19 Things to Expect at Your Baby’s First Pediatrician Visit

Are you nervous about your baby's first pediatrician visit? Here's what to expect, including 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). The AAP's schedule of well-child visits is annually from 3 years on, but before that, it is as follows:

  • 3-5 days
  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
  • 2.5 years

Since it might be the first time your newborn leaves home, it's natural to feel some trepidation. But remember that this visit is often empowering and informative for new parents.

Read on for 19 things to expect during your baby's first pediatrician visit, including timing, preparation, and what exams and vaccinations to expect.

01 of 19

Plan Enough Time for Your Visit

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

02 of 19

Bring a Support Person

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 care for the baby, remember the doctor's advice, and recall questions you planned to ask.

03 of 19

Dress Your Baby to Make the Exam Easier

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 newborn exam, "warmth, cuddling, loving, and reassuring voices are more helpful than a stuffed animal."

04 of 19

Prepare for Paperwork

girl writes letter with pen
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Be prepared to fill out paperwork. Remember to pack the following:

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 at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine.

05 of 19

Wait in the Car If You Can

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. Some offices even have systems in place that allow you to fill out the paperwork online, wait in your car, and receive a text when it's time to go in.

If you must sit in the waiting room, have your baby face the corner. According to Mary Ellen Renna, M.D., a pediatrician from Jericho, New York, the chances of catching sickness are lower if you maintain a three-foot radius from others.

06 of 19

The Nurse Will Do Some Exams

newborn baby on scale

A nurse will probably handle the first part of your baby's exam. They'll do the following:

  • Weigh your naked baby on a scale
  • Extend their limbs to measure height and width
  • Use a tape measure to determine the head circumference

According to the AAP, it's normal for babies to lose weight after birth (up to 10% of their body weight). But they'll generally gain it back within a couple of weeks. Newborn weight loss greater than 12% is concerning.

07 of 19

You'll Get to Know the Doctor

Male Doctor Holding Baby at Hospital
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The pediatrician will examine your baby, educate you about their health, and answer any questions. One of the biggest components of the first pediatrician visit is developing a relationship with your child's new doctor. They will be a source of information, support, and troubleshooting in the many years to come.

08 of 19

They'll Check Your Baby's Neck and Collarbone

Newborn Baby Looking Up
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At your baby's first pediatrician visit, a health care provider will feel along your baby's neckline to check for a broken collarbone. That's because some babies fracture their clavicle while squeezing through the birth canal.

If your pediatrician finds a small bump, that could mean 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 the arm so the collarbone doesn't hurt.

09 of 19

They'll Check Your Baby's Head

doctor holding small baby

A pediatrician will also palm your baby's head to check for a still-soft fontanel. They will do this at every well visit for the first one to two years.

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

They'll Check Your Baby's Hips

small minority baby being held by doctor

A doctor will roll your baby's hips to check for signs of developmental hip dysplasia, a congenital malformation of the hip joint that affects one in every 1,000 babies. You can expect this exam starting at your baby's first pediatrician visit and every visit until your baby can walk.

"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

They'll Check Your Baby's Reflexes

Big sister holding hands with baby

To check for a Moro reflex, a health care provider startles your baby. 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.

This exam starts at the first pediatrician visit and continues through the first four well-child visits. A health care provider might also check whether your little one grasps a finger or fans their toes after you touch their foot.

12 of 19

They'll Check Your Baby's Pulse

Baby with stethoscope over heart

By pressing the skin along the side of the baby's groin, a health care provider checks for your baby's 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.

You can expect this exam at the first pediatrician visit and all baby well visits. Around one in 125 babies are diagnosed with a heart defect every year in the U.S. This check is a simple way to screen for problems, says Dr. Seru. "When a heart condition is caught early, it can increase the likelihood of a good recovery."

13 of 19

They'll Check Your Baby's Genitalia

Baby Boy Yellow Hat Stuffed Animal
Spencer Selover/Pexels

Starting at the first pediatrician visit and every well-baby visit after that, a health care provider will check your baby's genitals to ensure everything looks normal.

According to Cinncinati Children's in around 3% of babies with testicles, the testicles don't descend into the scrotum before birth. While the problem usually corrects itself by 3-4 months, your doctor will keep an eye on things to see if your baby needs surgical assistance in the future. They will also rule out signs of infection in a circumcised penis.

In babies with vulvas, it's not uncommon to find labial adhesions. Although the labia should open up over time, adhesions 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

They'll Ask About Your Baby’s Feeding Patterns

breastfeeding newborn

The doctor will want information about your baby's feeding patterns. You don't need to keep super-detailed records, but you should have a general idea of the following:

  • How often your baby is eating
  • How long they feed (if breastfeeding)
  • How much formula they consume

This is an excellent time to raise concerns or questions about latching, formula brands, and other feeding issues.

15 of 19

They'll Check Your 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's diapers each day. If your doctor knows the consistency, frequency, and color of your baby's poop, they can better assess their digestive system and nutrient absorption.

16 of 19

They'll Ask About Your Baby's Sleeping Patterns

dad holding newborn
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A health care provider will probably inquire about sleeping patterns at your first pediatrician visit. They'll also make sure you're following safe practices.

For example, the AAP says babies should always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

17 of 19

They'll Review the Childhood Vaccination Schedule

baby getting vaccine shot in thigh
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Hospitals usually give babies a hepatitis B shot shortly after birth, but if your baby was born at home, they might receive it at their first pediatrician visit. Most vaccinations start when your baby is 2 months old, and a health care provider might review the vaccine schedule with you so you're prepared for the many vaccines your baby will need in the months ahead.

18 of 19

There Will Be Time for Questions

serious doctor talking to mother and child

You will cover much ground during your baby's first pediatrician visit. Ask the doctor to slow down, repeat, or clarify information if needed. It's also wise to come prepared with a list of questions.

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 and weeks?

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.

19 of 19

You'll Schedule Your 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, remember that frequent appointments with your baby's health care provider are the best way to get expert answers to your questions and ensure your child's physically and developmentally on track.

Keep the doctor's phone number handy, and be informed of what to do and who to contact in an emergency or when you have a question. It's important to be comfortable with your doctor, and seeing them frequently in the first year helps you develop that relationship you may have for years to come.

When you schedule your next appointment, ask about your clinic's hours of operation, billing policies, and how after-hours communication works.

Updated by Melody Warnick
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  1. A five (5) chamber heart (Cor Triatriatum) in Infancy: A rare congenital heart defectNiger Med J. 2013.

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