A prospective study of mothers' reactions to their babies' symptoms was carried out in Newcastle upon Tyne. Forty-four mothers kept a health diary about their first infant, recording symptoms that occurred and action taken. Symptoms, most of which were minor, were present on three out of four days. Mothers were therefore making almost daily decisions about their babies' health, usually without medical advice. No evidence was found of mothers failing to appreciate the severity of symptoms or failing to seek medical help. Our findings reinforce those of other studies that parents are able to recognize their babies' illnesses, even in their first children.