How Do I Know if Something Is Wrong With My Baby?

Medically Reviewed on 6/16/2022

15 signs that indicate your baby needs medical attention

How do I know if something is wrong with my baby
Here are 15 warning signs that may indicate something is wrong with your baby and that they need medical attention.

When something is amiss with their infant or child, parents are usually quick to notice. However, it might be difficult to identify whether something is seriously wrong or normal or the result of something minor.

Several indicators help you tell the difference. Please seek medical attention if you detect any of these 15 symptoms:

  1. Inconsolable crying
  2. Too sleepy
  3. Fever
  4. Unusual fussiness
  5. Neck stiffness
  6. Arching of the back
  7. Arms and legs pushing away
  8. Arms and legs limp and floppy
  9. Skin color changes (such as pale or bluish skin)
  10. Refusal to feeds
  11. Diarrhea
  12. Vomiting
  13. Abnormal body movements
  14. Skin rash
  15. Decreased urination

When to seek medical attention for your baby

Sickness in the newborn: If your infant is younger than a month and has a fever or appears to be ill, they need medical attention.

Their symptoms and signs may include the following:


  • If your previously playful and cheerful baby becomes too sleepy or unusually sluggish, stares into space, or refuses to smile, they are sluggish.
  • They won't play or respond to you at all.
  • They are either too feeble to cry or too tired to wake up.

These are serious signs. It's common to sleep more when they are unwell. However, if the baby or child sleeps too much and doesn’t even wake up for feeds, they may need medical attention.

Severe pain:

  • They may not want to be left alone.
  • They may cry when you try to hold or move them.
  • They may not sleep or can only fall asleep briefly.

Severe pain may cause your baby to whimper or cry inconsolably.


  • Vomiting is common in babies, but excessive vomiting may be a reason for concern.
  • If vomiting interferes with feeding or is associated with fever or signs of dehydration (such as sunken soft spots, reduced urine output, or lack of tears), you must contact your doctor.

Tender abdomen:

  • While they are distracted, press on their abdomen. If they wince, moan, or scream, this indicates a major problem.
  • It is more critical if the abdomen is swollen and firm.

Trouble breathing: If your child has any sign of breathing trouble, they need medical attention right away.

Warning signs include the following:

  • Fast breathing
  • Grunting
  • Wheezing
  • Bluish lips (bluish lips, tongue, or gums can mean not enough oxygen in the bloodstream)
  • Chest retractions (skin pulls in between the ribs with each breath)

If your child is struggling to breathe, call 911 without delay.

Trouble swallowing with drooling:

  • The abrupt development of drooling or spitting indicates that your baby is experiencing difficulty swallowing.
  • Most of the time, this is due to considerable swelling in the throat or some foreign body stuck in the throat.
  • A significant throat infection could be the source of the problem, or a severe allergic reaction can cause difficulty swallowing.
  • In some circumstances, throat swelling can seal off the airway and cause difficulty breathing.

Dehydration: Severe vomiting and/or diarrhea are common causes of dehydration. 

Symptoms include:

  • Reduced urination (fewer than four wet diapers a day)
  • Crying without tears
  • Dryness inside of the mouth 
  • A sunken soft spot in the head of a newborn

Dehydrated children are also tired and weak. Children who are severely dehydrated become dizzy or sleepy easily. Dehydration treatment includes extra fluids through the oral or intravenous route.

Bulging soft spot:

  • The baby's soft spot on the top of the head is tense, and bulging may indicate that the pressure around the brain is increased and requires immediate medical attention.


  • It is necessary to check for rashes such as purple or blood-red spots or dots on the skin every now and then.
  • When combined with a fever, they may indicate a serious infection.


  • Infections are more common at this age and can progress rapidly.
  • A fever (rectal or forehead temperature) of 100.4 F (38 C) or higher in children younger than 3 months should be seen right away by a doctor.
  • A fever indicates that your child is infected. Serious infections can occur with both low-grade and high-grade fevers.

The majority of life-threatening situations are easily identified. Learn about the complications of your child's chronic disease and how to spot early signs of change. Diseases that weaken the immune system pose the highest risk of serious infections.

Always inform the health care professional regarding your child's chronic disease (such as asthma). Never assume that doctors and nurses are already aware of this.


Parenting Guide: Healthy Eating for Kids See Slideshow

Why does my baby cry while pooping?

Infants have bowel movements about one time a day during the first month. After that, babies can go several days, if not a week, without having a bowel movement. Their abdominal muscles are weak, making it difficult for them to pass stools. As a result, when babies have a bowel movement, they tend to strain, cry, and turn red in the face. Your baby may strain, grunt, or cry as they learn to pass stool.

As long as the stool is soft, it is not due to constipation, and no treatment is required. If the resulting stool is hard, like a pellet, this could indicate constipation, and you should consult your pediatrician.

Other possible explanations include:

  • Most babies cry when they poop because their immature digestive system causes them to strain because their anus is still tight (although they are able to create pressure to push the stool out).
  • Your baby may be constipated or have difficulty passing a bowel movement in the position they are in.
  • Some babies appear to be extra sensitive to harder poop, particularly those who have been breastfed and then begin solid foods.
  • Some of the babies will cry even if the poop isn't particularly hard.
  • If your baby has only recently begun to cry and has had no previous problems, an anal tear or diaper rash could be causing the bowel movement to be painful.
  • Some food intolerances may be causing issues.
  • If your baby has always had these issues, you should consult a doctor to rule out any issues that make pooping painful.

If your baby is crying while pooping, it's natural to be concerned and wonder what's wrong. Fortunately, most pooping issues in babies are fairly common and naturally resolve themselves without the need for medical intervention.

What are the early signs of delayed walking?

Most babies begin walking between 11 and 16 months although some do not begin until they are 18 months.

Early warning signs of delayed walking may include:

  • Cannot sit without support by 9 months of age
  • Not standing with support by 12 months
  • Not walking steadily by 16-23 months
  • Consistently toe walking (walking on tiptoes)
  • Consistently late progressing through common developmental milestones (lifting head, rolling over, and sitting up)

The following are a few common conditions that a pediatrician may examine to determine the cause of a child's delay in walking:

  • Neurological disorders
  • Muscular dystrophy/muscular issues
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Familial maturational delay (one or both parents may have a history of delayed walking during the early childhood period)
  • Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland)
  • High muscle tone (very tense muscles)
  • Stiff limbs or poor balance
  • Baby is carried everywhere and not allowed to try walking
  • Intellectual disability

Remember that most toddler walking issues resolve on their own. If a baby isn't walking by 16-23 months, they should have a medical examination to assess muscle strength, range of motion, and joint flexibility. Delayed walking could be the first symptom of cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or other conditions.

Medically Reviewed on 6/16/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

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"Caring for Your Newborn: When to Call the Doctor." <>.

"7 Serious Symptoms in Babies and Toddlers." <>.

"Why Babies Get Upset When They Poop." <>.

"A review of 404 'late walkers'." <>.