By the time you hold your
in your arms for the first time, chances are you've already
chosen one of the most important people in your little
one's early life - a
. You and your baby will probably visit the doctor more often
during the first year than at any other time.
You may have had a prenatal visit with your baby's
doctor-to-be to discuss some specifics, such as when he or she will
see your newborn for the first time, office hours and on-call
hours, who fills in when your doctor is out of the office, and how
the office handles after-hours emergencies. You may have also
learned the doctor's views on certain issues.
In this way, you've begun to forge a relationship with your
baby's doctor that should last through the bumps, bruises, and
midnight fevers to come.
What Happens Right After Birth
Depending on your desires and the rules of the hospital or birth
center where your baby is delivered, the first exam will either
take place in the nursery or at your side:
- Weight, length, and head circumference will be measured.
- Temperature will be taken, and your baby's breathing
and heart rate will be measured.
- The doctor or nurse will monitor skin color and your
- Special eye drops will be given to ward off infection.
- A shot of vitamin K will be given to prevent the possibility
Your baby will be given a first bath, and the umbilical cord
stump will be cleaned. Most hospitals and birthing centers provide
personal instructions (and sometimes videos) to
, bathing, and other important aspects of newborn care.
The Doctor's Visit
The hospital or birth center where you deliver will notify your
child's doctor of the birth. If you have had any medical
problems during pregnancy, if any medical problems for your baby
are suspected, or if you are having a C-section, a pediatrician or
your baby's doctor will be alerted of the impending birth and
be standing by to take care of the baby.
The doctor you have chosen for your newborn will probably give
your baby a full physical examination within 24 hours of birth.
This is a good opportunity to ask questions about your baby's
Find out when the doctor would like to see your newborn again.
Most healthy newborns are routinely examined at the doctor's
office at about 1 to 2 weeks old.
The First Office Visit
During the first office visit, your doctor will assess your baby
in a variety of ways. The first office visit will differ from
doctor to doctor, but you can probably expect:
- measurement of weight, length, and head circumference to
assess how your baby's been doing since birth
- observation of your newborn's vision, hearing, and
- a total physical examination to check for any abnormalities
of the body or organ function
- questions about how you are doing with the new baby and how
your baby is eating and sleeping
- advice on what you can expect in the coming month
- a discussion of your home environment and how it might affect
your baby's health (for example, smoking in the house can
negatively affect your baby's health in many ways)
Also, if the results of screening tests performed on your
newborn after birth are available, they may be discussed with you.
Bring any questions or concerns to the doctor at this time. Jot
down any specific instructions given regarding special baby care.
Keep a permanent
for your baby that includes information about
, medications, and any problems or illnesses.
Immunizations Your Baby Will Receive
Babies are born with some natural immunity against
infectious diseases because their mothers' infection-preventing
antibodies are passed to them through the umbilical cord. This
immunity is only temporary, but babies will develop their own
immunity against many infectious diseases.
babies receive antibodies and enzymes in breast milk that help
protect them from some infections and even some allergic
At birth or shortly after, some infants receive their first
artificial immunization, a hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) that is
given in three doses. There are combination vaccines, however, that
include HBV and are given at the 2-month visit. So other babies
will receive no immunizations until 2 months of age.
In either case, it's wise to familiarize yourself with
When to Call the Doctor
Since small problems can indicate big problems for newborns,
don't hesitate to call your doctor if you have concerns. Some
difficulties to be aware of during this first month:
- Excessive drowsiness can be hard to spot in a newborn since
most sleep so much. But if you suspect your infant is sleepier
than normal, call the doctor. Sometimes this could be a sign
- Eye problems can be caused by blockage of one or both tear
ducts. Normally the ducts open on their own before too long, but
sometimes they remain clogged, which can cause mucus-like tearing
of the eyes. The white discharge can crust up on the eyes and
make it difficult for your baby to open them, and the blockage
can lead to infection. If you suspect a serious infection, such
, call your doctor immediately. If your baby has an infection,
the doctor will need to perform an exam and may prescribe
- Fever in a newborn (rectal temperature above 100.4Âº
Fahrenheit or 38Âº Celsius) should be reported to your child's
doctor right away.
- Extreme floppiness or jitters in a baby could be a sign of
underlying problems. Report them to the doctor immediately.
- A runny nose can make it difficult for a baby to breathe,
especially during feeding. You can help ease discomfort by using
a rubber bulb aspirator to gently suction mucus from the nose. Be
sure to call your doctor - even a common cold can be dangerous
for a newborn.
- While breastfed newborns generally have loose,
mustard-colored stools, very loose and watery stools could
indicate illness. The danger here for a baby is
, which can show up as a dry mouth and a noticeable reduction in
urine output (fewer than six wet diapers in 24 hours). Call your
doctor if your newborn's stools seem watery or loose or often
occur at other times besides after feeding.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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