What to Do When Your Newborn Falls Ill

Category: Newborns

We check with Dr Lee Le Ye, consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospitalon newborn jaundice.




The motherhood journey is a wonderful one filled with ups and downs. It can be rather daunting especially for new mothers. This is particularly so when your baby is sick and you’re at a loss of what is the right thing to do. Motherhood has a panel of experts who can help allay your concerns and fears regarding different illnesses, their symptoms, treatment and prevention.

These experts are Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in Paediatric Medicine, Raffles Specialist @ Raffles Holland Village; Dr Lee Le Ye, consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospital and Dr Low Kah Tzay, paediatrician, Mount Elizabeth Hospital.


Keep a Look Out

Dr Christelle Tan, specialist in Paediatric Medicine, Raffles Specialist @ Raffles Holland Village advises parents to look out for other less obvious symptoms such as a change in sensorium or constant irritability and drooling. Infants at this age are unable to verbalise their discomfort and hence sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose the underlying cause. Irritability is common during periods of being unwell in children. However, if you notice that your child is constantly irritable and is very difficult to soothe, do get medical attention as, in rarer cases, this could be due to a serious bacterial infection (e.g. meningitis/encephalitis).



Commonly, children can get herpangina, which is a viral infection with ulcers in the throat.

Often, it is not easily visible as these ulcers can be at the back of the throat.

However, due to the pain, children tend not to swallow their saliva and hence start to drool

more than usual. A simple throat examination by the doctor will help

to verify if there are ulcers present.



Dr Low Kah Tzay, paediatrician, Mount Elizabeth Hospital adds that parents should also watch out for signs of lethargy, dehydration, sunken eyes and depressed fontanelle as these could be symptoms of the child feeling unwell.


Breastfeed as Usual

All the doctors agree that breastfeeding should be continued during these illnesses as breast milk is a good form of hydration and a good source of antibodies against infection. Dr Tan recommends that if babies are taking formula, they should also continue as per usual. However, during times of illness, babies are more prone to regurgitating after feeds. Existing reflux problems may get worse. If that happens, reduce the feed amount by 1-2 ounces and try more frequent feeds instead (e.g. 2 hourly feeds). Keep on the same solid feeds although, during this period, infants may feel under the weather and have a poorer appetite. This is not unexpected and it is alright for infants to refuse solids for the initial few days of illness. Nevertheless, fluid intake should still be maintained throughout this period.


Don’t Forget Your Vaccinations

Finally, Dr Lee reminds parents to bring their children for routine childhood vaccinations as these will prevent life-threatening infections. Parents should also avoid bringing young children to crowded places or hospitals where they can catch illnesses. Proper hygiene should be practised at home especially washing of hands regularly when caring for sick children to prevent passing the illness from one to another.


Thanks for sharing!