While doctor schedules may vary slightly, it is recommended that newborns be checked 3 to 5 days after birth. In Hong Kong parents can either choose public or private healthcare services. In the public sector, your baby’s first medical consultation after being discharged from the hospital is free and available at the Maternal and Child Health Centre of your cluster. In the private sector, you can choose your baby’s doctor – a general practitioner or a pediatrician – who will charge a consultation fee and more if any tests or medication are prescribed. So, what should parents expect at baby’s first doctor visit? We asked Dr. Mei Mei Yip 葉美美醫生, a mother of four, to give us the lowdown on baby’s first medical appointment and how best to prepare for it.
Generally, your baby will undergo a full physical exam in which the doctor will not only check vital signs such as baby’s heart rate, but also jaundice, reflexes, the umbilical cord and your baby’s back, hips and feet. In order to monitor your baby’s growth and development, simple measurements regarding height, weight and head circumference will be charted. A hearing test should have been done in hospital and if not, it will be arranged.
Aside from the physical exam, certain behaviors such as your feeding schedule/habits, sleeping duration and excrement consistency and frequency will be discussed to inform you and your partner on what is normal and what to expect in the coming days/weeks until your next doctor’s appointment.
Your medical family history may also be of importance. Asthma, hay fever, eczema and allergies may become relevant when introducing solids and any history of muscular disease or developmental disorders are relevant to your baby’s development.
Another important topic of discussion will be the available vaccines in Hong Kong and the relevant ones for your baby. Furthermore, your doctor will elaborate on when the vaccination will be administered and discuss any concerns and/or questions you may have on vaccinations.
Screening tests: the heel prick
Neonatal genetic screening, which is also known as metabolic screening, tests for rare but potentially serious disorders. In private hospitals, newborn metabolic screening is done through a blood sample taken from your baby’s heel (the “heel prick”) within the first week of life. Private hospitals may charge a fee for this testing, although some hospitals include it in their maternity packages. Screening is available for more than 20 disorders and if the results are positive, parents are usually informed within two weeks. In public hospitals, cord blood screening for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6DP) deficiency and congenital hypothyroidism has been offered since the 1980s. However, metabolic screening in newborns has only recently been proven to be effective and feasible in the Hong Kong public healthcare system. The Government is currently extending the Newborn Screening for Inborn Errors of Metabolism to three public hospitals: Queen Mary Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Prince of Wales Hospital.
Any concerns you may have
Of course, you can also discuss anything with your doctor about your baby that has not been listed. Don’t be shy! There is no such thing as a silly question! Always go with a list of questions.
Common questions include:
- Why does my baby sneeze so much?
- Why does my baby have so much hiccups?
- Is baby growing enough?
- Am I feeding enough?
- How often should the baby be fed?
- Should I wake baby for a feed?
- How many diapers should be used in one day?
- Is this type of poo normal?
- Is baby sleeping enough or too much?
- How often should I be seeing a doctor?
- How often should the baby be bathed?
- What’s an emergency?
Some practical tips: who and what to bring
- Both mummy and daddy will benefit from coming to learn more about baby.
- You may want to bring another primary care giver such as your helper, or the child’s grandparent.
- Bring everything you would need for a day out: diapers, wipes, bottle of formula or breast milk if applicable, pacifier/dummy, extra set of clothes just in case! You will always need more diapers than expected.
- Dress your baby in something comfortable and easy to take off for the physical examination.
- Take your time and make sure all your questions and concerns are addressed.
Dr. Mei Mei Yip 葉美美醫生 works at OT&P Child Women and Health Clinic, Central. She trained and specialized in pediatrics at the University Pediatrics and Adolescent Unit at Queen Mary Hospital. She became a Member of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, UK in 2006. During this time, she also obtained her Diploma in Child Health and is certified for the Griffiths Mental Development assessment. She gained her Diploma in Advances in Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2014.
 For eligible persons (i.e. that hold a valid HK ID).