Your Newborn’s First Checkup: What to Expect

doctor examining baby

You’ve brought home a beautiful baby from the hospital; now it’s time to start settling into a new life and new routines with your little one. One of the most important things you can do for your baby in the first few weeks and months is to make sure that he gets regular well-baby visits with his doctor or health-care provider. Many babies are sent for a routine visit at the four- or five-day mark, while some have their first appointment at two weeks. Either way, the first visit marks an important opportunity for you (and your partner), your doctor, and your baby to get to know each other.

You can prepare for the visit by jotting down a list of questions as you think of them. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, even if they seem stupid – chances are the doctor has heard them all before. Dress your baby in loose clothing that is easy to remove for when the doctor examines her, and don’t forget to bring at least two extra diapers. You’ll need a new one when it’s time to put her clothes back on, and it’s good to have at least one extra for emergencies.

Some Areas that the Doctor Will Cover During the Visit Include:

Height and Weight: At this visit, the doctor or nurse will weigh the baby and measure his height and his head circumference. These measurements will be marked on a chart that shows where he stacks up in relation to other infants. The chart will be used as a marker to gauge his progress as he continues to grow. Don’t be alarmed if your baby is in the fifth percentile or the 95th percentile – the chart is designed to show the entire range of weights and heights. Your doctor will let you know if something seems out of the ordinary or if there is cause for concern.

doctor and nurse measuring baby

Physical checks: Next the doctor will examine the baby’s eyes, ears, and mouth, and listen to her heart and lungs. The doctor will also check your baby’s head, her genitals, and the mobility of her hip joints. She will test for newborn reflexes, including the rooting reflex (baby turns his head when you stroke his cheek), the grasping reflex, and the stepping reflex (baby’s feet appear to step or walk when touching a flat surface). At this visit the doctor will also make sure that the baby’s umbilical stump (and the baby’s penis, if he was circumcised) is healing properly.

Eating and Digestion: The doctor will ask about how much and how often the baby is eating and producing wet and/or dirty diapers. By age 3 to 4 days, the baby should have finished passing the thick tar-like stool known as meconium, and will now be passing yellow or yellow-green stool as often as once after every feeding.

Safety: The doctor will make sure that the baby is always traveling in a car seat, and that she is sleeping on her back, away from pillows or blankets that could suffocate her.

PKU test: The phenylketonuria (PKU) test is a blood test that is given to see if your newborn has the enzyme needed to use phenylalanine, an important amino acid. The test is given by way of a heel prick. If your baby did not receive it at the hospital, he may get it at this appointment.

doctor listening to baby's heart

Last but not least, don’t forget that the doctor’s appointment gives you a chance to ask questions as well. Some of the commonly asked questions include:

  • What can we do to calm the baby if he is crying?

  • How can we minimize the risk of SIDS?

  • How do we know if we are feeding the baby enough?

  • How can we teach the baby to sleep?

  • What is the schedule for the baby’s vaccines?

  • How can we reach you in the middle of the night?

A baby’s first few days at home can be very difficult for both parents because of the major change in routines and the sleep deprivation. This appointment should help alleviate many of your fears and worries. If you feel that you still have questions after this doctor’s appointment, don’t hesitate to get back in touch with your doctor. Now is the time to make sure that you have all of the information you need to make good parenting decisions for your newborn.