Whether you are in the home stretch of your pregnancy or have just given birth, you most probably agree that nothing is more exhilarating than anticipating your baby’s “firsts”: their first cry, first smile, first coo, among many others. However, there’s one other “first” that you need to anticipate, and this is highly essential for ensuring your baby has the healthiest start to life—their first physical exam.
Usually recommended within three to five days after birth, your newborn’s first physical exam is the time when your pediatrician will start monitoring your baby’s growth and development. Your baby’s first wellness visit is also an opportunity for your pediatrician to check for signs of potentially serious problems, so these can be addressed right away. Additionally, it is a great way for you to establish a relationship with your pediatrician, whom you will be working with in the next 18 years.
Here’s some information to give you a basic idea of what to expect at your newborn’s first physical exam.
Your Baby’s Measurements and Head-to-Toe Physical Assessment
There are several routine steps your pediatrician and their staff will take during your appointment that you will eventually get familiar with as you bring your baby in for future well-visits.
Your doctor’s staff will likely start with taking your baby’s temperature as well as the height, weight, and head circumference measurements and plot them on a growth chart to create your newborn’s growth curve.
Your doctor will then do a comprehensive assessment. Outlined below are some specific areas your pediatrician will examine:
- Head- Your pediatrician will palpate your baby’s soft spots (fontanelle) to check if they are sunken or bulging. This helps your pediatrician ascertain that your baby is properly hydrated (a sunken fontanelle indicates dehydration) and assess the pressure inside your baby’s brain.
- Eyes – to test your baby’s vision and examine their eyes to find potential signs that they need greater attention (e.g., drooping eyelid, inflammation, etc.)
- Ears- to check for signs of fluid buildup or infection and observe how your baby responds to sounds.
- Mouth- to examine for any abnormalities, such as tongue-tie (a congenital condition in which the tongue is attached too tightly to the floor of the mouth) and cleft palate, both of which can be corrected eventually with surgery.
- Spine – to check your newborn for signs of spine problems, such as meningitis (potentially deadly infection affecting the fluid and the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and spina bifida (a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly).
- Hands and feet- to assess your baby’s reflexes and screen for neurological problems.
- Hips- to check for dislocation
- Genitalia- If your baby is a boy, his testicles will be assessed to make sure they have descended properly into the scrotal sac. The penis will also be checked for any abnormalities. If your baby is a girl, her vagina, clitoris, and labia will be checked for signs of infection, lumps, or tenderness.
Your pediatrician will administer the hepatitis B shot if your newborn did not receive it before you left the hospital.
Your pediatrician will also inform you about your baby’s vaccination schedule. This is a plan that they follow to ensure your child receives the correct vaccines at a specific age and gets fully protected from diseases that commonly affect certain pediatric age groups.
Discussing Your Child’s Care with Your Pediatrician
Your newborn’s first wellness visit is also a good opportunity for you to ask questions, seek expert advice, and consequently gather as much important information as possible to help you properly care for your baby.
It helps to discuss the following things with your pediatrician:
- Feeding– their recommended brand or type of formula, soothing strategies for colic, frequency of feeds, common breastfeeding problems, etc.
- Bathing- how to keep your baby’s umbilical cord clean, how often to clean it, what to clean it with, which bath products are safe to use, etc.
- Bowel movements and urination- the normal bowel frequency, consistency, amount, and color; and urine output
- Sleeping- sleep positions, whether you need to wake your baby to feed them, the amount of sleep your baby has, etc.
Pediatric Physical Exam in Palm Harbor, Trinity, Westchase, and Lutz, FL
At Children’s Medical Center, our board-certified pediatricians are driven to provide high-quality, comprehensive health care in a compassionate and nurturing environment. As part of that commitment, we offer a vast range of pediatric healthcare services, including physical exams, circumcision, in-office lab tests, sick visits, and routine well-care visits, so you can have your child taken care of in one location.
To schedule an appointment with one of our pediatricians, call our office near you: Palm Harbor office- (727) 787-6335, Westchase office- (813) 891-6501, Trinity office- (727) 376-8404, or Lutz office- (813) 751-3131.