Soon after your baby is born and before both of you are discharged from the hospital, he or she will be given a physical exam. At this point in time, we, as your caregiver, revert back into the “gyn” role and the medical treatment of your baby is passed on from us to your trusted and experienced pediatrician.
At your baby’s first check up the pediatrician will be checking for the normal newborn reflexes; rooting, sucking, grasping, and the startle reflex. Afterwards, the doctor will answer any of your questions or concerns.
An important indication of your baby’s health is its first urination and bowel movement – otherwise known as passing meconium – which typically occurs within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth. Your baby will not be able to leave before then as this ensures the physician that the baby is well-hydrated and the intestinal track is working. At first, the baby’s bowel movement is a dark green or black but will eventually turn into a mustard color (this may occur after every feeding).
Hepatitis B Vaccine:
Hepatitis B medication is offered to your baby at the hospital. All moms are tested for hepatitis B during their pregnancy and depending on their status the baby will receive treatment accordingly. If the mother is a carrier, the baby will get a vaccine and another injection to prevent contracting the virus from the mother upon contact. If the mother is not positive, the baby will only be given the vaccine.
Universal Newborn Screening/Hearing Test:
Your baby will be screened for a wide spectrum of diseases before leaving the hospital. The disease “panel” as its called, varies from state to state. The test is simple, taking a drop of blood from the baby’s heels and the results will be mailed to your pediatrician within the month. Also, your baby may be hooked up a machine to test his or her hearing – but no worries, this will not cause any discomfort to your little one.
Jaundice – most commonly found in Asian babies, boys, and exclusively breastfed babies – is a yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes, which occurs when bilirubin builds up in a baby’s body. Bilirubin, the byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells, is typically rid of naturally by the body through stool and urine. However in some cases, specifically in premature babies, the liver is not mature enough to process the bilirubin or the baby is too dehydrated to pass it through urine. Jaundice is hard to detect in newborns, so all babies are officially screened and tested before they leave the hospital.
Read more about the complications of jaundice if left untreated on page 286 of The Mommy Docs’ Ultimate Guide To Pregnancy And Birth.
Bringing Your Baby Home:
Most hospitals give new moms a video of “childcare 101” that they strongly urge them to watch. They also give out booklets with information and tips about breastfeeding, milk storage, danger signs to be aware of, and when to call your obstetrician or pediatrician.
Your newborn must leave the hospital in a rear-facing car infant seat. Some hospitals will provide seats to new parents but most families purchase it ahead of time. Make sure the car seats are properly installed. For additional information and federal guidelines, please visit the National Highway Traffic And Safety Administration (NHTSA).