Your baby’s first checkup represents yet another milestone for you and your baby. You have been through the pregnancy, through the delivery and are now beginning to get to know your new little bundle of joy. If you are a first time parent, baby’s first checkup is something new and exciting. For other parents, the first checkup after birth is just a routine. Either way, making sure that your newborn is thriving is important to all parents. The first checkup covers all areas of baby’s development to be sure that everything is right on course.
What to Bring
Be sure to bring plenty of diapers, extra clothes for baby and formula if you are bottle-feeding. You will also want to bring bottled water for yourself, and some snacks in case you have to wait. Bring a notebook to write down any instructions that the doctor gives you, as well. Some parents bring a camera, or a video camera to record their baby’s first checkup. It is fun to go back and watch this later. Be sure to take a list of questions that you have for the doctor as he/she will give you a time to ask them and you may not be able to remember all of them when you get the chance.
Timing of the First Checkup
Even if things are going well, most baby checkups are scheduled for some time in the first several weeks after birth. This will be the beginning of frequent checkups during the first year of life. Since this may well be the first time you and your baby have been out since the delivery, be sure to be well prepared ahead of time. If this is your first child, it will be a good opportunity to get the diaper bag packed and baby ready while staying on time. New moms should note; this is generally easier said than done. Be sure to feed your baby just before leaving. If you are lucky, they will sleep all the way to the doctor’s office.
One of the first things done during baby’s first checkup is measurement. Measurements are a good indicator of growth and development. The baby’s length, head circumference and weight will be taken and recorded. It is fun to look back on the initial measurements each time you visit to see how much your baby has grown. Be sure to take the measurements home with you to record in your child’s baby book. Measurements are put on a growth chart so that you can see how your child compares to other babies the same age. However, the comparison is not as important as the individual growth that takes place from one visit to the next. The doctor will watch for a steady increase in all measurements from visit to visit. If your baby is premature, do not expect their growth to be close to the average on the growth chart. Don’t worry; they will catch up in time!
The doctor will carefully examine your baby taking time to assess the health of your child. Expect your pediatrician to check the following:
Head – The doctor will assess the size and softness of the soft spots (fontanels) on top of your baby’s head. These spots allow for brain growth and will be gone by the time your baby reaches 18 months. If your baby’s head appears odd-shaped, the doctor may suggest that you alternate the positions you lay your baby in during the day.
Ears – The doctor will place a scope inside your baby’s ears to check for signs of infection or fluid.
Eyes – A baby can see about 12 inches away by the end of the first month. The doctor will check to see that the tear ducts are not clogged and also look for any crossing of the eyes. He/she may look into your baby’s eyes with an ophthalmoscope.
Mouth – The doctor will check your baby’s sucking reflex by placing a fingertip in your baby’s mouth. He/she will also check for oral thrush, a yeast condition common in newborn babies.
Skin – Newborns can become jaundiced and develop other skin conditions or rashes. A careful examination of the skin will reveal anything that needs attention. The doctor will also check to be sure that the bellybutton is healing.
Heart and Lungs – The doctor uses a stethoscope to check breathing and heart rate. Some newborns have heart murmurs, but they are rarely a cause for concern.
Abdomen – Some babies have an umbilical hernia, which can be detected by placing gentle pressure on the abdomen. The majority of umbilical hernias heal, with no care, by age two. The doctor will detect organ tenderness, as well.
Legs and Hips – By moving your baby’s legs around the doctor will check for hip alignment and proper functioning joints. The doctor will also see that your baby has adequate muscle tone.
Genitalia – The doctor will be sure that there is no sign of infection in the genitalia area. The doctor will examine boys to be sure that the circumcised area is healing (if need be) and check the health of the testicles and scrotum.
The overall appearance and responsiveness of your baby will also be checked.
The doctor may ask a series of questions to get an overall feel as to how you and your baby are doing at home. Expect to answer questions similar to the following:
• How are you adjusting to being a parent?
• How much is your baby crying?
• How much is your baby sleeping?
• When is your baby sleeping?
• Do you have a car seat for your baby and have you put it in correctly?
• What type of sleeping arrangements do you have for your baby?
• How are the siblings (if any) doing with the newborn?
• Do you have enough time to rest?
• Has someone been helping you care for your baby?
• How is feeding/breastfeeding going?
• How many diapers are you using a day?
• How often are you feeding during the day?
• How often are you feeding during the night?
• Are you feeling ok? (Mom)
• Do you think you are depressed at all? (Mom)
Now is the time for you to ask your questions. Don’t be afraid of taking too much time or asking silly questions. This is especially true for new parents. Now is the time to ask anything you need to ask.
Most babies receive a hepatitis B vaccine while in the hospital. If your baby did not receive this vaccine it may be given now.
Now that your baby’s first checkup is finished, it is time to schedule the next appointment. This will be within two months. Be sure you have all the numbers to reach the doctor if you have questions or concerns before your next visit. Most pediatricians’ offices offer a 24-hour nurse hotline where you can call to ask questions or if you have concerns.
Your baby’s first checkup can be an emotional and tiring time. Be sure that mother and baby get plenty of rest when you get home.