Your doctor's well-baby examination consists of many different parts, each designed to discern certain information. You may have to watch closely to see the doctor perform each part of the exam because the doctor has probably developed tricks and techniques for making the exam as comfortable for your baby as possible.
While the doctor may just seem to be simply talking to your infant, he or she is carefully checking the baby's skin or eyes. Some doctors like to have the baby on the examination table; others prefer that a parent hold the baby. If you prefer to hold your baby during the examination, most doctors will respect your choice; however, the doctor may require your baby to be on the table during some portions of the exam.
Here are some of the major areas your doctor considers and what he or she looks for:
- General Appearance: cleanliness, problems associated with poor nutrition, alertness
- Skin: good color, rashes, bruises, swelling, condition of hair and nails
- Head: shape, softness of the anterior fontanel (soft spot)
- Eyes: "lazy eye," good movement, light reflexes, vision (when child is old enough to understand)
- Ears: irritation or infection of the ear canals or middle ear
- Nose: congestion, discharge
- Mouth: condition of gums, tongue, throat, tonsils
- Neck: swelling of the thyroid or lymph nodes, mobility
- Heart: rate and rhythm, murmurs
- Lungs: breathing rate and pattern, abnormal noises, air exchange, movement of the chest wall
- Abdomen: bowel sounds (normal stomach gurglings), enlarged organs or tenderness
- Genitals: in girls -- normal appearance of external genitals, redness; in boys -- normal appearance of penis (if circumcised, check that it has healed well; if not, check that foreskin is normal), both testicles in scrotum
- Arms and Legs: normal movement and color, any swelling and discoloration
- Hips: in infants-normal placement in sockets
- Pulses: equal femoral pulses-located in the groin region above each leg
- Muscles: muscle movement and coordination, tone, strength
Doctor visits will be a commonplace, and sometimes scary, thing as your child gets older. But regular medical care will ensure that your child is always healthy and happy.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York. He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn. Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and Growing Up Thin.
Dr. Elizabeth Eden, M.D. is a practicing obstetrician with her own private practice in New York City. She serves as an attending physician at the Tisch Hospital of the New York University Medical Center, as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the New York University School of Medicine.