the top five questions to ask at your newborn visit
by Pediatrician, Dr. Jon Sarnoff
We asked one of our favorite pediatricians, Dr. Jon Sarnoff at Premier Pediatrics, to go over the top 5 questions new parents should be asking their pediatrician during their newborn visit and included his common answers to his patients.
How can I keep myself healthy during these early days?
New parents rightly focus all of their attention on the little miracle they have just created. We always remind new parents that caring for a young baby is a marathon and not a sprint. It is important for a new parent to take care of him/herself so that they can care for their baby effectively. The most important piece of advice I pass on to new parents is to sleep when your baby sleeps. Many parents forgo sleep in order to “get things done” when their newborn goes down for a nap. Although this seems like an appropriate use of time, it ultimately leaves parents in a sleep deficit and unable to be fully present during their baby’s awake time.
When should I start tummy time?
We usually tell families to start tummy time as soon as possible. That having been said, tummy time during the early days should be an organic bonding experience rather than a prescribed rigid activity. I often tell parents to let their infants experience tummy time while lying belly to belly on a parent. Once babies develop better neck control around week four, I start to challenge babies to do tummy time on a harder surface.
What if I feel anxious?
Most parents have been warned about postpartum depression. Postpartum anxiety is an equally common challenge for new parents and must be recognized and addressed. One important red flag that a new parent might be experiencing postpartum anxiety is the inability to sleep when their baby is sleeping. These parents are so nervous about their baby’s well-being that they cannot fall asleep for fear of missing something. If you are experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, it is essential to reach out to your pediatrician or obstetrician. These postpartum mental health challenges can be treated effectively. Mental health therapists are here to help new parents too.
What do I need to know about heading out with a newborn?
There are many different opinions on this question. The most conservative approach is to keep your inside until two weeks after the 2-month vaccines. As with most issues in pediatrics, I think it is better to explain the concerns and then let parents make the ultimate decision based on their comfort level.
First, you should start to go out when you feel comfortable controlling the immediate environment. You feel comfortable changing the baby and feeding in public. You size up a room or a sidewalk and are comfortable that it is not too crowded.
Second, you are aware of the sun and the heat or cold you will encounter. In the summer, you should always try to limit your outdoor activity to the morning and the evening when it is a little cooler. If you have to go out in the middle of the day, make sure you avoid direct sunlight and be prepared to feed a little more often.
Third, cities, like New York where I practice, can be loud places. If you’re venturing out with a sleeping baby, using a portable white noise machine (or even an app on your phone) can help the baby stay asleep when exposed to unexpected loud noises. When possible avoid areas you know will be extremely loud (construction sites etc).
How do I work on development during these early days?
Many eager parents ask about development during the newborn period. Beyond tummy time, we do not give specific activities or exercises during these early days. During the first couple of months, you should be taking care of yourself, bonding through feeding and touch, and learning your baby’s cues and cries rather than thinking about development. That having been said, music, your voice, gentle touch are all ways to introduce your baby to their new world. You won’t have to wait too long to put on your teaching hat, the nervous system develops remarkably quickly and those teachable moments are right around the corner.
Dr. Jon Sarnoff is a pediatrician with Premier Pediatrics in New York City. Dr. Sarnoff completed his pediatric training at Columbia University and was awarded teacher of the year with honors in 2002. He is also a founder of The First Month, an online portal that provides access to pre and postnatal services to better support the entire family as they welcome their new addition. Dr. Sarnoff is on a quest to provide families with everything they need to be successful in the earliest days of parenting.