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The top 5 questions asked at a newborn’s first pediatrician visit

Congratulations! You just welcomed a baby into your family! If you’re a brand new parent (or even if you’ve done this before), the first few days with a newborn can be a whirlwind. You’re probably excited, emotional, tired, overwhelmed and have some questions or need a refresher. That’s OK –– our pediatricians are here to help. You’ll usually meet with your pediatrician three to five days after the baby is born, and then again at 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months. It may seem like a lot, but babies are developing quickly and those first months are crucial.

At your first visit, there are many things to discuss and ask your pediatrician. As a pediatrician myself, I’m always excited to meet newborns and their families. Each newborn visit is unique to that family, but often families have similar questions.

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Here are the top five questions I get during newborn visits:

How much crying is normal?

Babies cry. It’s normal, but can be alarming for new parents, especially because sometimes we just don’t know why. It’s common for parents to be concerned about how much crying is normal. Crying may increase during the first six to eight weeks, especially in the late afternoon and early evening, but two to three hours of crying a day in the first three months is considered normal. More than three hours of crying a day may be a cause for concern, especially if this is different or unusual for your child. Your pediatrician wants to know if things change, so please talk to them about your concerns.

How much sleep should a newborn be getting?

Newborns usually sleep 16 to 17 hours a day, but that’s often only for a couple of hours at a time. Many babies wake up every two to four hours, no matter the time of day.

It’s important to ensure your baby is sleeping safely. Remember the ABC’s of sleep — alone, on the back, and in a crib. A-Alone, B-Back, C-Crib. We know it’s hard to resist that snuggle in bed, but following the ABC’s of safe sleep is very important for a healthy baby.

How and how much should I feed my newborn?

For women who wish to breastfeed and are able, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, but that's not always possible. Whether you’re nursing, feeding your baby formula or a combination, talking to your pediatrician is important to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat. 

It’s also important to discuss how to recognize cues of hunger and satiety, whether you should be feeding on demand or following a schedule, and the normal amount of eating depending on your baby’s size and age.

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Often families feel the more a baby eats the better, and every time they fuss or cry it must mean they are hungry. That is not always true. Babies need enough nutrition to grow, but just like everyone, they can eat too much. Signs of eating too much include frequent or large amounts of spit up, rapid weight gain and being fussy after feeding. Talk to your doctor about the right amount of feedings for your baby. Also, consider talking to your doctor before changing baby’s formula. Usually, if you are thinking about changing, it is because something is not going smoothly and your doctor will want to know what that is.

Is that supposed to be in my baby's diaper?

Newborn diapers can look different day to day — stool frequency, color and consistency will change as your baby’s eating changes in those first few days. It will also depend on whether your newborn is drinking breast milk or formula, but once a baby is feeding regularly, they should be gifting you with around eight to ten wet diapers a day.

Ask your pediatrician about the frequency, color and consistency of your newborn’s poops, especially if your baby doesn't seem to be producing many wet diapers. While there can be many acceptable shades, be sure to tell your pediatrician if you see stool that is red, black, or white, since these could signal a medical issue in rare cases.

Many families also notice that after a few weeks it seems as though the baby “strains” or has to “push” hard to poop. Sometimes, they even make grunting noises and turn red in the face. This is very common and normal. Your baby is teaching themselves how to poop. They need to learn what muscle to use and how to respond to the feeling of having to poop. As long as once the poop comes out is it soft and the usual color, all is well. If you have concerns about this, call your doctor.

How should I bathe my baby?

Sponge baths are recommended for newborns until a circumcision or umbilical cord have completely healed (for the umbilical cord, most pediatricians recommend leaving the cord alone, letting it dry and fall off after about one to two weeks). During this time, it’s best to avoid filling up the tub and sponge bathe instead, focusing on the mouth, behind the ears, under the arms, between the toes and the diaper area.

Your pediatrician can help you to determine how often is best for your baby, but it’s usually two or three times a week. They can also discuss which products you should use on your infant's sensitive skin and how to keep your baby safe during bath time.

Most importantly, there is no question about your newborn that is stupid. As pediatricians, we’re here to help and want to make sure you feel you can ask any questions related to having a newborn.