Your baby will have a head to toe examination by a healthcare professional (usually a doctor) within the first three days of birth.
A very similar examination is then undertaken when your baby is around 6 weeks old, usually by your GP. Many doctors will perform this examination at the same time as your baby's first vaccinations. These vaccinations start when your baby is 8 weeks old.
The newborn and six-week examinations are done to check that your baby is healthy and to look for any possible problems that may need further tests or treatment in the future.
What will be checked?
The following checks will usually be carried out:
- Looking into your baby's eyes with a light. This is to look for cataracts and retinoblastoma. This is a rare type of eye cancer.
- Listening to your baby's heart. Your baby's heart is listened to carefully to ensure there are no murmurs present. Murmurs are extra sounds heard alongside the normal heart sounds. This is common in babies, but it can in some cases be a sign of a problem with the structure of the heart. Your baby's pulses in his/her groins are also felt. This gives an indication of your baby's circulation.
- Listening to your baby's lungs. This is done to ensure your baby's lungs sound healthy and clear.
- Examination your baby's tummy (abdomen). This is done to ensure that your baby does not have an enlarged liver or spleen or have any abnormal swellings in their tummy.
- Examination of your baby's hips. This is a test to exclude developmental dysplasia of the hip, which is problem with the way that the hip joint develops.
- Examination of your baby's scrotum (in boys). All boys have their scrotum examined to determine if the testicles (testes) are both in the scrotum. Some babies may have undescended testes at birth and will need to be re-examined when they are a few months older to ensure it does not persist and need treatment.
- Examination of your baby's back. Your doctor may feel your baby's back to see how straight it is.
- Measurement of your baby's head and weight. The measurement around your baby's head and your baby's weight will be measured. This is done if they have not been done recently by another healthcare professional. These measurements are plotted on graphs in your baby's red book and give doctors an indication of your baby's growth.
In the six- to eight-week check you will also be asked general questions about how your baby is developing and also how your baby is feeding. This appointment also gives you an opportunity to ask any questions or voice any concerns you may have about your baby.
Further reading and references
Newborn screening; NHS Choices
Newborn screening; NI Direct Government Services
Your Baby! Tests offered - for babies screened on or after 20th March 2017; NHS Scotland, 2017
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