Congratulations! You've waited for the last 900 years to meet your baby (it's 900 years, right? That last trimester literally took 900 years, I'm sure of it.) and they're finally here. And now, before you could wrap your mind around their existence, it's time for one of their first milestones: their first visit to the doctor. Things just got real. Sure, you did a ton of reading on pregnancy, but there are so many things to know about baby's first pediatrician visit that haven't even crossed your mind. You don't even know what you don't know, which can be overwhelming and stressful. Don't worry, boo: I've got you covered.
The short answer to, "What do I need to know at my baby's first pediatrician visit?" is, "Not too much." When you're dealing with trained professionals who have very likely dealt with literal generations of clueless, first-time parents, they have the bases covered and you're, for the most part, just along for the ride. In other words, they're doing the heavy lifting here, folks. If all you do is bring the baby, they can still do their jobs. If you're at a good pediatrician's office, everyone from the doctors and nurses to front-desk workers will understand that you're new and you're just learning and you're slightly terrified, and they'll be more than happily to help you out. One does not get into pediatrics, after all, if one does not want to do well by children and families.
Still, there are a number of things that even you, newbie, can do to make this entire visit (not to mention the million and five that will follow in the next couple years) run smoothly and efficiently. Here are just a few suggestions to, at the very least, ease your already-exhausted mind:
Choose Wisely... And Early
Finding a pediatrician should be something you have basically squared away before your baby arrives. Please, don't be like me and have literally no clue where you'll end up taking your kid for their checkups, after your baby is born (#TrueStory). Because that first appointment will come at you fast and so will the second, third, and fourth (more on that in a minute), and the last thing you want to do in a rush is figure out where to bring your child for care. I mean, you're still recovering from the hustle and bustle that was bringing your child into the world.
Things to consider: distance from your residence, hours, and recommendations of friends and family. Oh, and probably make sure said doctor is, like, actually a doctor and not an alligator in a lab coat or whatever. No offense to alligator practitioners, but I just don't trust them with a newborn.
You Will Be Scheduling A Lot Of Appointments, Sooner Than You Think
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following schedule, which will usually be accepted by most insurance companies: 2-5 days after birth (I told you: so fast!), 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years, 2 and a half years, 3 years, and then annually thereafter. In my experience, when you give birth in a hospital, the pediatrician who cares for your child, will prompt you to make an appointment for your baby with your chosen provider.
You Will Need To Bring A Few Things With You
Since this is likely your first outing with your new baby, I will let you in on a little something you probably don't know yet. Remember Patsy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail? He was King Arthur's squire who carried about 700 pounds of equipment on his back and banged coconuts together to simulate the sound of a horse galloping? This is basically you now. Despite their diminutive size, infants require more equipment to go out in public than a pop star diva at the height of their fame. If you were given a booklet to keep track of your baby's medical records at the hospital go ahead and bring that, though you will more likely receive a similar booklet at your first appointment.
Other than that, now and for the next, like, 7,000 months, bring a change of clothes (because your child will inevitably choose to have a massive blow out while out in public) diapers (figure three more than you would initially think you'd need), wipes (remember: they will have a blow out, so bring all the wipes ever), something to store used diapers in (the office doesn't like having stinky baby poo diapers sitting around an otherwise sanitary environment), nursing cover if you use one, bottles and formula if you use those, pacifiers if you use them. Your basically going to be a one-person baby supply store.
If You Don't Have Your Insurance Card For Your Baby Yet, It's Probably Fine
Pediatrician's offices deal with this all the time: don't worry! They know that your baby needs a 2-5 day appointment and getting an insurance card takes a couple weeks. Know your provider, bring your card, and they'll bill appropriately once everything is squared away. Just be sure to bring it along with you as soon as you get it.
You Should Bring A Buddy
Whether that person is your partner, parent, friend, neighbor, it's a good idea to have one person on "baby duty" while the other has the grown-up conversations and make sure everything is discussed that you want discussed. Obviously this isn't always feasible, and if it's not don't worry: your pediatrician is almost certainly used to having a conversation over the cries of an infant or while you're breastfeeding. But if you can sucker someone into going with you. (I mean, if you deem someone lucky enough to go on this exciting journey with you), it's a good thing.
You Don't Have To Worry About Needles
This was simultaneously my biggest concern ("Oh no! My poor itteh bitteh bebbeh is going to need big scary needles!") and my biggest anticipation ("Woo hoo! Vaccines protect my baby from deadly diseases!"). So it was much to my relief and dismay that my child didn't receive any needles until they were between one and two months. Different pediatricians will interpret the CDC immunization guidelines differently (some will even work with parents who request alternative schedules). Regardless, no needles will usually be given at the child's first appointment.
Bring A Pen
Okay, obviously the doctor will have a pen for you, but, still, be prepared to write down everything about 972 times. It's super annoying, especially if your baby is fussy. (This is another reason it's helpful to bring a buddy.)
The Nurse Will See You First
Think of pediatric nurses as being the opening act to the doctor, minus the fact that you sometimes like them just as much or even more than the actual headliner. The nurse will ask you to undress your child, then get their height, weight, head circumference, and may ask you some questions that they will then pass on to the doctor.
Your Baby Is Not Attending A Fashion Show
Speaking to my point above about your baby stripping down to their still very new birthday suit: your baby will spend a good chunk, if not most, of their pediatric appointments basically naked. If you're anything like me, I know you have a whole bunch of adorable newborn outfits that you want to put them in to show off (and to get more than one use out of, since they will outgrow those tiny little clothes in about 45 seconds), but the name of the game here is "utility." You want something you can get your little one in and out of quickly and easily, and the fewer layers the better.
You Will Do A Lot Of Waiting Around
From waiting until all your paperwork is done, to waiting after you fill out the paperwork, to waiting for the nurse, to then waiting for the doctor, to then waiting for the nurse again, if necessary, the whole business is mostly waiting around. Ultimately, it's a good thing, since it means that everyone is paying due attention to all of their patients, but it's still kind of trying. Just take a deep breath and tend to your child as necessary.
Pediatrician Offices Are Germ Factories
Seriously, children are basically just adorable crucibles of germs and filth, so it makes sense that the place where they go when they're sick would be the Grand Palace of Disease. So much so, in fact, that many will ask you to bring your small child with a weaker immune system than most, to a separate waiting area. Convenient, right? Still, be aware that you're going into a cesspool, so bring your antibacterial hand sanitizer and/or wash your hands.
The Doctor Will Be Checking Pretty Much Everything
Your baby will receive a head-to-toe examination. The doctor will check heart, eyes, ears, skin, limbs, reflexes, genitalia, umbilical cord stump, you name it. They will also check for common newborn issues, such as hernias or jaundice.
Don't Stress About Numbers Just Yet
Your baby is still days from their grand entrance at this point, and the great majority of babies lose weight after birth: up to 10% is considered perfectly normal! Most babies do not get back up to their birth weight for another couple weeks. Now is not the time to worry about your baby's height and weight percentiles. Unless your doctor is concerned, you needn't be.
Come Armed With Information About What Goes In And Out Of Your Child
While you don't need to have a detailed spreadsheet of your child's feedings and diaper changes (and if you do: hello my kindred spirit), try to have a decent idea of how much or how often they eat, as well as how frequently they pee and/or poop. You'd be surprised how much a trained professional can tell about a child based on their food entrances and exits. Also, don't get embarrassed if you're asked to describe the poo.
Write Down Questions Ahead Of Time, Because You Will Forget Everything
Because after the hullaballoo of getting out the door with your infant, waiting around for a million years, and answering all of the doctor's questions, the ones you had prepared in the back of your mind will have vanished. Go ahead and try to jot them down so that you don't then have to call your pediatrician for the zillionth time in a week to see if something is normal. (Spoilers: it probably is. Babies are weird and gross AF.)