What to Expect at Baby's First Doctor Appointment
Baby's first 2-week well-visit appointment will come up quicker than you think. Most parents schedule this visit with a pediatrician either while in the hospital postdelivery or shortly after coming home. When scheduling, ask for an appointment during the least busy part of the office day or if the doctor has a certain part of the day or week dedicated to seeing newborns. Expect the visit to take about 25 minutes, but this can vary. Prepare for the possibility of a wait or setback and be sure to plan time to fill out paperwork.
Who to Bring
At your baby's first doctor appointment, it's helpful to bring yourself, your baby, and another primary caregiver, such as your partner. With two people in the office, it will be easier to take care of your little one, remember all of the information from the doctor, and recall what questions to ask. More than two people can become a distraction and make the doctor's office into a free-for-all for questions. The focus needs to be on your baby. It's normal to be nervous, but remember that this visit is meant to be both empowering and informative for parents.
Baby Care Basics: Choosing the Right Doctor
Since the doctor will want to examine all of your baby, it's best to dress her in simple clothing or a comfortable blanket. That way there's less time wasted undressing and more time to focus on the exam. Also bring a change of clothes, extra diapers, and anything needed for feeding. In the diaper bag bring along everything you would for a normal trip with your baby: bottle, pacifier, wipes, etc. 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."
Be prepared to fill out paperwork. Remember to bring your insurance card. Have knowledge and records of anything that concerns you and Baby. Bring any hospital paperwork, including information about Baby's discharge weight or complications during pregnancy or birth. Also bring your medical paperwork, including medical history, medicine taken during pregnancy, and any medical issues.
If you're able to attend the appointment with your partner or another primary caregiver, send him or her in first to prepare for the appointment and complete paperwork. Waiting in the vehicle instead of the waiting room will limit your baby's exposure to sick people. If you do go into the waiting room, be aware of children and adults wanting to look at and hold your baby. Any well-meaning person can carry germs, especially at a doctor's office. Most office staff are good at placing newborns in a room quickly, but if you must wait, have your baby face the corner. This way your body will become a safe barrier. According to Mary Ellen Renna, M.D., a pediatrician from Woodbury, New York, if you maintain a 3-foot radius from others, the chances of catching sickness are very low.
Meeting the Nurse
A nurse will often handle the first part of your baby's exam: She'll take your baby (who should now be undressed) to weigh and measure him. It's normal for the nurse to put your little one on a scale to check his weight, extend his 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 percent of his body weight), but by the 2-week visit, generally most or all of this weight will be gained back.
Meeting the Doctor
There are a few main things that the doctor will accomplish during this initial visit: Examine Baby, educate parents, and ask and answer questions. Every pediatrician's approach differs. Some will examine and provide information at the same time. Others will finish the examination, and then begin to ask questions. During the physical examination the doctor will need to see your baby naked to examine her entire body. The doctor will look at her eyes, ears, nose, skin, and limbs, and also test that she is responsive and has proper reflective actions (such as becoming a little fussy when introduced to a cold stethoscope). The doctor will also look for signs of jaundice or hernias. The doctor will examine the umbilical cord and a circumcised penis for signs of infection and proper healing. A lot will be covered, but don't be afraid to ask the doctor to slow down, repeat, or clarify information.
What to Know: Feeding
The doctor will want information about Baby's feeding patterns. You don't have to record every time you feed your little one or exactly how much, but you should have a general idea of how often you baby is eating, how long (if breastfeeding), or how much (if formula/bottle-feeding). If he's on formula, the doctor will want to know how much, how often, and what formula he is eating. If he's being breastfed, the doctor will want to know how frequently, how long, and if he's having any latching-on issues. Don't be afraid to ask the doctor questions about formulas or tips for breastfeeding.
What to Know: Digestive System
Although you don't have to write down every time you change your baby's diaper, you should have a general idea of how many times you change her each day. It's important to note that formula-fed and breastfed babies produce different stool consistencies. By letting the doctor know about the consistency and color of your baby's waste, he can better assess how well your baby's digestive system is working and if she's absorbing nutrients well. Questions about diarrhea are common at this point. White stools or blood in your baby's stools are definite issues to bring up with your doctor.
What to Know: Sleeping Patterns
It's normal for the pediatrician to inquire about sleeping and safety. Although most newborns spend the majority of the day sleeping, the doctor will want to ensure that your baby is sleeping in a safe location and in a safe crib. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having babies sleep on their backs. Moms, you matter a lot, too, so don't be surprised if the doctor checks to see how your sleeping patterns are doing as well, and if you're getting enough rest.
What to Know: Shots & Vaccines
Although opinion varies, most doctors won't start giving a baby shots, vaccines, or immunizations until he is 2 months old (at the next appointment). Some hospitals will give babies a hepatitis B shot shortly after birth. It's important to know if your baby received this shot in the hospital and to note any medical issues. Opinion on vaccinations can vary from doctor to doctor, and circumstances can change depending on your baby's exposure to health issues. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about all of your options and concerns. You shouldn't need to worry about needles or shots at this appointment, however.
A lot of ground will be covered during your baby's first doctor appointment, so it's wise to bring supplies to take notes. Also, with everything going on, it might be harder to remember all of the questions you want to ask. So write them down ahead of time and bring them along. Don't feel silly doing this—by being prepared you'll be able to ask more questions and get more answers.
What to Ask
Is ______ normal?
Is she eating enough?
Am I feeding enough?
How often should I feed her?
Should her stool look like that?
How many diapers should I be changing?
Is my baby pooping/peeing enough?
What should I expect from my baby in the next few days/weeks/months?
When/how often will I be seeing you?
What should I expect at this age?
How often should I bathe my baby?
What's an emergency for my baby?
What would you consider spitting up?
Is __________ an unusual behavior?
Is it OK to give Baby Tylenol (acetaminophen)?
Don't be shy or intimidated about anything else that comes to mind; there is no such thing as a silly question.
When You Leave
Schedule your next appointment and walk away educated and assured that your baby is doing well. 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 her philosophy on medical issues, such as vaccinations. Be sure you understand how the clinic operates in regard to hours of operation, billing policies, and so on.