An unwell baby – some resources to help you

Your baby goes through so much in the first year: teething; changing diet; introducing allergen’s to their diet; immunisations; exposure to the world in general– sometimes its hard to know if you are panicking or if something is really wrong.

This is not a self diagnosis resource, that is the domain of qualified medical practitioners. This is a guide to help you through some panicky times when you think something may be wrong but you are not sure.

If something is seriously wrong call 000 or take baby to the hospital immediately. If baby is sick, book a time with your clinic or doctor.

This resource is about how to get help when you are unsure, and a list of some simple things that a nurse or doctor will ask you about baby. Its a good idea to know what to look for, what is out of the ordinary and what is normal.

The first resource is always your doctor or clinic. But, sometimes you just want to talk to them and don’t want to take baby out to go wait in a waiting room.

There are a lot of phone resources you can take advantage of.

Nurses on Call

The first is “Nurse on Call”. A Victorian State service that you can call at any time. Call 1300 60 60 24 for the cost of a local call from anywhere in Victoria for health advice 24 hours a day. (Calls from mobile phones may be charged at a higher rate).


Healthdirect Australia advice line

Healthdirect Australia is a 24-hour telephone health advice line. If you have a health concern and you’re not sure what to do, simply call 1800 022 22 and speak with a registered nurse. Available in ACT, NSW, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia.


Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Hotline

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby” is an Australian wide phone and online service, providing information, advice and counselling about pregnancy, childbirth and your baby’s first year. Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436

You or your partner may be pregnant and feeling apprehensive about birthing options or have questions about how to care for your new baby. This is when the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby service can help.

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is an initiative of the Federal Government and offers free and confidential information and counselling to women and their partners. The service is also available to friends and relatives.


After Hours GP Helpline

There is also the “After Hours GP Helpline”. By calling the service and receiving nurse triage and/or GP advice, many callers are able to manage their condition at home or at least until they can see their usual GP during normal business hours.

Where self-management is not possible and a patient’s condition cannot wait until the next day, they are directed to the most appropriate after hours health service in their community. If the call is an emergency, it will be transferred to the Ambulance Service Triple Zero (000).

Call the after hours GP helpline on: 1800 022 222 (landlines are free, mobiles may be charged).

National Health Services Directory

Lastly, you may not actually have a GP or be somewhere unfamiliar, The National Health Services Directory (NHSD) is a convenient and accessible new resource. It builds on and consolidates some existing regional healthcare directories to provide detailed information on available health related services to anyone with internet access.

Visit the NHSD at

Basically you can use the NHSD to find a GP, Pharmacy, Emergency Department or Hospital. There is also an app for your smartphone.

What to look for before you call

Before you dial (or while you are on hold) its good to know what they are going to ask you. It makes you more prepared, and less panicked.

You need urgent medical help if your baby:

  • Has had a fit
  • Can’t be woken up
  • Stops breathing or goes ‘blue’
  • Doesn’t respond (not aware of what’s going on around them)
  • Looks glazed, with staring eyes that don’t seem to focus
  • Has been seriously injured

If you think your baby is seriously ill and you can’t get an appointment quickly with your own doctor, take your baby to the nearest Accident & Emergency Department.

If you think it’s a life-threatening condition, telephone 000, requesting an ambulance for your baby.

If you think your baby’s unwell but doesn’t need immediate attention use this guide to take note of all symptoms. It helps to write it down, that way you have a timeframe of whats happening. When they had their last pee, what colour it was, these are all questions you are going to be asked.

What is Baby’s Temperature?

Feeling your baby’s skin won’t tell you if he or she has a high temperature, as they let out a lot of heat through their head or their hands might feel cold when they are actually running a fever.

Make sure you have a decent thermometer in the house, well before bub gets sick for the first time. Many doctors recommend the digital infrared ones that go in the ear. They are instant, painless, accurate.

Feeding, Fluids and Hydration

Take note of how much baby is drinking (breast, bottle or water) and how much they are eating if on solid food. The liquids are more important than solid food. If baby has lost their appetite only you know what their normal patter is and it could be caused by anything from a mood change to teething.

If baby is taking significantly less liquid than usual, then you need to seek medical attention or advice. Babies become dehydrated much quicker than we do.

Does their skin seem dryer than usual, this may just be due to a change in weather, however take note. And are they drooling? As much, more or significantly less than usual.

New Foods

Have you changed formula brand, switched from breast to bottle or introduced a new solid food to baby recently.

Nappy Watch

How often are you changing their nappy, as usual, more or less.

Keep an eye on the amount of urine your baby is passing and whether the colour is more concentrated than usual.

When was the last time they did a number two and is this normal for them. Some babies poo every morning, some three times a night, you know your bub.

Is there any blood in the nappy? If so how much: just a little and does it happen normally when baby passes a hard stool or is there a lot?


Babies will often vomit small amounts of milk, even when they are fit and well, usually after feeds so don’t be alarmed.

However, if they are vomiting large amounts after every feed then you need to take note of the quantity (small frequent, large amounts etc) and the colour.

Cry Baby

You know babies ‘hungry’, ‘cuddle me’ and ‘tired’ cry, take note of any unusual cry – weak, moaning, high-pitched or painful – this could be important.

Is your baby sleepy

Healthy babies are normally alert and responsive when they’re awake. If your baby seems drowsy and needs much more than their normal amount of sleep, take note of nap lengths and how deeply they are sleeping compared to ususal.

Are they ‘floppy’?

You know how ‘firm’ bub is, how strong they are their posture or how they hold themselves. Be alert if baby seems limp or floppy.

Focus and hearing

Does bub look at you when you are talking or are their eyes glazed over. Does it seem like they can hear you or are they just distracted by something else.

Baby Breath

A healthy baby will take shallow, easy breaths. Remember that babies will often make ‘snuffly’ noises. They can also make noises in the back of their throat, if they have just been feeding. They cannot blow their nose so even a small amount of snot can stick around for a while.

Wheezing is different. It’s a whistling noise, when breathing out, indicating some obstruction to the flow of air leaving the lungs. Or if they are having trouble breathing take note.


Squeeze your baby’s big toe. It won’t hurt – it should go ‘white’ and then clear quickly, usually within three or four seconds, returning to a healthy ‘pink’ when you let it go. Same thing happens when you squeeze your own fingers of toes.

What colour are their nails? Compare them to yours and if they seem blue it may indicate they have a circulation issue. Comparing you your own is a good way of compensating for light that may make things look different.

Spots, Dots and Rashes

This is one of the scariest questions, do they have any unusual rashes? It could just be nappy rash or excema that has suddenly gotten out of hand, so take note: write down exactly what it looks like; colour and texture; where they rash is and where it started; when it started; and how baby is reacting to it (scratching or ignoring it).

Poison Ingestion or a Bump

Could baby have swallowed something? Anything out of the ordinary. Did you find them in the bathroom and think nothing of it, but on closer inspection see the soap is missing or were they out of your care for a time recently.

Did they fall or hit their head and seem fine at the time, but be reacting now? (you should always seek medical advice if bub hits their head).

Sixth Sense

At the end of the day the most important thing is to trust your instincts. If you have a gut feeling, if you know baby is not reacting normally for THEM despite what a doctor or nurse tells you, always ask more questions and seek more help if necessary. You know your baby best and they know you, they may be trying to tell you they are not well but do not know how.

Keep calm, keep an accurate record and seek advice or medical assistance if you think its needed.

To the health and happiness of your bub.


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