Post By. Dr. Pearl Cenon
In my 15 years as a pediatrician, I’ve had the pleasure of being one of the first faces (outside of family) that new babies meet! A baby’s first visit to the pediatrician is always an exciting one: parents are full of questions about their precious little one. Even if it’s not a firstborn, each baby has her own unique personality so parents find themselves seeking new and different advice or trying to remember how things worked the last time around! Whether you are expecting your first or fifth child, this is a basic summary on your newborn’s first visit to the pediatrician.
New moms and dads should expect to see their family pediatrician the most during baby’s first year. Right after the baby is born, an appointment should be made for a visit. It’s a good idea for two people to accompany baby so that one parent can focus on the discussion with the doctor, while the extra caregiver attends to baby. This will give parents an opportunity to get to know their pediatrician and exchange questions and answers. Questions can range from medical issues to common childcare topics, parental support groups, and any other practical matters. From this very first visit, a good pediatrician will make parents comfortable and assist them in every possible way.
Initially, your baby’s weight, height and head circumference will be measured and plotted on a growth curve that shows how your baby compares to other babies the same age. These measurements will be taken at all subsequent infant visits because they help track your baby’s growth. Interesting fact: generally speaking, (though your baby’s milestones may vary; check with your doctor if you have questions), babies will double their birth weight by their sixth month of life and triple it by the age of one. Imagine if we tripled our weight within a year?!
Next comes a thorough, head-to-toe physical examination. In the head exam, the doctor examines the soft spots — called fontanelles – that are normally open and flat in the first few months. The posterior (back) fontanelle usually closes at two to three months while the anterior (front) fontanelle closes before the second birthday.
Though most newborn nurseries perform hearing tests before the baby is discharged, baby’s ears will be examined again during this visit. To assess hearing, the doctor may ask how your baby reacts to your voice or loud sounds. The doctor will use an otoscope that provides a good view of the ear canal and eardrum.
Using a bright light such as an ophthalmoscope, the doctor will examine your baby’s eyes to detect cataracts that sometimes form early in life. He or she will also track eye movements and check the pupil’s response to light. Next is an exam of the mouth and neck, followed by use of a stethoscope to listen to the heart and lungs. The doctor is listening for murmurs, abnormal heart rhythms, and breath sounds.
The doctor will also gently apply pressure to your baby’s abdomen to check for any abnormal masses or tenderness. If your baby still has the umbilical stump, he or she will show you how to clean and keep the area dry until it falls off. Genitalia are also checked for abnormal lumps or signs of infections. In baby boys, the doctor will examine the penis (and healing, if a circumcision was performed) and ensure that the testes are both down in the scrotum.
To assess for problems in the hip joints, your doctor will move your baby’s legs to detect any abnormalities such as congenital hip dysplasia; early detection of this condition is critical for correction later in life.
Lastly, your pediatrician will ask about your baby’s feeding, sleep patterns, and bowel/urinary frequency. It is crucial that you learn to recognize developmental milestones that your baby will reach; hence the doctor will discuss when you can expect your baby to smile, roll over, sit up, walk, and how he or she uses her hands and arms. During this visit, your pediatrician will also test the baby’s reflexes and muscle tone.
Prior to baby’s birth, consider asking your family members, friends, and even your ob/gyn for their recommended pediatricians; then make appointments to meet several. Just as you would interview childcare providers, you will want to ensure that the pediatrician you choose for your baby is someone that you trust and with whom you have a good relationship. You and your child will be in close contact with the family pediatrician for almost two decades… that’s good reason to be choosy! A good pediatrician is one whose reputation is excellent, but also someone who can clearly answer your questions, is a good listener, instill confidence in you, and someone who always makes you feel welcomed!
All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site.
Dr. Pearl Cenon
A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She’ll write basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.