Newborn Health

Some of the most common newborn health problems are discussed below. If you have any other questions about the health of your baby please ring the advice line.

Crying baby from NHS library

Crying is your baby’s way of communicating with you. Crying can be distressing for you but it can often be soothed by making sure your baby has a clean nappy and has been fed recently. Some babies cry when they have trapped wind and this can be settled by ‘burping’ your baby. Babies also find skin-to-skin contact soothing. Holding and cuddling your baby and speaking or singing calmly to them is helpful.

Crying for long periods and not being able to be soothed can be a sign to seek further help. A baby affected by colic will cry frequently and be difficult to settle. Seek help if you are concerned.

If your baby has a high pitched cry, or a very weak cry you should seek help as soon as possible from your community midwife, GP or by ringing the advice line.

Bowel movements

Your baby’s stools will first appear like thick black tar. This poo, known as meconium, should be passed in the first 24 hours of life. As baby establishes feeding the stool will change to a green and then a yellow colour over the next few days. Breastfed babies stools often then look yellow and have a bird-seed texture, whilst formula fed babies poo is firmer and darker.

Babies that are formula fed are more likely to be constipated. If your baby has not opened her bowels in 24 hours try opening her nappy and gently holding her legs up as you would if you were changing her nappy. She may seem like she is straining. If she does not open her bowels and your community midwife is not due to visit then ring the maternity advice line for support.

A breast-fed baby may pass a small amount of stool at every feed but will usually poo at least twice a day in the first weeks of life. A breastfed baby that is constipated is unusual and you should seek advice from your community midwife or the maternity advice line.

Passing urine

In the first days of life your baby may only pass urine once or twice a day. As disposable nappies are so absorbent it might be difficult to tell, so some parents slip a cotton wool ball inside to look for dampness after urination or will add a few tablespoons of water to a dry nappy to get used to how heavy a wet nappy feels.

Babies can also pass urates, a dark pink or red substance, in their first few days. This is common but if it continues to happen can be a sign baby isn’t drinking enough milk and you should contact your community midwife or the advice line for more support.

By days three to four baby will have around three wet nappies each day. This increases to five or more at day five and six or more from days seven to 28.

Cord care

Your baby’s umbilical cord will dry up and scab. It usually will fall off between days seven and 10 of life. Although some cords take a little longer to drop off.

Treat the cord as you would any other scab; keep it clean and dry. Do not be afraid to let the cord get wet when you bath your baby, just ensure you gently pat it dry afterwards. As the cord is like a scab it might bleed a small amount if it rubs against your baby’s nappy. Do not worry if when you change the nappy you find dry blood inside, as long as the cord is not actively bleeding or oozing blood constantly.

If the cord smells offensive or is leaking green or yellow looking fluid seek advice from your GP. Occasionally cords can get infected, although this is rare.


You may notice your baby’s skin colour changes from pink to yellow-ish around day three of life. This is called jaundice and is a normal process as your baby gets used to life outside the womb and transforms it’s fetal blood cells to baby blood cells.

If your baby is waking for each feed, her eyes remain white and she is otherwise well do not worry. Exposure to natural light can help break down the jaundice so a walk in the fresh air can help. Ensuring baby also has regular feeds will help her jaundice to pass.

If she appears jaundiced within 24 hours of birth, if her eyes appear yellow or if she is difficult to wake and feed then your baby needs to be reviewed by your community midwife as soon as possible. Ring the maternity advice line.

Sticky eyes

Babies often get sticky eyes as their tear ducts may not be fully functional at birth. If there is only a small amount of sticky glue-like material it is unlikely to be anything serious. Wash your hands, take a cotton wool ball soaked in cool boiled water and sweep once from the inside of the eye to the outside, to clear the sticky substance. Then dispose of the ball.

If your baby’s eye or eyes look red or weep frequently you should take her to see your GP as this could be the sign of an infection.

Urgent problems

If you recognise any of the following problems you should seek urgent medical attention for your baby.

  • Quick breathing
  • High pitched cry
  • Weak cry
  • Difficulty waking
  • Skin rash or spots
  • Temperature above 37.5 degrees c
  • Vomiting after every feed
  • Green vomit

Ring 999 if your baby becomes unwell with any of the following:

  • Stopping breathing
  • Turning blue
  • Going floppy and unresponsive
  • Cannot be woken
  • Has a fit

These lists are not inclusive of every reason to seek help. If you are worried about your baby for any reason seek help.

  •  24-hour Advice line (James Cook): 01642 854876
  • 24-hour Advice Line (Friarage): 01609 763082