the concept of object permanence, that things still exist even though they can't see them," Lerner says. "So they know that when you're not in the room, you're out there somewhere. And they know they can use their voice to make you come back."

While it can feel like your baby is backsliding, try to remember it's just the opposite—they are taking huge developmental leaps forward. And as long as you don't pay too much attention to the protesting, your baby will sleep soundly again before too long.

"If you start getting very involved again in nighttime interactions, it can perpetuate the waking," Lerner says. "So respond, but keep the interaction brief. Peek your head in, just for 15 seconds, to let your baby know you're there but that nighttime is for sleeping."

temperature taking

6. Spike Very High Fevers

Like it or not, by the time your baby is around a year old, they are very likely to experience some kind of illness that prompts a fever. And when they do, the thermometer's readout may make you gasp. Fevers of 102, 103, and even 104 degrees Fahrenheit are common in young children. While they may merit a call to the pediatrician, they shouldn't cause a panic.

"Fever and the symptoms that accompany it, such as congestion or vomiting, are your baby's way of fighting infection," Dr. Danielson says. "Babies tolerate high fever—104 degrees plus—a lot better than we do, and duration is usually a much better indicator of illness than how high it is."

Here's when to bring your baby to the pediatrician, Dr. Danielson says: If the fever lasts more than a day, if other symptoms interfere with your baby's ability to get rest and eat well, if your parental instinct tells you something is wrong, or if your baby is a newborn.

If your baby is younger than 2 months and comes down with a fever, you'll need to take it more seriously and get them checked out immediately. With newborns, it's much trickier to figure out which infections might be brewing.

When to See a Doctor

Dr. Danielson weighs in on the most common maladies of a baby's first year. Learn when to wait it out and when to see a doctor.

Upper respiratory infection

Watch and wait if baby has a cough, increasing congestion, fever for one to two days, fussiness, or poor appetite. Ease congestion with a humidifier or a nasal aspirator.

Visit the doctor if the fever lasts past the third day, if your baby doesn't have any "up" periods when their mood is better, or if they won't take a bottle or the breast. These symptoms may indicate a secondary infection such as a sinus infection or bacterial pneumonia. If you suspect the flu or COVID-19, you may also want to call your pediatrician to see if they recommend testing.

Ear infection

Watch and wait if you notice fussiness, fever, trouble sleeping, or pulling at the ear that lasts for one to three days following congestion or an upper respiratory infection.

Visit the doctor if these symptoms last for more than three days or if your baby seems to be in severe pain and is younger than 6 months. Doctors prefer to let the baby's immune system fight an ear infection at first, but antibiotics may be in order if they aren't better after three days.

Stomach virus

If your baby comes down with a stomach bug, watch and wait to see if your baby is fussy, has a fever for a day or two, vomits for one to two days, or has diarrhea that starts after the first or second day. As long as your baby is getting fluids and urinating consistently, they will be fine without solids for a few days.

Visit the doctor if vomiting or fever lasts more than two days, if your baby doesn't want to drink, if they go for six hours or more without urinating, or if there's blood in their stool. Your baby might have a serious infection such as Salmonella or E. coli, which may require treatment with an antibiotic. And if your baby is seriously dehydrated, they may need intravenous (IV) fluids.

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