You may have had nine months to get ready for your baby’s arrival, but there’s no way to truly prepare yourself for the wonderful, demanding, and sometimes exhausting reality of taking care of a newborn.
For most parents, the first visit to the pediatrician’s office is also their first time out of the house. It’s an important visit, too: young infants need attentive monitoring and care for the first few weeks of life to ensure they’re growing and developing as they should.
Here’s what you can expect during your baby’s newborn care appointment.
A baby is a neonate, or newborn, until they reach their one-month birthday. Developmental changes are rapid — and many important events occur — during this intensive “neonatal” time.
It’s when parent-baby bonding begins and feeding patterns are established; it’s also when many congenital health problems are first noticed and the risk of serious illness from certain infections is higher.
Scheduled during your baby’s first week of life (typically when they’re three to five days old), a newborn care visit includes the following checks:
Your baby’s weight, length, and head circumference are measured to ensure they’re where they should be. Don’t be alarmed if your baby weighs a bit less than they did at birth — it’s normal for a newborn to lose up to 10% of their body weight in the first week, then quickly regain it in the second week.
Your baby will also undergo a thorough head-to-toe physical exam. This includes checking your newborn’s umbilical cord stump and observing their vision, hearing, and reflexes. During the neonatal period, babies’ vision is still a little blurry, and they can only focus on objects at close range.
Most of your baby’s movements at this stage are based on involuntary, inborn reflexes. These include rooting and sucking reflexes, grasping and “stepping” reflexes, and the startle reflex.
All babies undergo two major health screenings just after they’re born, before they leave the hospital. Newborn screenings are done to identify hidden genetic, hormone-related, and metabolic conditions that can affect your baby’s long-term health.
At your baby’s first-week checkup, your pediatrician goes over the results of these preliminary hearing, heart, and blood screenings. Depending on the results, they may rescreen your baby or recommend a referral to a specialist for early intervention care.
Feeding is a top concern for most parents of newborns, whether their baby is breastfed or formula fed. You’ll be asked whether your baby receives breast milk, iron-fortified formula, or a combination of the two; you may also discuss how well your baby latches and suckles.
In the first week of life, your baby is learning to how to eat just as you’re learning how to feed them. Breastfed infants typically nurse eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period, while formula-fed newborns typically consume two to three ounces of formula every three to four hours.
Most babies receive their first dose of the Hepatitis B (HBV) vaccine within 24 hours of their birth. Any newborn who misses this important immunization in the hospital generally receives it at their first-week newborn care visit.
If you’re breastfeeding, your pediatrician will also recommend starting your newborn on a vitamin D supplement to support healthy bone development. Breastmilk contains most of what your baby needs, but it isn’t an adequate source of vitamin D for newborns.
Many new parents also have a lot of questions about how many diapers they should be changing in the first week. It’s perfectly normal for a newborn baby to have a wet, watery poop after every feed. Babies don’t have solid poops until they begin eating solid food.
Newborn poop also changes as the days go by. At first, it looks black and tarry, then it starts to look greenish, and finally it settles into a yellowish-brownish color.
Newborn babies don’t produce the sleep hormone melatonin, and they haven’t yet developed their circadian rhythms. So while they may sleep a lot within a 24-hour period, they’re also awake whenever they happen to be ready for a feed or a diaper change.
In addition to letting you know how your baby’s sleep may change in the coming weeks, your pediatrician will discuss safe infant sleep practices to help you reduce your newborn’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation.
Starting with the first-week newborn care visit, the recommended schedule for well-child visits includes pediatric exams several times during an infant’s first year of life. At the end of your first visit, you can make an appointment for your baby’s next appointment: their one-month check-up.
With offices in West Hills, Pasadena, Van Nuys, Northridge, San Fernando, La Cañada, Arcadia, Whittier, Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Flintridge, Encino, and Santa Clarita, California, we make it easy for parents in the Greater Los Angeles area to access high-quality pediatric care.