How to Check a Newborn Baby’s Temperature Without a Thermometer

I had to go back to work when my daughter was only 2 months old. A full-time job from 8 to 5, not counting commute time, was the most heartbreaking thing I had ever done.

One day, I was in a meeting and received a message from the nanny telling me my newborn’s temperature was close to 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). I panicked. As a new mom, my references were nannies and grandparents. Wrong, I know. But life was very hectic.

I talked to my boss and rushed home, calling the doctor on the way. He gently laughed and told me this was probably nothing and that everything would be alright. The nanny was doing her job of informing me. When I got home, I asked how she took my newborn’s temperature, and she explained how rectal thermometers were the most accurate with babies this age.

That’s when I started reading more about it and learning about fever, viruses, bacteria, and what it entailed for kids (and their parents!). Needless to say, it was the start of the biggest journey a parent can experience.

Little did I know this low-grade fever, which led me to panic, would be nothing compared to the high fevers we experienced later when my daughter entered the nursery.

Many of us start getting all sorts of advice when we’re first-time parents. One of our friends is a pharmacist, and her gift was an ear thermometer, which I can tell you I used oh-so-many times!

But what about when they’re newborns? It is a common opinion that rectal thermometers are the most accurate during that time. But what if you want to check your newborn’s baby’s temperature without a thermometer?

There are many ways to know, and parents get the hang of it fast. There are many signs to look out for, from your newborn feeling warm to the touch to a change in his behavior (feeding, sleeping, or mood) to drowsiness and irritation.

Read on for more information about fevers in newborns and ways to check their temperature without a thermometer.

Fever in newborn babies – what to know and what to do

A newborn baby is laying down with a blanket and is crying.

Before getting alarmed when you spot a fever in your newborn, there are essential things to be aware of before starting that rollercoaster. 

Fever in newborns appears for various reasons. Before panicking and taking them to the emergency room, here is what you should know:

  1. A temperature that can be considered “fever” is one of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and higher. There are many reasons to have a low-grade fever (i.e. one that is below 100.4 degrees Farhenheit), like being overdressed, being tired from the day, or even teething.
  2. Your baby can be overheated. If you’ve overdressed him or if his room is stuffy and too warm, or even if he’s been spending a lot of time outside in the burning sun, he might be having a heat stroke. In that case, make sure you bring your baby indoors, give him plenty of formula, a cool bath, and loosen his clothing.

If your newborn has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, they are most likely sick or have caught a cold.

How do I check my newborn baby’s temperature without a thermometer?

A newborn baby is happily sleeping on his dad's lap.

With experience, it becomes easy to detect the signs of your baby having a fever. For example, with my 4-year-old daughter, I’m at a point where I know from her mood or cries whether she is going to develop a fever or not.

The key is to identify changes in their behavior and how they look. Although a rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to check for a newborn baby’s fever, sometimes we can’t or don’t want to use it. 

If you don’t or can’t use a thermometer, here are some common signs to look out for to detect a high temperature in a newborn:

  • Hot to the touch or feeling very warm on his forehead or neck. Use the back of your hand to check the warmth. If it feels warmer than usual, it means your baby has a fever.
  • Observe his behavior. Is he sleeping less or more? Is he feeding well or avoiding milk? Is he fussier or more tired than usual? If yes, then he’s probably sick or teething, and fever is a manifestation of it.
  • Observe his face’s skin. If his cheeks are more red than usual or he seems flushed, he probably has a fever.
  • Are your baby’s eyes sore? This could definitely mean fever.
  • Check if your baby is sweating or shivering. Fever does that to tiny humans too!
  • Check your baby’s breathing. Sometimes a fever gone unnoticed and left high can cause your baby to have breathing problems. 

What to do when your newborn has a fever

It is always recommended to call your doctor first. But there are many ways to reduce a newborn’s fever at home before resorting to giving him paracetamol or medicine.

The following practices were shown to relieve fever and make your newborn more comfortable:

  • A slightly warm bath, using a sponge to smoothly massage your baby’s skin, focusing on his forehead and armpits, is enormously effective for fever relief. 
  • Constant hydration with breast milk or formula is very important.
  • Dressing your baby in light clothes and preferably keeping his feet naked can help fever get out of their body.
  • Make sure the room is cool and not too warm.

Note: You can do all of the above in addition to giving your baby paracetamol or medicine. 


Why does my baby feel warm but has no fever? Is it normal for my newborn baby to feel warm?

Sometimes, your baby’s overdressed, over-excited, or your hands are too cold when you touch them. Teething can also cause babies to feel warm without a fever. You can always check with a thermometer if you want to make sure. With time, you will know whether their hot forehead means they have a fever. 

How often should I check my baby’s temperature?

As much as you see fit, you can check your baby’s temperature. Every 3 to 4 hours is a proper frequency when they are sick. The most important thing to watch out for is their behavior and other signs of serious illness. 

At what temperature should I take my newborn to the hospital?

A newborn having a high fever can signify a serious infection. If your baby has symptoms like vomiting and fever for more than 3 days, it’s time to take him to the hospital. If he doesn’t show serious symptoms, the fever will disappear on its own. Always call your doctor for advice! 

How do I know the fever is from teething?

Fever from teething is most of the time associated with specific symptoms like:

– Excessive drooling
– Swollen gums
– The baby chewing his fingers or putting his fist in his mouth
– The fever is low-grade


Your newborn having a fever can be very scary for you, but it’s the healthiest way for our tiny humans to fight the infections. They are so small and helpless during the first few months.

There are many ways to detect and check a newborn baby’s temperature without a thermometer and reduce it at home. The key is to check their behavior and appearance and care for them as much as possible.

Don’t shy away from calling your doctor or healthcare professional should you feel the need. Remember, we’re all in this together!

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Lynn is a 30-something writer for 1happykiddo and mom of a 4 year-old little girl. When she’s not busy taking care of her daughter or writing, she likes to relax with a book, meditate and connect with loved ones. Oh, and cooking good food too!

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