[ St. Joseph's Hospital ]
A guide for parents and families with Special Babies from birth to 2 years old
Special Babies Have "Special Needs"
Describing Your Baby
Other Health Professionals
Caring for Special Babies at Home
Daily Living with your Special Baby
Services for Special Babies
-    (>) Community Resource Manual    -
[ Home ][ Authors & Contributors ][ Definitions ][ Key Word Index ][ Search ][ E-Mail ]

Introduction Special Babies Have "Special Needs" Describing Your Baby Doctors Other Health Professionals Hospitals Caring for Special Babies at Home Daily Living with your Special Baby Services for Special Babies The St.Joseph's Hospital Community Resource Manual
   Describing Your Baby

Describe your baby to health Professionals

In Canada, you get help from health care services by working with the health care professionals.  You are the person who knows your baby the best but you may not be able to describe your baby's problems in ways that help the health professionals listen to you.

This section includes words and phrases you can use to describe your baby to a health professional.

Call your doctor first if you think your baby has problems.  Be prepared to describe how your baby is behaving and give accurate details.  Do not wait for the doctor to ask you these questions.  The doctor should be able to do some tests, prescribe some medication, or give you advice regarding your baby's problems.

If you are familiar with other babies, try to express your baby's problems with regard to how his/her needs differ from another baby the same age without problems.

You can take your notes to your doctor so he/she can get a picture of what your baby is like on a daily basis.

back to top

    Sample descriptions of babies:
  • "when my baby breast feeds, she latches on, sucks 8-10 times, then arches her back, flails her arms and screams in a very high pitch for 10-15 minutes.  When she settles I try again and she does the same.  When I bottle feed her, she does the same thing".

  • "my 2 month old baby would not look into my eyes.  He seemed to look beyond objects.  At 4 months, he is the same but now will stare at a bright object across the room.  One eye turns inward and the doctor says he will grow out of this".

  • "at 4 months, my baby cannot hold her bottle or anything else in her hand.  The fingers are always like a fist, the way they were as a newborn.  I have to pry them open gently and press them around my finger".

  • "at 4 months, he was not sitting with or without props.  At 7 months, the same, at 10 months, the same.  He would lie down and when you held him in your lap, he would not sit, just half lie there".

  • "my baby did not do anything when the pots and pans fell beside her.  I think she is deaf".

  • "at 18 months, he does not use any words even when he seems to want something, but he hears noises and our voices".
back to top

Usual and unusual baby behaviour


Babies usually take food on a regular basis, take a reasonable amount of time to feed, and are usually satisfied after feeding so they sleep, play, or stay quiet.

If your baby vomits feedings frequently or all the time, refuses food, takes very little amounts, cries during or after feedings, chokes on food often, or continues to act like he or she is hungry, there may be a problem.

Keep notes:

  • nursing or bottle fed (what formula)
  • type of foods
  • how often
  • how much; how little
  • easy or hard to feed
  • does baby settle after, for how long
  • does he/she seem to be content.
back to top


Usual - sleeps for several hours without waking; settles easily when fed and changed; has usual nap times; sleeps for 4-5 hours or longer during night; may cry when waking up.

Unusual - hard to settle due to crying, screaming; sleeps for short periods; looks exhausted; wakes often.

Keep notes:

  • how long
  • how little
  • contentment
  • restless
  • crying
  • screaming
  • nighttime hours
  • nap hours
back to top

Bowel movements

Usual - breast fed babies have frequent (often every feeding), loose or liquid, yellowish stool.
Bottle fed babies have yellow to brown, darker, more formed stool as often as several times a day or as little as every other day.  As babies get older, their stools are more formed and change with the type of food eaten.

Unusual - bowel movements are runny, watery, mucousy, bubbly, pale, very dark, hard, constipated.  If stool is bloody, call the doctor immediately.  It is also unusual if your baby draws legs up as if in pain or the stool has an unusual or bad smell.

Keep notes:

  • how often
  • what colour
  • soft, hard, runny, bloody
  • constipated
  • what does baby do before, during, and after bowel movements?
back to top

Urinating (peeing)

Usual - 5-10 times in 24 hours; urine is pale yellow; no bad smell.

Unusual - pees less than 4 times in 24 hours; urine burns skin; dark colour; cloudy; bloody; bad or strange smell.

Keep notes:

  • how often
  • what colour
  • what the skin looks like around the area
back to top


Usual - feels warm, dry, soft.

Unusual - skin feels hot, cold, sweaty, clammy, moist, burning.

back to top


Usual - 37ºC under the arm and rarely changes.

Unusual - more than 37ºC or less than 37ºC or goes up and down; changes often.

You do not usually take a baby's temperature unless you think something is wrong.  Other clues are hot and burning or cold and clammy skin; a hard to wake or very drowsy baby.

Keep notes:

  • when the temperature changes
  • how much
  • what other ways your baby is behaving
back to top

Activity/Developmental milestones

Usual activity is age related.  Babies develop the same skills around the same ages.  If your baby is not developing in this way, it does not mean there is anything wrong but it should be described to a health professional.

Developmental Milestones are the way professionals measure a baby's behaviour and growth.

Although there are variations in the exact time a baby can do these tasks, they usually progress through them in the same order and at about the same time.

If your baby is unable to do these things at the appropriate age, the doctor should be told. This may be the first sign that your baby is not developing as he/she should.

Usual development 0-2 years of age:
      reference: Leach, P. (1993) Your Baby & Child - from
      birth to age five.

    0-2 months
  • looks at your face or close objects
  • hears soft and loud noises
  • responds to your voice by opening eyes, turning head

    2-4 months

  • smiles
  • holds up head
  • sits with props
  • plays with hands, reaches
  • holds objects/bottle
  • follows moving objects

    4-6 months

  • gets objects reached for
  • puts objects into mouth
  • kicks, rolls over
  • spends awake time looking around
  • babbles, listens

    6-9 months

  • sits on own
  • crawls
  • cries when mother leaves
  • pulls self up to stand
  • teething

    9-12 months

  • stands with support
  • plays with toys

    12-15 months

  • walks
  • talks - uses simple words
  • feeds self
  • carries objects
back to top

Other activities to notice or report

  • rolling side-to-side
  • pushing away or arching back
  • stiff or rigid arms or legs
  • floppy or limp body posture
  • uses only one side of the body, or only the arms, to crawl
  • poor head control after three months
  • failure to smile by three months
  • cannot sit up at eight months
  • extreme irritability or crying
  • high pitched screams or cries
  • twitching - all or parts of body
  • excessive drooling
  • how he/she plays
  • how he/she relates to others
back to top
[ St. Joseph's Hospital ]