Medical Care and Your Newborn
You'll see your baby's doctor often during your little one's first year. Here's what to expect right after your baby arrives.
What Happens Right After Birth?
Your baby's first exam will either happen in the nursery or at your side. It includes:
- measuring weight, length, and head circumference
- taking your baby's temperature
- measuring your baby's breathing and heart rate
- watching skin color and your newborn's activity
- giving eye drops or ointment to prevent eye infections
- giving a vitamin K shot to prevent the possibility of bleeding
Your baby will get a first bath, and the umbilical cord stump will be cleaned. Most hospitals and birthing centers give information to new parents on feeding, bathing, and other important parts of newborn care.
What Happens When the Doctor Visits?
The hospital or birth center where you deliver will notify your child's doctor of the birth. A pediatrician or your baby's doctor will be standing by to take care of the baby if:
- you had any medical problems during pregnancy
- your baby might have a medical problem
- you have a C-section
The doctor you chose for your newborn will examine your baby within 24 hours of birth. This is a good time to ask questions about your baby's care.
A sample of your baby's blood (usually done by pricking the baby's heel) will be screened for some diseases. It's important to diagnose these at birth so treatment can begin right away.
What Happens at the First Office Visit?
Your newborn will have an exam at the doctor's office within 3 to 5 days of birth. During the first office visit, your doctor will check your baby in a few ways. Your doctor will probably:
- measure weight, length, and head circumference
- observe your newborn's vision, hearing, and reflexes
- do a complete physical exam
- ask how you're doing with the new baby and how your baby is eating and sleeping
- talk about what you can expect in the coming month
- discuss your home environment and how it could affect your baby (for example, smoking in the house can harm your baby's health in many ways)
You also might talk about the results of the screening tests done right after birth, if they're ready. Jot down any instructions about special baby care, and bring up your questions or concerns. Keep a medical record for your baby that includes information about growth, immunizations, medicines, and any problems or illnesses.
What About Vaccines?
A baby is born with some natural immunity against infectious diseases. That's because the mother's infection-preventing antibodies are passed through the umbilical cord. This immunity is temporary. But babies will develop their own immunity against many infectious diseases. For instance, breastfed babies get antibodies and enzymes in breast milk that help protect them from some infections and even some allergic conditions.
Infants should get their first shot of the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital within 24 hours of birth. Some newborns need it even sooner (if their mother carries the hepatitis B virus in her blood) and others might need to wait a little longer (if they were born early and had a low birth weight). Babies will get more vaccines in the coming months based on a standard immunization schedule.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call your doctor if you have concerns about your newborn. These problems can be common during this first month:
- One or both tear ducts can get blocked and cause eye problems. Normally the ducts open on their own before too long, usually by the baby's first birthday. But sometimes they stay clogged, which can cause tearing and eye discharge. Call your doctor if you suspect an eye infection.
- Fever in a newborn (rectal temperature above 100.4°F or 38°C) should be reported to your doctor right away.
- A runny nose can make it hard for a baby to breathe well, especially during feeding. You can help ease discomfort by using a rubber bulb aspirator to gently suction mucus from the nose. Call your doctor if you have concerns about your baby's breathing.
- It's normal for newborns to have loose stools (poop) or to spit up after feedings. But very loose and watery stools and forceful vomiting could mean there is a problem. Call your doctor if your baby:
- has diarrhea
- is vomiting
- has signs of dehydration, such as fewer wet diapers, a dry mouth, and being very sluggish or drowsy