You will be invited to take your child for health and developmental checks at set points during the first few years of their life. The first of these checks is carried out by your GP and takes place when your child is six weeks old. The six week health check is comprised of a physical and neurological exam, but there will also be time for you to discuss any concerns you have about your baby or parenting struggles you're experiencing.
The Physical And Neurological Exam
Your GP will give your baby a thorough check over and ask you questions about how they're sleeping and feeding. The physical check includes taking your baby's length, head circumference and weight, which are used to check your baby is growing at a rate that's considered appropriate for their age. Their eyes will be examined to ensure there are no signs of common eye conditions, such as a squint, and your baby isn't showing signs of congenital cataracts. The doctor will listen to their breathing and check their heartrate. Listening to your child's heart allows the doctor to check there are no signs of a heart murmur.
Your baby's abdomen will be examined to ensure other organs, such as the liver, are not in the wrong place and there are no indications your baby has a hernia. Their joints will also be examined, and special attention will be payed to their hip joints, as some babies are born with or can develop hip dysplasia, which is a painful condition that occurs when the ball and socket joints of the hips do not connect as they should. Your doctor can give you advice to reduce the chances of your child developing this condition, such as only using ergonomic baby carriers and slings and avoiding swaddling your baby too tightly.
The neurological exam focuses on muscle tone and social responsiveness. When your baby is six weeks old their spine should still be curved and their head will be in line with their body. Additionally, one side of their body shouldn't show dominance of movement over the other side, and all of their limbs should move freely. Checking your baby's muscle tone can help your doctor determine if they have a neuromuscular condition, such as cerebral palsy. Babies start to develop social responsiveness around the six week mark, so your doctor will check your baby is smiling and able to track your face with their eyes.
Questions And Concerns
The first few weeks with a new baby can be a rollercoaster of emotions and you'll likely be exhausted. It's not unusual to wonder if life at home with this new little person is going as it should, so the six week health check is an ideal time to raise concerns about your baby's behaviours and ask questions about any part of parenting. You may be wondering if all babies cry as much as your child or if your child is sleeping enough or too much for their age. Whatever's on your mind, your doctor will be happy to discuss your concerns.
The six week health check is an important assessment of your baby's health and allows for the early detection and treatment of many underlying conditions. So, if you want your baby to have this check and haven't received an invite to the clinic, contact your child health nurse or GP (like those at Travellers Medical Services).
When you are pregnant it's important not just to eat more than you have been eating previously but also that you are eating the right types of food to make sure that you and the baby stay healthy. Having a healthy diet and not eating the wrong foods can help to keep you feeling comfortable and happy throughout your pregnancy and ensure the best outcomes for you and the baby. This blog has some nutrition advice from parents and health professionals so that you can have a healthy diet throughout you pregnancy journey and includes details on where to get specific advice if you need more help.