Baby's First Hours

In the Nursery

After about 30 minutes, a nurse will likely put your baby in a warmed Isolette (an enclosed crib on wheels) and bring her to the nursery. However, if your hospital allows "rooming in" -- in which the mother and baby are kept together -- you and your newborn will travel to your postpartum recovery room, where she'll be checked out.

  • Vital stats. A nurse will listen to your baby's heart and lungs, check her temperature, and examine her for any abnormalities, such as spina bifida. The nurse will also remeasure your child's height, weight, and head circumference and give her a warm bath.
  • First physical. Within the first 24 hours, a pediatrician will examine your baby. (Of course, if a problem arises, she'll be alerted right away.) She'll compare your infant's measurements with the norm for his gestational age -- the number of weeks since the first day of your last period -- to make sure they match up. (If your baby was premature or if he was full-term but has a low birth weight, the doctor will use the Ballard exam, a checklist that assesses physical characteristics and muscle tone to gauge "relative" gestational age).

Next, your doctor will listen to your baby's chest for heart murmurs and his abdomen to make sure his bowels are functioning normally. She'll feel your baby's soft spots, look for swellings on his head (most are harmless), and examine his eyes and genitals. She'll also check for things like cleft palate, collarbone fracture (which is not uncommon during delivery and generally heals on its own), birthmarks, and hip dislocation. "In addition, most states check for congenital hearing loss," says Deborah Campbell, M.D., director of neonatology at the Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City. Then, with your consent, your baby will be given the first of his immunizations, the hepatitis B vaccination. (It can also be given later, at the first well-baby visit).

After such a busy beginning to his life, your newborn can at last look forward to some peace and quiet: It's finally time to go home with you.

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