By the time you hold your new baby in your arms for the first time, chances are you've already chosen one of the most important people in your little one's early life — a doctor. You and your baby will probably visit the doctor more often during the first year than at any other time.
You may have had a prenatal visit with your baby's doctor-to-be to discuss some specifics, such as when he or she will see your newborn for the first time, office hours and on-call hours, who fills in when your doctor is out of the office, and how the office handles after-hours emergencies. You may have also learned the doctor's views on certain issues.
In this way, you've begun to forge a relationship with your baby's doctor that should last through the bumps, bruises, and midnight fevers to come.
Depending on your desires and the rules of the hospital or birth center where your baby is delivered, the first exam will either take place in the nursery or at your side:
Your baby will be given a first bath, and the umbilical cord stump will be cleaned. Most hospitals and birthing centers provide personal instructions (and sometimes videos) to new parents that cover feeding, bathing, and other important aspects of newborn care.
The hospital or birth center where you deliver will notify your child's doctor of the birth. If you have had any medical problems during pregnancy, if any medical problems for your baby are suspected, or if you are having a C-section, a pediatrician or your baby's doctor will be alerted of the impending birth and be standing by to take care of the baby.
The doctor you have chosen for your newborn will probably give your baby a full physical examination 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 taken to screen for a number of diseases that are important to diagnose at birth so effective treatment can be started promptly. In some cases, a repeat sample to confirm the results will be taken by the baby's doctor soon after going home.
Every newborn should be seen and examined at the doctor's office within 3 to 5 days after birth and within 72 hours after discharge from hospital. But if your baby is sent home less than 48 hours after delivery, your doctor will want your baby to be brought to the office for a check within 48 hours after discharge.
During the first office visit, your doctor will assess your baby in a variety of ways. The first office visit will differ from doctor to doctor, but you can probably expect:
Also, if the results of screening tests performed on your newborn after birth are available, they may be discussed with you. Bring any questions or concerns to the doctor at this time. Jot down any specific instructions given regarding special baby care. Keep a permanent medical record for your baby that includes information about growth, immunizations, medications, and any problems or illnesses.
Babies are born with some natural immunity against infectious diseases because their mothers' infection-preventing antibodies are passed to them through the umbilical cord. This immunity is only temporary, but babies will develop their own immunity against many infectious diseases.
Breastfed babies receive antibodies and enzymes in breast milk that help protect them from some infections and even some allergic conditions.
Infants should get the first shot of the hepatitis B vaccine before they leave the hospital. Since your baby will receive more immunizations over the coming months, you may want to familiarize yourself with the standard immunization schedule.
Don't hesitate to call your doctor if you have concerns about your newborn. Some common difficulties to be aware of during this first month: