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Newborn physical examinations

Your baby will have a head to toe examination by a healthcare professional (usually a doctor) within the first three days of birth.

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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.

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What will be checked?

The following checks will usually be carried out:

  • Checking for symmetry of your baby's limbs, hands, feet, fingers and face.

  • 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.

  • Examining your baby's head including their fontanelles (the 'soft spots' on the top of babies' skulls); their face, nose, ears and neck; and their mouth, including their palate (to check for cleft palate).

  • 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 their 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.

  • Checking your baby's skin for birthmarks and rashes, as well as colour and texture.

  • 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 passage (anus) and genitalia. This is to check if they look normal. Your doctor will also want to know about your baby's pooing habits.

  • 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.

  • Check your baby's development. This will include checking their tone to make sure they're not more floppy than would be expected at this age. Your baby will usually be starting to smile and should be starting to recognise you and respond to your voice. They should also be able to hold their head up. All babies develop at different rates so don't worry too much if your baby can't do this, especially if they were born prematurely. Your health visitor or doctor can advise.

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

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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