You may not be totally ready for all-nighters, but you can be ready for your baby’s first doctor appointment. From when to schedule the visit to what types of questions to ask, here’s what you need to know about your little one’s first checkup.
When do newborn babies have their first doctor appointment?
Your new baby will get their first visit from a pediatrician or family medicine doctor in the hospital shortly after they’re born. During that visit, the doctor will do a physical examination of baby’s general health, check their newborn reflexes, and give guidance if there are any weight or feeding issues.
But your baby’s first doctor appointment (which is called a well-baby or well-child checkup) will typically happen at your chosen clinic three to five days after birth.
In some cases, your baby’s doctor may want to see your little one sooner and more than once in the first few days. For example, if a baby has jaundice, or weight or feeding issues, a doctor may recommend daily checkups until their condition improves.
Why is the first baby checkup so soon after birth?
The first few days of life are especially important for a baby’s health. They’re brand new to the world and getting the hang of feeding, sleeping and adjusting to this strange new environment. But everything is new for you, too – and doctors want you to feel supported. That’s why they want to see you and your new baby within three to five days of birth.
How far in advance do I need to schedule the first baby checkup?
Baby is going to come when they’re good and ready, so don’t worry about getting something on the books until after baby arrives. But the one thing you can do before then is select a doctor for your baby.
So how do you choose the right doctor for your baby? The choice is ultimately a personal decision, but here are some important things to consider:
- Choose a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner you think you and your child can relate to by reviewing their biography online.
- Find a clinic that's close to home.
- Choose a doctor and clinic that offers you convenient access to online medical records, including your child’s health history, lab results and immunization records.
- Choose a doctor who’s well qualified and experienced. One credential you can be looking for is board certification. Board certification is optional, but it is a mark of distinction to show they have gone above and beyond the minimum standards and requirements in a chosen specialty.
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What will happen during my newborn’s first doctor appointment?
Before your first appointment, you may be asked to fill out some forms online or by mail about your baby’s health and development, as well as how you are feeling and adjusting to life with a new baby.
As for what happens during the visit, there are several routine steps your nurse and doctor will take – steps that you’ll get familiar with as you continue to bring your baby in for wellness checks.
For starters, the nurse will collect any additional forms you filled out and ask you some questions, including if you have any questions or concerns you’d like to talk with the doctor about. They’ll also measure your baby’s length, head circumference and weight. To make sure they get the most accurate weight measurement, they’ll likely ask for baby to be naked.
Soon after, the doctor will come in and go over baby’s growth chart with you to make sure your little one’s weight gain and development are on track. They’ll also ask you questions about your baby’s sleeping and feeding schedule, including how often they poop and pee each day, to track healthy digestion.
Next the doctor will do a gentle head-to-toe examination to check baby’s general health and look for any signs of problems or developmental issues. Some of the things they’ll be doing include:
- Head check – The doctor will check the shape of your baby’s head and feel the soft spots on top (called fontanelles) to make sure they’re still soft. Fontanelles disappear gradually skull bones fuse together as a child gets older, but doctors want to make sure the fontanelles don’t close too quickly, giving the brain less room to grow.
- Hip check – The doctor will rotate baby’s legs and hips to check for signs of hip dysplasia, which is a developmental problem relating to how the hip joint formed.
- Reflex check – The doctor will check your baby’s reflexes to make sure they’re developing normally and to screen for neurological issues. Your doctor will observe whether baby will grasp your finger and fan out their toes when their foot is touched. The doctor will also check your baby’s Moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex), which is an involuntary response that causes them to fling their arms and legs out and back in again when startled.
- Umbilical cord – The doctor will examine baby’s belly button area and give you instructions on how to care for the umbilical cord until it falls off on its own.
During your appointment, there will be time for you to ask your baby’s doctor questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Your clinic’s nurse line can be another great resource for information – and peace of mind. Confirm the phone number and find out the hours they’re available so you can call whenever you have questions or need advice.
What questions should I ask the doctor at baby’s first appointment?
This is a great time to ask the doctor any questions you may have about your baby’s health, growth, feeding, routine and more. And no question is off limits. Doctors truly care about helping babies get the best possible start in life, and they want to help new parents feel comfortable as they learn the ropes, too.
It’s also important to know that your questions don’t need to be only about your baby. If you have any concerns or questions about your own health and well-being, the doctor can listen and recommend resources that may be helpful.
Some of the most common questions new parents ask are:
- How much crying is normal?
- What should I do when my baby has a fever?
- How often and how much should I feed my baby?
- How much sleep should my newborn be getting? Should I wake them up in the night to feed? When will my baby sleep through the night?
- What is the safest sleeping position for my baby?
- How much spitting up is normal?
- How should I bathe my baby, and how often?
- How often do I need to change my baby’s diapers?
- How do you tell the difference between mild or severe diaper rash?
- What newborn or infant vaccinations are coming up? Are they all necessary and do I need to stick to the recommended schedule? (Download the full pediatric vaccination schedule here.)
In addition, parents of boys often have questions about circumcision.
Parents who chose to circumcise their baby boy at the hospital after birth often want to know tips for helping it heal correctly. Those who chose not to circumcise may ask how to keep their baby’s penis clean. And those who are undecided often want to know why babies are circumcised, where and how long the procedure takes place, and more.
If you’re still considering whether to circumcise, start by calling your insurance company before your appointment. This can help you understand what kind of coverage you have.
How long will my baby’s checkup last?
Most newborn appointments are scheduled to last about 20 to 30 minutes, but it’s a good idea to plan for some buffer time in case there are any unexpected delays.
You’re probably experiencing a lot of new things now that your baby has arrived. So, the doctor wants to make sure you – and other new parents – have all your questions answered before you leave, which might take a little extra time.
Over the coming months, your baby’s wellness checkup schedule will include several more appointments at specific times. And as they get older, those appointments may vary in length depending on your baby’s health needs.
What should I bring with me to the first checkup?
It’s easy to feel frazzled as a new parent, especially when you’re low on sleep and you’ve already reached your daily threshold for those sweet, but shrill, baby cries. So preparing for baby’s doctor visit ahead of time is a good way to stay calm and organized.
Here are some things to bring along:
- Your insurance card – Most often, your baby won’t have their own insurance card yet. That’s OK. Just make sure to bring your own insurance card. Your clinic can update your baby’s records when their own card is ready.
- Paperwork from the hospital – This is optional, but it can be helpful for the doctor to have information about the birth, any risk factors for health conditions and so on.
- A feeding journal – New moms are often encouraged to chart the timing for each of baby’s feedings and diapers. It’s no big deal if you don’t have one, but it can be helpful to reference it when the doctor asks you about baby’s feeding and digestion schedule. Our free myHealthyPregnancy app powered by YoMingo features a feeding and diaper log, as well as other helpful tools.
- Diapers and wipes – You’ll probably have diapers and wipes in your bag no matter where you go, but it’s a good idea to double check before heading to the doctor. One reason why you’ll need extras is because your little one will be weighed naked to get an accurate weight check.
- An extra baby outfit – Better safe than sorry. Babies can go through more outfits in a day than a host at the Grammy Awards.
- A blanket – Your little one will be weighed and measured with their clothes off, so bringing a small blanket can help keep them warm.
- A bottle – If your baby is bottle-fed, prepare one in case they need to eat during the visit or before you head home. Doctors are very understanding of new babies’ needs, so they’re accommodating if you need to breastfeed or give baby a bottle while you’re there.
Still need to choose a doctor for your baby? We can help.
Trying to decide between seeing a pediatrician vs. a family doctor? Wondering if there are any pediatric nurse practitioners at a clinic near you? You have a lot of options when it comes to selecting your child’s doctor. Learn more about kids’ health and meet our board-certified doctors.
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