Definition and Overview
A 3-7 day well-baby checkup is a visit to a pediatrician during the baby’s first few days outside the hospital. This is usually scheduled after the initial consultation conducted within 48 hours after discharge, depending on the overall condition of the baby.
Babies are at their most vulnerable state during the first few days after birth especially because they are very prone to infections. Meanwhile, parents, especially first-timers, also experience different challenges, particularly since they don’t have medical professionals they can rely on 24/7.
The checkup provides pediatricians (doctors who specialize in natal and childcare) an opportunity to monitor the baby’s health and growth, as well as help the parents cope with the ever-changing needs of babies and dynamics of childcare.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents bring their newborn to their pediatricians within 3 to 5 days after they have left the hospital. In some cases, this may be extended to up to two weeks depending on the overall health and condition of the baby. Regardless, this checkup is very important as it ensures the health of the newborn.
There are also instances when the well-baby checkup becomes more essential, if not mandatory and these include:
- The baby is born pre-term. Also known as preemies, premature babies face extra and tougher challenges than full-term babies. These include lung and breathing problems. The farther the baby is from his due date, the higher the chances that complications may arise.
- The baby has been diagnosed with a medical condition. These may include congenital defects, inherited disorders that have been detected during the prenatal genetic screening and jaundice. As an extra precaution and to plan any necessary treatment, the pediatrician has to see the baby as soon as possible.
- The mother is having a hard time feeding. Newborns get their nourishment from milk. Mothers have a choice between breast or formula milk. Whatever they pick, it’s important they don’t have problems with feeding.
- The baby is undergoing treatment. If the hospital is implementing a treatment protocol before the baby is discharged, the pediatrician will see the baby as soon as possible to check on his progress and recovery.
How Does the Procedure Work?
Before the baby is discharged from the hospital, the pediatrician will inform the parent of the first checkup, which may be within 3 to 7 days (although the common period is 3 to 5 days). Usually, the parents are given a baby booklet by the hospital, which serves as a guide during checkups and immunization.
During the first baby checkup, the parents may be asked to fill out questionnaires, forms, and other papers pertaining to the baby’s health, development, maternal care and insurance. The baby’s statistics like the head circumference, weight and length will then be obtained either by a nurse or the pediatrician.
The pediatrician will also check on the baby’s:
- Behavior – Parents and doctors do not expect major milestones at this age, but babies may already know how to grasp and suck.
- Digestion – Pediatricians often focus on two things during this checkup: feeding and bowel movements. Babies this young should have several nappy changes within the day since they are fed in short intervals (every 2 to 3 hours).
- Sleep – Newborns have erratic sleeping schedules as they are still getting accustomed to their new surroundings. The checkup is also a good opportunity for pediatricians to provide recommendations to avoid serious sleeping problems like SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
- Overall health – This can be accomplished through a physical exam and a series of blood tests.
Possible Risks and Complications
Some parents may be afraid to ask questions or raise concerns, believing they are unnecessary or downright nonsense. However, when it comes to the baby’s health, no question should be dismissed or considered irrelevant. Health practitioners like pediatricians and nurses should promote a healthy discussion with emphasis on the parents’ active participation during every checkup. If necessary, the parent may be provided with a guide sheet or a questionnaire, which can be used to discover health issues of the baby that are previously unknown or have not been brought up by the parents before.
- The American Academy of Pediatricians