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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 give 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 had any medical problems during pregnancy, if your baby might have a medical problem, or if you're having a C-section, a pediatrician or your baby's doctor will be standing by to take care of the baby.
The doctor you've chosen for your newborn will give your baby a 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 screened for a number of diseases that are important to diagnose at birth so effective treatment can begin quickly.
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. If your baby is sent home sooner 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.
Your baby's first office visit usually takes place when your baby is 3 days old. During the first office visit, your pediatrician 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 they're ready, the results of screening tests done on your newborn after birth may be discussed with you. Jot down any specific instructions given regarding special baby care, and bring up your questions or concerns. Keep a permanent medical record for your baby that includes information about growth, immunizations, medicines, 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 their first shot of the hepatitis B vaccine in the hospital within 24 hours after birth. Babies will get more vaccines in the coming months based on a standard immunization schedule.
Call your doctor if you have concerns about your newborn. Some common difficulties to be aware of during this first month:
Wondering how often your baby should visit the doctor? What if you have questions between visits
How often you see the doctor in the first 2 months will depend on your baby's health, but most infants are seen at 1 month and again at 2 months for routine care. During these early months, you might have many questions about your baby's health. Most doctors have phone hours when parents can call with routine questions. Don't hesitate to call with your concerns, no matter how minor they might seem.
Of course, if you think your baby could have an illness, don't wait for phone hours — call your doctor immediately. As in the newborn period, illness at this age needs immediate attention.
During routine visits your baby will be checked for growth, development, and feeding, among other things. These regular checkups also let your doctor follow up on any concerns from earlier checkups and are a chance for you to ask questions.
During these early months, your doctor will check your baby's progress and growth. Common parts of a checkup include:
Bring up any questions you have, and write down the answers or specific instructions the doctor gives you. At home, update your baby's medical record, tracking growth and any problems or illnesses.
At 1–2 months old, your baby should receive the second dose of the hepatitis B vaccine (HBV).
At 2 months, your baby will get other immunizations:
Babies at high risk for meningococcal disease, which can lead to bacterial meningitis and other serious conditions, may get the meningococcal vaccine. (Otherwise, the meningococcal vaccine is routinely given at 11–12 years old.)
Vaccines protect against serious childhood illnesses. Vaccines, like any other medicine, may cause reactions (usually mild), such as fever or irritability. Be sure to discuss side effects with your doctor and get guidelines for when to call the office.
Some common medical problems at this age may need a doctor's attention, including:
Again, don't hesitate to contact the doctor's office about any health or behavior concerns.
Babies really begin to show their personality during these months. So you might find yourself talking to your baby's doctor less about sleeping and eating and more about physical and social development.
Most likely your baby will now be seen at 4 months and at 6 months, but your doctor may schedule extra visits to check on any problems found earlier.
Colds and ear infections can become more common at this age, especially in winter. Once babies can reach out and grab objects and start having contact with more people, they can be at increased risk for contagious illnesses, especially if they're in childcare or have older siblings.
Well-baby checkups vary from doctor to doctor, but usually will include:
Bring to the doctor any questions or concerns you may have at this time. Make sure to write down any specific instructions you receive regarding special baby care. Keep updating your child's medical record, listing information on growth and any problems or illnesses.
Immunizations usually given at the 4-month visit:
At the 6-month visit, your baby also may get (depending on the brand of vaccine given, and whether your child has had earlier doses):
Babies at high risk of developing a meningococcal disease, which can lead to bacterial meningitis and other serious conditions, may receive an additional vaccine. (Otherwise, kids usually get the meningococcal vaccine at 11–12 years old.)
Colds and other illnesses are a part of growing up. Your baby is beginning to explore and probably is being exposed to other kids. While it's hard to see your baby fight a stuffy nose or suffer with an ear infection, rest assured that most kids grow out of the frequent-illness stage as they build their immunity.
Meanwhile, these safeguards can help keep your baby well:
Call your doctor if your baby has a fever, is acting sick, refuses to eat, suddenly has trouble sleeping, has diarrhea, or is vomiting.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2018 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by Cook Children's, The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.