What to Expect at Your Baby's First Doctor Appointment

Are you nervous for your baby's first doctor's appointment? Here's what to expect regarding paperwork, waiting time, meeting the doctor, and more.

Your baby should have their first well-visit appointment 3-5 days after birth, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Because it might be the first time your newborn leaves home, it's natural to feel some anticipation, but remember that this visit is both empowering and informative for new parents. Here's what to expect during baby's first doctor visit regarding paperwork, waiting time, meeting the doctor, and more.

01 of 19

When is Baby’s First Doctor’s Appointment?

Pediatrician and newborn baby
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Ask for an appointment during the least-busy part the day. You can also see if the doctor has specific time slots dedicated to seeing newborns. Expect the visit to take about 25 minutes—but definitely plan for waiting and set-backs as well.

02 of 19

Who Should I Bring?

Mom holding sleeping newborn baby

Consider bringing your partner (or other primary caregiver) to your baby's first doctor appointment. Two people can more effectively take care of the baby, remember the doctor’s advice, and recall questions you planned to ask.

03 of 19

How to Prepare Your Baby

Woman rifling through diaper bag

Since the doctor will examine your baby’s entire body, dress them in simple clothing or a comfortable blanket. Also bring a change of clothes, extra diapers, wipes, pacifiers, feeding supplies, and other necessities. According to Brian MacGillivray, M.D., who practices in San Antonio, "at a 2-week exam, warmth, cuddling, loving, and reassuring voices are more helpful than a stuffed animal."

04 of 19

Will There Be Paperwork?

girl writes letter with pen
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Be prepared to fill out paperwork. Remember to pack your insurance card and hospital documents, including information about your baby's discharge weight and complications during pregnancy or birth. Also refresh yourself on your family’s medical history: Knowing that your older child has asthma or your parents have diabetes, for example, focuses your pediatrician's attention on likely problems, says Christopher Pohlod, D.O., assistant professor of pediatrics in Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine, in East Lansing.

05 of 19

Where Should I Wait?

medical waiting room

If you attend the appointment with another person, send them inside to fill out paperwork while you wait in the car with the baby. This limits their exposure to germs that might compromise their immature immune system. If you must sit in the waiting room, have your baby face the corner. According to Mary Ellen Renna, M.D., a pediatrician from Woodbury, New York, the chances of catching sickness are low if you maintain a three-foot radius from others.

06 of 19

Meeting the Nurse

newborn baby on scale

A nurse will probably handle the first part of your baby's exam. They'll weigh your naked baby on a scale, extend their limbs for measuring height and width, and use a tape measure to determine head circumference. According to pediatricians, it's normal for a baby to lose weight after delivery (up to 10% of their body weight), but they'll generally gain it back before the 2-week visit.

07 of 19

Meeting the Doctor

Male Doctor Holding Baby at Hospital
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The pediatrician will examine your baby, educate parents on their health, and answer any additional questions. Read the following slides for more information on the typical procedure for a baby’s first doctor appointment.

08 of 19

Neck and Collarbone Check

Newborn Baby Looking Up
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What Your Doctor Does: Feels along your baby's neckline

When It Happens: Your baby's first office visit

What They're Looking For: A broken collarbone. Some babies fracture their clavicle while squeezing through the birth canal. If your pediatrician finds a small bump, that means a break is starting to heal. It will mend on its own in a few weeks. In the meantime, they may suggest pinning the baby's sleeve across their chest to stabilize their arm so the collarbone doesn't hurt.

09 of 19

Head Check

doctor holding small baby

What Your Doctor Does: Palms your baby's head

When It Happens: Every visit for the first one to two years

What They're Looking For: A still-soft fontanel. Your baby's head should grow about four inches in the first year, and the two soft spots on their skull are designed to accommodate that. But if the soft spots close up too quickly, the tight quarters can curb brain development, and your child may need surgery to fix it.

10 of 19

Hip Check

small minority baby being held by doctor

What Your Doctor Does: Rolls baby's hips

When It Happens: Every visit until your baby can walk

What They're Looking For: Signs of developmental hip dysplasia, a congenital malformation of the hip joint that affects one in every 1,000 babies. "The exam looks completely barbaric," says Vinita Seru, M.D., a pediatrician in Seattle. "I tell families what I'm doing so they don't think I'm trying to hurt the baby." If your pediatrician feels a telltale click from the hips, they'll order an ultrasound. Luckily, when dysplasia is found early, treatment is simple: The baby wears a pelvic harness for a few months.

11 of 19

Reflex Check

Big sister holding hands with baby

What Your Doctor Does: Startles your baby

When It Happens: The first four visits

What They're Looking For: A Moro reflex. For the first 3 or 4 months, whenever something startles your infant, they'll fling their arms out as if they're falling. It’s an involuntary response that shows your baby is developing normally—and if the response is not there, your baby could have a neurological problem. Your doctor might also check whether your little one grasps a finger or fans their toes after you touch their foot.

12 of 19

Pulse Check

Baby with stethoscope over heart

What Your Doctor Does: Presses the skin along the side of baby's groin

When It Happens: Every visit

What They're Looking For: A pulse in the femoral artery, which runs up from your baby's thigh. Your pediatrician wants to see if the pulse is weak on one side, or hard to detect at all, since that may suggest a heart condition. One in 125 babies is diagnosed with a heart defect, and this check is a simple way to screen for problems, says Vinita Seru, M.D., a pediatrician in Seattle. "When a heart condition is caught early it can increase the likelihood of a good recovery."

13 of 19

Genitalia Check

Baby Boy Yellow Hat Stuffed Animal
Spencer Selover/Pexels

What Your Doctor Does: Checks your baby's private parts

When It Happens: Every visit

What They're Looking For: Normal genitalia. In up to 4% of boys, testicles don't descend into the scrotum before birth. While the problem usually corrects itself by 9 months, your doctor will keep an eye on things to see if your son needs surgical assistance in the future. Your doctor will also rule out signs of infection in a circumcised penis.

In girls, it's not uncommon to find labial adhesions. Although the labia should open up over time, adhesions will rarely shrink the vaginal opening and make your baby more prone to urinary tract infections. "If we know that they're there, when your baby has a high fever we look for a UTI first," says Melissa Kendall, M.D., a pediatrician in Orem, Utah.

14 of 19

Baby’s Feeding Patterns

breastfeeding newborn

The doctor will want information about you baby's feeding patterns. You don’t need to keep super-detailed records, but you should have a general idea of how often your baby is eating, how long (if breastfeeding), or how much (if formula/bottle-feeding). Bring up concerns about latching, formula brands, and other feeding issues.

15 of 19

Baby’s Digestive System

Change Baby Poop Diaper
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You should have a general idea of how often you change your baby each day. If your doctor knows the consistency and color of your baby's waste, they can better assess their digestive system and nutrient absorption.

16 of 19

Baby's Sleeping Patterns

dad holding newborn
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Your pediatrician will probably inquire about sleeping patterns. They'll also make sure you’re following safe practices. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

17 of 19

Shots and Vaccinations

baby getting vaccine shot in thigh
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Hospitals usually give babies a hepatitis B shot shortly after birth, but most vaccinations will wait until the baby is 2 months old. Check out this vaccination schedule for more information.

18 of 19

Asking Questions

serious doctor talking to mother and child

Your pediatrician will cover a lot of ground during your baby's first doctor appointment. Ask the doctor to slow down, repeat, or clarify information, if needed. It’s also wise to come with a list of prepared questions. When you have a written list of talking points, you won't worry about your mind going blank if your baby starts to fuss, says Dr. Pohlod.

Here are some examples:

  • Is this behavior normal?
  • Is my baby eating enough?
  • Should their stool look like that?
  • When should I schedule the next appointment?
  • What should I expect in the next few days/weeks?
19 of 19

When Should I Schedule My Next Appointment?

pediatrician and baby

The lineup of well-baby checkups during the first year includes at least a half dozen more pediatrician visits: 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. Before you cry overkill, keep in mind that frequent appointments with your baby's doctor are the best way to get expert answers to your questions and to make sure your child's on track both physically and developmentally.

Keep the doctor's phone number handy, and also be informed of what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency or question. It's important to be comfortable with your doctor and to know their philosophy on medical issues, such as vaccinations. Also learn how the clinic operates in regard to hours of operation, billing policies, and so on.

Updated by Melody Warnick
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