FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Baby Doesn’t Feel Well? What Should I Do

with Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura Hunter, Sabrina Beasley McDonald | April 1, 2008
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No matter how hard you try to protect your child from germs, your baby is eventually going to get sick. Do you know what to do? Today on the broadcast, pediatric on-call nurses Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker, authors of the book Moms on Call, answer some of your most common concerns about caring for a sick infant. Joining the discussion is FamilyLife staff writer and expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • No matter how hard you try to protect your child from germs, your baby is eventually going to get sick. Do you know what to do? Today on the broadcast, pediatric on-call nurses Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker, authors of the book Moms on Call, answer some of your most common concerns about caring for a sick infant. Joining the discussion is FamilyLife staff writer and expectant mom Sabrina Beasley.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

No matter how hard you try to protect your child from germs, your baby is eventually going to get sick. Do you know what to do?

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Baby Doesn’t Feel Well? What Should I Do

With Jennifer Walker, RN, Laura H...more
April 01, 2008
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Sabrina: You know, you start thinking about all these little things that could happen, and the sicknesses and certain situations that really are beyond your control, and trying to get prepared for it, you never feel prepared.  But the good thing is that we have a God that is in control, and we don't have to fear everything, but we can put that in His hands and know that our child is as safe with Him as we are ourselves.  And that does comfort me.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 1st.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  It can be hard to remember that God is in control when your baby has croup or is colicky or you just don't know what's wrong.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I've got a hot stock tip for new parents, if you want to buy stock, and I don't know the company that makes it, but whoever makes amoxycillin, you just invest heavily now because that pink bubble gum medicine, you know what I'm talking about, right?

Dennis: I had not heard of …

Bob: Amoxycillin?

Dennis: Oh, I thought you were saying they are now making it in bubble gum.


Bob: No, we always called it the "pink bubble gum" medicine.

Laura: Bubble gum medicine, yeah, you're right, you're right.

Bob: You wind up – we've got a mom-to-be who is joining us on the program today and, Sabrina, are you familiar with Amoxycillin?

Sabrina: Only by name.

Bob: Yeah, well, it's coming your way.

Dennis: You are about to become …

Bob: It's coming to a refrigerator near you, just get ready.

Dennis: Because Sabrina Beasley is about to become a mom, and she works here at FamilyLife, and she has courageously joined us in the studio along with our other two guests, Bob.

Bob: And I should just mention, for those who go, "Sabrina Beasley, I think I've heard that name," Sabrina writes articles for our online magazine, which is called "The Family Room," and any of our listeners who want to receive it, it's free, and they can just go subscribe, right?

Sabrina: Yes, all they have to do is put their e-mail address into the subscribe box, and it comes to their inbox for free.  It comes once a month, so we're not sending you all kinds of information.  You're not going to get "The Family Room" once every day.  It only comes just that one time at the beginning of each month, and you can get all kinds of tips on marriage and family and everything is practical and biblical that we put in there – the same types of things you'll hear on FamilyLife Today.

Bob: And just for you, Sabrina, and for the other several hundred thousand moms who are listening, we brought in a couple of nurses, Moms On Call, to talk about the first six months of a baby's life, and Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker are with us.  Ladies, welcome back.

Jennifer: Thank you.

Laura: Thanks for having us.

Jennifer: We're having a great time.

Bob: You ladies have – this is your life– talking to young moms about all of the questions that come up.  You talk to them about Amoxycillin and how to mix it and how to keep it right in the refrigerator, right?

Laura: That's right.  We get about 200 to 300 phone calls a week on the job – our real job – being pediatric after-hours nurses.

Dennis: So you are actually – you have a pager …

Laura: I have a pager.

Dennis: And actual phone calls come through to you from moms who are – maybe they're in crisis, maybe they just have a question they want to ask you, but they don't feel comfortable calling the pediatrician, so they call a pediatric nurse, and you're on call, like, from 5:30 to 8:30 at night.

Laura: And that is from a pediatric office.  We're actually one of the only pediatric offices that has their own nurse take call.  So that's our real job.  Jennifer and I wear several hats, and our real job is taking the after-hours calls.  And then Moms On Call came from taking those calls in the middle of the night.

Bob: And what is Moms On Call?  How does it differ from what you do as a pediatric nurse?

Jennifer: Moms On Call is a consulting business that we have.  We go out in the Atlanta area and do infant care consultations.  We take about two and a half hours and six months of e-mail follow-ups, and we also do phone consultations.  We have done phone consultations for families all over the nation and just help them to address their most common concerns and number one on the list is how to get my baby to sleep through the night.

So we'll do the phone consultations, we'll do e-mail follow-ups, we put the information into a book, which is what you're holding, the "Moms On Call Guide to Basic Baby Care," which is one of the first resources that contains a how-to DVD.  And we, as pediatric nurses, show you how to take the rectal temperature, how to suck the nose out with a nasal syringe …

Bob: Oh, yuck.

Laura: How to clip the nails.

Jennifer: How to swaddle.  And even how to diaper, how does this diaper go on?  What's the most effective way?

Laura: The diapers are not as easy to do nowadays as they were when we were using disposable diapers 15, 16, 17 years ago.  Now they come with all this elastic, and you have to open the elastic and spread it out or otherwise you'll get leaks, and then you hate the diapers.

Dennis: You get some fascinating phone calls not just about diapers, but I loved in the end of your book, you call this "some interesting calls from parents."  And, really, a Hollywood writer couldn't write this stuff.


What's your favorite?

Laura: One of my favorites is – it came across my pager as "Hit on head by chicken."

Bob: What?  "Hit on head by chicken."

Dennis: That was on your pager?

Laura: That came across my pager – "hit on head by chicken," and I am almost rolling that I can't even – laughing so hard that I can't even call the parent back.  Then the dad is, he's kind of chuckling, too, because when he answered, I said, "Hit on head by chicken?" and he starts laughing, and he said, "No, no, no," he said, "I was getting a chicken out of the freezer, and a frozen chicken had fallen out of the freezer on top of his kid who is hanging around his legs as most of them do, and had hit right on the top of his head."

Bob: He thought maybe a chicken concussion had occurred.

Laura: Exactly, and, of course, I'm thinking, "Hit on head by a rubber chicken, brothers fighting," you know.

Dennis: Exactly, a flying chicken.  One of my favorites was "My child just ate six inches of dental floss."  Who took that call?

Jennifer:  That was me, this is Jennifer.  I took "My child ate six inches of dental floss," and they were very worried because if a dog eats dental floss, it's very dangerous for them.  So I said, "How did you know it was six inches?"

Dennis: Hold it – why is that?  I didn't know why dogs shouldn't eat …

Jennifer: Dogs – it gets caught up in their intestines, it doesn't pass through.

Bob: It doesn't for a baby?

Jennifer: No.

Bob: So you just said, "This, too, shall pass?"

Dennis: Bob, Bob, Bob.


Jennifer: Well, I asked, "How did you know it was six inches?"  She's, like, "Well, that's how much I usually cut off when I'm going to do the teeth," and I would also like to mention any time that a child swallows anything that you feel is suspect, call poison control.

Laura: Absolutely, ask your pediatrician -- call poison control first, because if you wait an hour for your pediatrician to call you back, they're going to say, "Hang up and call poison control."  And you have to make a conscious decision to call poison control because your instinct will be to call your pediatrician, Sabrina.  So you can call poison control then call the pediatrician and say, "I just overdosed my kid."

Sabrina: That was something that you mentioned before, when I talked to you before, is that a lot of new moms think that the pediatrician is the one with all the answers, and you are saying that they are not trained to do things that happen at home.  They are trained medically.

Laura: They're not trained for that everyday care, in fact, I had a pediatrician call me one time to do a consult at her house, and she calls, and she says, "I'm the mother of a seven-week-old, and I don't know what I'm doing.  I heard about you.  I need you to come out to my house," and she whispers, "And I'm a pediatrician."


Dennis: Anonymous, huh?

Laura: I said, "Okay, I'll come out, and I'll spend a couple of hours with you, but I'm going to treat you like I do every other mother.  So you're going to sit through the pooping and the not pooping" …

Jennifer: Just like everybody else.

Laura: And her eyes were this big the whole time that I was there, because she's, like, I didn't clip nails in medical school.

Bob: And nobody – again, we think back to an earlier day when mom was down the street or in the house …

Laura: Right around the corner.

Bob: She had been through this, so you just had mom come over and help you with all of these things, but we live in a different era today, a different time.  Mom's not available …

Laura:  Well, things have changed.

Bob: Right, and that's what Moms On Call is, you're kind of like …

Laura: That in-between.

Bob: Like Mom, who is available to come and help with these things.  One other thing that somebody texted you or called and said, "My 10-month-old just said the word 'brochure,' is that possible?"  And I'm guessing it wasn't really "brochure."  It was more like "maaahduh."

Laura: Right, right.

Dennis: But many of the calls, in all seriousness, do come around subjects like sleeping, bathing, and, certainly, eating.  Let's talk about that for a second.  One of the calls you historically have received is "How many times a day should my baby eat?"

Laura: Absolutely.

Dennis: How do you answer that question?

Laura: Well, newborns, it's going to vary.  But, as a newborn, the first two weeks we typically say, "Feed them when they want to eat," and that is usually every two and a half hours.  And then as they get closer to two, four, six weeks of age, they'll eat about every two and a half to three hours.  Then we'll go and move on, where three, four months of age, they're down to five or six feedings a day, and by seven or eight months of age, now they've got solids, and they're drinking from sippy cups, and they're only getting a bottle three or four times a day.

Jennifer: It's progressive.  We also give guidelines, too.  They want to know, especially breastfeeding moms, "How do I know my baby is getting enough." So we give – here are six ways that you can tell that your baby is not dehydrated so you know they're getting enough.  They're urinating at least every other feeding; they have moisture in their mouth if you take your pinky finger and swipe it along the inside of the bottom lip, it's smooth and moist; their fontanel, the little soft spot on the top of their head, it is not markedly sunken, and sometimes those will pulsate a little bit, that's normal, but it's not markedly sunken, and that's the way that our book is really set up, and we go through a lot of illnesses that you may see in the first six months of life, and the way that we developed our materials; the same way we took call, what is it, what do I do about it, when do I call the doctor, end of story.  Nice, short, sweet, to the point.

Laura: And the thing that we found that a lot of parents weren't getting is the questions about fever.  We get those calls about fever over and over again.

Bob: They're calling to say what?

Laura: "I think my baby's running a fever."

Bob: And they do it because they put their hand on the forehead or …

Laura: They'll put the hand on the forehead or use the ear thermometers that are out there now, or the forehead scanner.

Jennifer: Or the pacifier thermometer.

Laura: Or the pacifier thermometers.

Jennifer: All of which will not be acceptable.

Laura: They're useless.  We need to do it rectally, and one we go through the DVD and show you how to do that, but under three months of age, 100.4 or more rectally is an immediate emergency. It's something that has to be called to the pediatrician with the exception of the two-month shots.  So when they have their two-month shots we expect them to run a fever and be a little cranky and be a little irritable, but any other time, under three months of age, 100.4 or more rectally, you have to call the doc.  That is one reason we want you to call us at 2:00 in the morning.

Sabrina: And you also mention when you wake the baby up that the temperature is going to be higher, so to wait a while before you take a temperature.

Laura: Or out of the bathtub, or …

Jennifer: Because you'll panic and at 100.4 under eight weeks of age is an immediate issue in the emergency room.

Dennis: That's not a high temperature.

Laura: That is not a high temperature, because if you've got a three-year-old, they're going to run 103 temp and, I'll tell you, a three-year-old can run a 103 temp and still be running around the house playing.  We're not worried about that kid.  But under three months of age, we need to make sure, and parents aren't getting that info.  They're not getting that specific 100.4 or more, call the doc.

Bob: Jennifer, is there something real called "colic," or is that just a word parents made up to describe fussiness.

Laura: [shudders]

Jennifer: There is real colic, absolutely, but what real colic is, the actual textbook definition of colic, I think it's overused and misunderstood.

Bob: You hear all the time, "My baby is colicky."

Laura: Well, parents want a reason why their baby is fussy.  So they can say, "Oh, life is so hard, and it's just so miserable because my baby's got colic."

Bob: So what is real colic?

Jennifer: Real colic is six or more hours a day of full-on crying, oftentimes inconsolable, but without any definite medical explanation.

Dennis: Now, you're not talking about six solid hours?

Jennifer: Typically, they'll go about six solid hours in the evening.

Bob: Wow.

Dennis: Crying?

Laura: Start about 5 or 6, but I will tell you …

Jennifer: That is true colic.

Laura: That's true colic.  Very rarely do you ever see true – the definition of true colic.

Sabrina: And we're very thankful for that.

Laura: We are swaddling, we are doing the white noise machine, I don't know that I get that many calls, Jennifer, of colicky babies.

Jennifer: Not after we do consults.  I think a lot of it is over-stimulation. What we'll see a lot is that the babies are just considerably over-stimulated.  Over-stimulated babies will have a stronger startle reflex …

Laura: And they're miserable by 6:00 in the evening – 6 to 10.

Jennifer: And oftentimes, they just need a good night's sleep, they need that white noise machine, they need the stimulation taken down.

Dennis: I want to ask you a question about all this stimulation.  What's your opinion of Baby Einstein?

Laura: You know, I think everything in moderation.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but you've got parents who are putting them in these bouncy seats in front of the TV for four hours thinking that they're going to make some genius by watching these things, and I think that's excessive.  Now, if you want to put them in there at six or seven months of age and let them watch a 10-minute segment, you know, while you empty the dishwasher or what have you, that's fine, but I think it's all in moderation.  We've got to get back to getting our kids away from the screen as often as we can.

Kids are watching TV – whether it's TV or playing the Nintendo or the little Game Boys, they're watching that more hours a day than they're doing anything else.

Bob: Are the bouncy seat okay?

Jennifer: The bouncy seats are great.

Laura: They saved my life.


Bob: I always watched my kids in a bouncy seat and said, "I want one of those for me.  I want a grown-up bouncy seat," and they haven't made those yet.

Jennifer: We hear about the swaddle all the time.  Every adult would say …

Laura: Can you just make it big enough to swaddle my husband?

Jennifer: Can you make that in adult size?

Bob: Jennifer, my mom also used to – this was one of her words of wisdom that she passed on to us – never wake a sleeping baby.  Do you agree with that?

Jennifer: Yes, your mother is a wise, wise woman.  But during the day, one of the things that helps babies sleep through the night is that no daytime nap prior to 6 p.m. last longer than two hours.  So we'll have these babies that are taking this great four-hour nap during the day, and then they're not sleeping at night.

Laura: That's the beginning of getting your days and nights mixed up.  Two, two and a half hours, we're going to be waking that baby up during the day.

Jennifer: Absolutely, during the day.

Laura: At night, unless there are medical issues, we're going to let that baby sleep a good six or seven hour stretch.

Jennifer: And we have extra-absorbent diapers.  So I'll have parents go, "But I want to change their diaper," say, "No, we have extra-absorbent diapers.  Let that baby sleep."

Laura: If it ain't bothering them …

Sabrina: One thing that you haven't mentioned yet is that both of these ladies have a set of twins, and so when they are talking about the bouncy seat saved my life, they are really saying the bouncy seat saved my life, they really are talking about …

Laura: It's an extra pair of hands.

Sabrina: You know, I was reading one area where you said, "Well, when I put both of my babies down, one is crying and one is not, and that's okay, and it's a different deal when there's twins, and I'm a little bit more concerned about that because my husband has twins on both sides of his family.  So when I get a book like this, it's nice to know that it's not just for a mom with one baby at a time, but if I happen to somehow be pregnant with twins …

Laura: In my case, I didn't find out until I was 20 weeks pregnant that it was twins, and I had two ultrasounds done and listened to the heartbeat at every visit, so there's still time.

Dennis: Sabrina, that looks like a forced smile on your face.


As a new expectant mom, though, Sabrina, one of my daughters who, after she found out she was pregnant, was really afraid, I mean, she felt incompetent.  Have you felt some of those inadequacies as you've looked forward to having this baby?  Now, you've had some time to think about it, what about you?

Sabrina: Absolutely, especially – you know, you start thinking about all these little things that could happen and the sicknesses and certain situations that really are beyond your control, and the good thing is that we have a God that is in control, and we don't have to fear everything; that we can put that in His hands and know that our child is as safe with Him as we are ourselves.

And that does comfort me, but to read – even just reading books trying to get prepared for it, you never feel prepared for it and, as a matter of fact, the more I read the more I almost feel like I'm even more fearful.  But I just have to let it go and trust God.

Dennis: Now, tell me the truth.  When you've been reading these books, have you made your husband read some of them with you?  Because when Barbara was pregnant and she read "Dr. Turtle's Babies," this is a book that went out of print after the earth's crust hardened way back there, but Barbara made me read that book, and it gave me some insight into what she was grappling with.  Because Barbara really struggled with feeling a sense of inadequacy when we had our first child.

Sabrina: I have tried to.  Actually, this is what happened – I was reading some books, and I thought, "I wish David would read this, I really wish he would just pick it up and know what I'm feeling," because he's so separated.  You know, he's not – I'm feeling it every day, something is changing in me every day, and it's not for him. 

And so I handed him this book – I've given him three – and I said, "Oh, I just wish you'd read this one section."  Of course, none of them were read.  But, he actually went – now, my husband's father died when he was very small, about two years old, so he didn't have a father, and he's been depending on mentors in his life to be that dad to him, and we went to our doctor, our family doctor, and he went up there just to get some shots and check on a cold, and the doctor told him, "You need to read some things to experience this with your wife." 

And I think this is an area where fathers can really be involved with their expectant sons – that they can talk into their son's lives and say, "Son, you need to come alongside your wife during this time and be involved," because as soon as our doctor said that to my husband, he was on the Internet signing up for newsletters, and he was going, "Do you know what's going to happen to you next week?  This is what you can expect.  This is what's going to happen.  Week 15 is like this, and Week 16 is like this," and, of course, I had read all this, and it was so exciting to me, and it made me feel cherished, and it made me feel important to him to know that he was experiencing it with me, and I wasn't going through it alone, because it can feel very isolating.

Bob: Okay, so that dads who are listening are going, "All right, okay, I guess" – there's a DVD in the back of this book.  If you don't want to read, you can watch the DVD.

Jennifer:  Twenty-five minutes.

Laura: Large print.

Dennis: Lots of large print in this book, lots of white space, it just cuts to the chase and, you know, here's the thing.  It would be the wise man who, after hearing this broadcast – and I know that we are speaking to a few men who are going, "You know what?  This is a way to enter my wife's world," and you really do nourish and cherish her when you do that, and the thing I do like about this book is it really doesn't have any fluff.  It really is about the essence of the issues you face as you start out this journey being called a "Mom" or a "Dad" and you need to do it together and what better way to do it together than read this through.

And as Barbara did, she'd underline the sections she really wanted to make sure that I read, Bob, and I'd just encourage all of our listeners to get a copy of it.

Bob: And the good news for dads is, let's see, chapter number – well, they don't have numbers here, but here is the chapter on infant nasal congestion, which, by the way, I want to stay up nights reading about infant nasal congestion.

Laura: Don't we all.

Bob: But it's two pages long.  I can do that, all right?  Here is the chapter on ear infections, and it's two pages long, and it's a big font, and so a husband – you can handle this, trust me.  It would be empathetic for you to spend a little time reading through this book with your wife or just to tell her you've been reading it.

We've got copies of the book for husbands or wives in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Go online at and click on the right side of the home page where you see "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about the "Moms On Call Guide to Basic Baby Care," it comes with a DVD …

Narrator: [from DVD] Babies associate bathtime with bedtime, so at the very least we want to give the baby a sponge bath every night.  You should have the following things within arm's reach when giving your baby a bath – towels, washcloth, baby soap, and a soft baby brush.  Place the bouncy seat next to the tub so you have a save place to put the baby …

Bob: That's for the husbands.  Husbands like watching DVDs.  Along with the book, there is the DVD, and there's also information on our website about the swaddling blankets that you ladies are making available.  These are the ones that are the right size for proper swaddling of your baby and, again, the information on how you can get a copy of one of these swaddling blankets is on our website at  There is information about a daily devotional that is available for moms of young children.

Go to the website, and click on the box on the right side that says "Today's Broadcast," or call us at 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we can make arrangements to have whatever you need sent out to you.

Speaking about resources that are available, we're kind of excited around here about the new FamilyLife Marriage Bible that is brand new.  This is a new King James version of the Bible, complete Old and New Testament, and it includes articles, devotions for couples, tips for romance in marriage, parenting topics – all of it combined in the pages of Scripture designed to be a devotional Bible for couples to read through together, or you can read it individually.  But alongside the text of the Bible are some very helpful articles designed to keep you on track biblically in your marriage and as you raise your children.

We're making copies of the new FamilyLife Marriage Bible available this week to listeners who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.  When you go to our website at to make a donation or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation.  You can simple request a copy of this Bible.  We're happy to send it out to you.

If you're donating online, the way to request a copy of the Bible is to write the word "Bible" in the keycode box on the donation form, or if you call to make a donation, simply request a copy of the FamilyLife Marriage Bible.  Again, we are thrilled to send a copy out to you.  We appreciate your financial support of this ministry.  It is vital for the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today, and we appreciate your partnership with us.

Tomorrow, we're going to continue talking about some of the issues facing parents of newborns including the issue of how you get your baby to sleep all the way through the night.  We'll talk about that tomorrow, I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today and hope for tomorrow. 


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