Top 13 questions to ask the pediatrician about your newborn

Your baby’s pediatrician will be one of your most valuable resources. Keep reading to find out answers to your most commonly asked questions.

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While becoming a parent is exciting, it can come with many questions for the pediatrician. During this time, your baby’s pediatrician will be one of your most valuable resources. You’ll be seeing them a lot during the first year during regular check ups, and they are here to advocate for your infant’s health and well-being, during their first weeks of life and as they continue to grow into an adolescent.

This article discusses common questions parents ask the pediatrician about newborns during some of their early visits.

Crying and sleep patterns

1. How much crying is normal?

It’s important to remember that all babies cry, and it’s normal for your newborn to cry between one to four hours per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is a common question for the pediatrician, and it is good to remember that newborns will cry more now than during any other period in their lifetime. Babies cry as a way to communicate — they may be sad, angry, uncomfortable, hungry, sleepy or need a diaper change. Eventually, you may be able to detect a difference in the way your baby cries or decipher what they are trying to communicate. But sometimes there is no apparent reason for why your baby is crying, and at times, they may be inconsolable. While you should make an effort to tend to your baby’s needs, it is not realistic to be able to console or quiet them every single time they are fussy.

Sometimes, if you have exhausted every avenue to comfort your baby, and they continue crying, leaving them alone in a safe location, such as their crib, is OK. Babies often cannot fall asleep without crying first, and if they are just tired, the crying should stop. However, if the crying intensifies and continues through the day and night, they may have colic, which means they are more sensitive to being overstimulated and are unable to soothe themselves. If you suspect you have a colicky baby, make sure you alert your pediatrician so they can offer advice and help rule out any other causes for excessive crying.

2. How much sleep should a newborn be getting?

Newborns sleep up to 16 to 17 hours per day, but they will not sleep for long periods of time. They may sleep only for one to three hours at a time. Every baby will vary in their sleep needs. Some babies will wake up and fall back asleep relatively quickly, while others may seek more attention or take more time before their next nap. 

Pediatricians encourage questions about baby’s sleeping environments. The AAP emphasizes safe sleep practices for your baby, which includes being alone and lying on their back in their crib, with no loose toys or bedding.


3. How should I feed my newborn — and how much?

All babies are different and will establish their own feeding preferences, just like adults — some prefer to snack throughout the day, while others like to eat larger portions and wait longer in between mealtimes. Your pediatrician may ask you questions about your baby’s feeding schedule.

Most newborns, however, will want to eat every two to three hours, which is between eight and 12 feedings during a 24-hour period. The AAP says babies may drink only a half-ounce at a time during their first few days, up to 2 ounces at each feeding by later in the week, and up to 3 ounces during their second week. Each month, they likely will be able to handle an additional ounce at feedings.

4. Are hiccups and spitting up normal?

Hiccups and spitting up are usually normal in babies, and often occur after feedings. Babies can take in a little too much air when they eat. All babies will spit up, but there are a few methods to help you prevent it from happening unnecessarily. Avoid overfeeding, or try feeding smaller amounts more often — babies have tiny stomachs. Burp your baby regularly, not only after feeding, but during feeding times as well. Limit playtime with your baby after mealtimes, and hold your baby upright; avoid tummy time right after feedings. Also, consider your diet. Breastfed babies may be sensitive to a particular food or liquid, such as dairy. Formula-fed babies may have a lower tolerance for a specific formulation or ingredient. Check with your pediatrician to review your baby’s feeding habits and diet. If your baby is vomiting forcefully, or they seem uncomfortable when having the hiccups, contact your pediatrician.

5. Is it OK to use formula if I’m not producing enough milk?

Breastfeeding tips are commonly asked questions for a pediatrician. If you are not producing enough breast milk to feed your baby, it is OK to supplement with formula — but there are a couple things to keep in mind first. Always start your feedings with breast milk before switching to formula. Also, connect with lactation support, which is available 24/7 for patients of Norton Children’s and Norton Healthcare, and can offer guidance and methods to help increase your breastmilk supply.

6. How do I know when my baby has eaten enough?

Signs your baby is full include closing their mouth; turning their head away from a breast or bottle; and relaxing their hands. Other signs include contentment after feedings and wet diapers.

Signs your baby is hungry include putting hands to their mouth; turning their head to a breast or bottle; puckering, smacking or licking lips; and clenching their hands.

Bring questions to ask your pediatrician about your baby’s feeding habits. Your pediatrician will monitor your baby’s growth to ensure they are eating enough and that their nutritional needs are being met.

7. Should I wake my baby to eat?

This is another commonly asked question for the pediatrician, as many parents are hesitant to wake a sleeping baby! Newborns usually will wake on their own for feedings. However, if your baby has been sleeping for several hours, you should wake them up for a feeding to ensure their nutritional needs are being met. Although it may feel counterproductive to wake a sleeping baby, ensuring they have enough to eat will help them for the rest of the day and in the long run.

Diapering and bowel movements

8. Is that supposed to be in my baby’s diaper?

No question is too awkward at the pediatrician’s office, including questions about baby’s poop. Your newborn’s diapers will look different, in color and consistency, during their first week, as their feeding habits change. Over the course of the first week, your baby’s stool will change from black to dark green to yellow. Their bowel movements can vary depending on if they are breastfed or formula-fed. Breastfed babies usually have yellow, thinner poops, with whitish particles. Formula-fed babies’ poops may appear yellow or tan and pasty in consistency.

Stool frequency, consistency and colors can. However, your baby’s stool should not be red or white. Check with your pediatrician if their stool is an abnormal color, or if they are not producing enough wet diapers throughout the day. After the first few days, once your baby is on a more consistent feeding schedule, your newborn likely will have eight to 12 wet diapers each day.

9. How many times a day should my baby be pooping?

The frequency with which your baby poops varies, and it also may depend on if they rely on breastmilk or formula. At first, many babies will poop after each feeding. After several weeks, a baby on formula should have around one bowel movement per day. Breastfed babies may pass stool once a day or less frequently, because there is less waste in breastmilk, but it does not necessarily mean they are constipated.

10. How do I know if my baby is constipated?

If your baby has gone a day or two without having a bowel movement, it does not automatically mean they are constipated. As explained in the question above, the frequency of their stools can depend on their diet. Additionally, it is normal to see an infant work pretty hard to poop; you may see them grimacing, or their face turning red or crying, and that’s normal.

However, if your baby is excessively fussy, has sudden changes in the number of times they are pooping, is spitting up more often, has hard stools or is straining to poop for 10 minutes or more, your baby could be constipated. Reach out to your pediatrician for the safest methods to help encourage a bowel movement, based on the baby’s age.

11. Should I use a cream or ointment to prevent diaper rash?

Diaper rash is a common complaint among parents, and how to prevent it is a frequently asked question at the pediatrician’s office. Before putting on a new diaper, it is important to heavily coat your baby’s skin with a thick layer of barrier paste that includes zinc oxide and petrolatum.

To help prevent diaper rash, it is important to limit the amount of time that urine and stool is in contact with your baby’s skin. Aim for high-absorbency diapers, change diapers frequently and use fragrance-free and alcohol-free wipes or a water/nonsoap, [AG4] gentle cleanser mixture when changing.

Check with your pediatrician about the types of creams and ointments they recommend, based on the types of diaper rashes your baby is getting.

Other questions

12. How often should I bathe my baby?

Pediatricians are often asked about how often to bathe a baby, and the answer is that it is less than adults are expected to bathe. You should bathe your baby around three times per week using a mild, fragrance-free soap or gentle cleanser without additives. Sometimes a brief soak in only water can help a child calm down, and soap is not always necessary. However, parents should ensure the diaper areas always remain thoroughly cleaned and followed with a barrier paste described in the question above. Make sure to always use an infant tub, never leave a baby unattended, and check that the water temperature is around body temperature.

13. When can I start taking my baby out in public/around people?

Although there are no strict rules when it comes to taking your baby out in public, the general consensus is that it is safer after your baby has received their initial vaccinations, after they are around 2 to 3 months old. However, this can vary based on numerous factors, including your baby and family’s health circumstances, specific guidance from your pediatrician, current health recommendations and local disease prevalence.

Always remember to consult your pediatrician for personalized guidance. Before your baby is born, you can meet with our pediatricians during a Newbie Night. Your pediatrician will be there to monitor your child’s health, provide parenting advice and answer any questions you may have as your child continues to grow.