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What To Expect From Baby's First Pediatrician Visit
Updated on
December 16, 2022

What To Expect From Baby's First Pediatrician Visit

By Sharon Brandwein
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What To Expect From Baby's First Pediatrician Visit.
What To Expect From Baby's First Pediatrician Visit

Whether it’s your first baby or your third, bringing a new life into the world is no easy feat. The parenting journey is long, and having your own little “village” will help you navigate any bumps in the road. But with everything that your support network of friends and family can do, they can’t do it all.

Babies may not come with handbooks, so that’s where your pediatrician comes in. Not only can they, too, offer the support you need, but they’re also there to answer questions about whether or not a poop is normal and crayons in noses (it happens, folks).

Every parent wants to give their baby a healthy start in life, and doing so begins with your baby’s first pediatrician visit, also known as a well baby visit. In what will be the first of many, your baby’s doctor will check in on your little one soon after they’re discharged from the hospital to ensure everything is on track. During this visit, the doctor will not only examine your baby from tip to toe, but they’ll also take the time to answer questions, dispense some sage advice and allay any lingering fears you may have.

When Do Newborns Have Their First Doctor Appointment?

“Your newborn’s appointment should be within 1-2 days after discharge from the hospital,” says Dr. Emily Wisniewski, a pediatrician with Mercy Family Care Physicians. “Some babies can wait a little bit longer, 3-5 days even, provided there were no concerns about feeding, significant weight loss, or jaundice. But otherwise, you [and your baby] should be checked on soon after discharge to make sure your baby is growing and feeding well.”

It’s worth noting that after your baby’s initial visit to the pediatrician, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends well-baby visits at the following intervals for the first two years of your baby’s life.

  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 24 months

How Far in Advance Do I Need to Schedule the First Baby Checkup?

Schedules can vary widely from doctor to doctor. If you’re concerned about getting an appointment, consider calling ahead (before your due date) to get a better idea of how busy your preferred pediatrician will be. There’s no harm in being proactive and scheduling your appointment in advance.

What Will Happen During My Newborn’s First Doctor Appointment?

Wisniewski tells Babylist that doctors and nurses cover a lot of ground during the first visit to the pediatrician.

“We get to know the family—especially if they are new to the practice or a first-time parent—and ask questions about feeding, peeing and pooping, safety in the home—regarding safe sleep, smoke detectors/guns in the home and other family members in the home,” she says. “We also will do a postpartum depression screening to check in on parents as well as baby.” In addition to the baby’s physical exam, Wisniewski says doctors will often leave time to “address any questions or concerns the parents have.”

What Will My Baby’s First Physical Exam Look Like?

Once you’ve filled out any required paperwork, the nurse will probably be the next person you see. Ahead of the doctor’s exam, the nurse will weigh and measure your baby. He or she will then chart your baby’s measurements on a growth chart that shows what percentile your baby is measuring. Beyond length and weight, the nurse will also measure the circumference of your baby’s head.

Incidentally, your baby will need to be naked to get the most accurate measurements. So, you’ll want to bring an extra diaper—but more on that later.

After the nurse has all the measurements and numbers plotted, the pediatrician will examine your little one from head to toe. This includes:

Checking Your Baby’s Head: Your doctor will palm your baby’s head to check for a still-soft fontanel, which you may know as the soft spot. Your baby’s head circumference should increase by about 4 inches within their first year, and the soft spots on their skull are designed to accommodate that growth. However, if they close up too quickly, that could be cause for concern.

Checking Their Neck and Collarbone: The doctor will feel your baby’s bones along the neck and collarbone to check for any breaks or fractures that occurred during delivery.

Rolling Your Baby’s Hips: Pediatricians often roll babies’ hips to look for any signs of hip dysplasia. Incidentally, they will do this at every well-baby visit until your little one takes their first steps.

Testing Your Baby’s Reflexes: During this visit and four to follow, your pediatrician will assess your baby’s Moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex). Typically, the Moro reflex test simulates falling. It involves placing the baby face up on a soft padded surface, lifting their head slightly above their body, then gently letting it fall into the doctor’s hand. The doctor is looking for your baby to extend their arms and draw them back quickly (what all of us do when we feel like we’re falling).

In addition to the Moro reflex, your pediatrician will also check your baby’s rooting reflex as well as their sucking reflex. To check the rooting reflex, they will touch or stroke your baby’s cheek to gauge whether or not baby automatically turns their head to that side and opens their mouth. To check the sucking reflex, the doctor will place a gloved finger in your baby’s mouth to see whether they start sucking.

Checking Their Femoral Pulse: Pediatricians typically check the baby’s pulse via the femoral artery. A weak femoral artery pulse could be a sign of a heart condition.

Checking Genitalia: During your baby’s first trip to the pediatrician (and every visit that follows), your pediatrician will check on the development of your baby’s genitalia. In this case, they’re looking for signs of infection from circumcisions, following up on undescended scrotums or labial adhesions.

Examining the Umbilical Stump: Doctors will also check on how the umbilical stump is healing and offer some guidance for care until it falls off on its own—usually within 1-3 weeks after birth.

What Questions Will the Pediatrician Ask?

Throughout the physical exam, your baby’s doctor will ask questions about your child’s feeding patterns, elimination and sleep schedule. Their questions will likely focus on the following topics:

  • Feeding Patterns/Schedule: While you don’t necessarily need to keep a food diary, you should be prepared to communicate how often and how well your baby eats. This is also a good opportunity to share any questions or concerns you have about feeding baby.
  • Baby’s Digestive System: Peeing and pooping are indicators of overall health so expect your provider to ask questions about baby’s digestive system. They’ll want to know how many wet diapers your baby has each day, how often they’re pooping, as well as the color and consistency of their poop.
  • Sleeping Patterns: Your baby’s doctor will also check in on how your baby is sleeping, and they’ll likely go over safe sleeping guidelines.

Will My Baby Be Vaccinated During Their First Visit to the Pediatrician?

Baby’s first official checkup and first immunization will take place at the hospital. Typically, baby won’t get any shots during their first visit to the pediatrician, but Wisniewski notes, “If your baby did not receive the Hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital (usually given prior to discharge), then your infant should receive this at their first pediatrician appointment.”

What Should I Bring With Me to the First Checkup?

The short answer here is simply to bring your diaper bag. Remember that you’ll need to remove baby’s clothing and diaper for the nurse to take their measurements and get an accurate weight. So, it’s a good idea to bring along a blanket and a fresh diaper.

Wisniewski also suggests bringing the discharge summary of your baby’s hospital stay. “It helps the doctor know what happened in the hospital and if any follow-up is needed (like checking for jaundice),” she says.

What Questions Should I Ask the Doctor at My Baby’s First Appointment?

While your baby’s pediatrician will ask plenty of questions about your baby’s general health, this is also the time for you to ask any and all questions you may have about your newborn.

Common questions that new parents often have include:

  • How do I know if my baby ate enough?
  • What should I do if my baby is not drinking enough breast milk?
  • Should I give supplements to my baby?
  • How can I store my breast milk?
  • How can I help my baby latch on to my breast?
  • What’s the best way to soothe or care for sore nipples?
  • How many naps should my baby take?
  • How many hours a day should my baby sleep?
  • Is it okay if I wake up my baby to eat?
  • How can I help my baby to stay asleep?
  • Is it safe for my baby to sleep on their back?
  • How can I try to avoid sudden infant death syndrome?
  • Where should my baby sleep?
  • When will my baby sleep through the night?

Helpful hint: Keep a digital note or write down all the questions you have for your baby’s doctor. There’s a lot of ground to cover on your baby’s first visit to the doctor, and if your little one is fussing or crying for the duration, you can easily become flustered and forget your questions. Keeping an actual note is the best way to ensure you walk out of the appointment with all your questions answered. But don’t worry! This is a routine visit, and your pediatrician is here to guide you through it all.

Sharon Brandwein

Sharon Brandwein is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a freelance writer. She specializes in parenting, health, and of course, all things sleep. Sharon’s work has also appeared on ABC News, USAToday, Parents, and Forbes. When she’s not busy writing, you might find her somewhere curating a wardrobe for her puppy.

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