What can parents expect during the baby's visits to the pediatrician?
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When it comes to newborns, it’s natural to want to protect them and do what’s best for them. Taking Baby to the doctor’s office is not necessarily at the top of that list. But it should be.
Besides being the best and maybe only way to discover if something under the surface needs attention, well-child checks give you special information about your baby. You’ll not only discover if Baby is developing on target, but you’ll get a chance to ask questions about your baby and even get help for yourself.
During the first few check-ups, Baby will have a head-to-toe examination to make sure everything is working correctly, from eyes and ears to heart and lungs to hip joints and legs. Baby’s measurements will be taken and their weight recorded.
“There are other aspects they need to look at,” said Carina Garcia, Care Team Coordinator at Equality Health. “One, getting their vaccines. Then there are tests that look for delays in social behavior and learning disabilities.”
If this seems like a lot for a newborn to experience, keep in mind this won’t be the first time Baby gets a thorough check-up. Dr. Sherri Onyiego, Equality Health’s Texas Market Medical Director, explained Baby received a thorough exam in the hospital.
“From the time babies are born,” Onyiego said, “like within several hours, they’re starting to go through their first series of tests whether the parents are aware of this or not.”
Onyiego referred to the Newborn Screening Program that each state does. In Arizona, newborns are tested in the hospital for 33 conditions that can affect a child’s health or survival, including hearing loss and heart defects. The screening program has prevented thousands of premature illnesses and deaths each year.
During well-child checks Baby’s health team watches for developmental milestones. These are physical achievements Baby can do by a certain age.
“Is the baby able to support their head,” Onyiego gave examples. “Is the baby able to track mom during their feeding? Is the baby able to grasp something with their fingers? Those are all important developmental milestones that are getting tested during these important well-baby exams.”
When Baby gets older, the well-child checks will also include immunization milestones. As much as you might want to wince at the thought of your baby getting a shot, wouldn’t it be worse for Baby to get a dangerous disease?
“The current diseases going around — COVID-19, monkeypox, polio — they’re all what we call vaccine-preventable illnesses,” Onyiego said. “Quite honestly, I don’t remember ever seeing a case of polio during my training because it was essentially eradicated. Everyone got vaccinations. It’s unfortunate we’re seeing these isolated cases, but again it shows the importance of educating why vaccination is so important.”
Another bonus from Baby’s well-child check is you get to ask questions. Doctors expect this because there is no perfect parent. And they’ll make sure all your questions get answered.
“If we’re doing something wrong with our child,” Garcia said, “maybe we didn’t know. It doesn’t make you a bad parent, you’re just learning. Everybody learns. They won’t keep track of the things you do wrong or judge you regarding them.”
But what the practitioner will want to know is how Mom and Dad are doing. Are you getting what you need?
“If you are not okay, your baby will not be okay,” Garcia said. “Pediatricians will focus on this.”
In other words, you don’t want to neglect your own health or daily needs. You should absolutely feel comfortable in talking about what’s happening in your life, including financial needs. Baby’s pediatrician is a safe person to talk to and can often help.
“The birth of a baby can be an exciting time,” Onyiego said, “but for some it can bring fear and anxiety. Even for some it can create feelings of sadness. New moms can feel a number of those emotions, if not all of them. And it’s a normal process to go through those emotional rollercoasters. But sometimes the sadness continues. Mom has mood swings, she cries, she feels anxious, can’t sleep.
“Feeling sad or depressed after having a baby should not be looked at as a weakness or character flaw for feeling that way,” Onyiego added. “Mental issues, like physical issues, are health issues. It’s all about getting both addressed to have the best outcome. It’s okay to talk about where you’re at because when you don’t, you run the risk that situation may not change or could get worse.”
For more information on how well-child checks can help you and your newborn, visit this month’s Cafecito Time con Equality Health, where moderator Maria Rebozo LaPine’s special guest Dr. Sherri Onyiego shares details.