Miller, T. Performing the newborn check, Don't Forget the Bubbles, 2020. Available at:
There are two situations in which you would examine a newborn:
- As part of the newborn screening examination as a “baby check”
- In the emergency department
Both situations are slightly different, but the same structured approach can be applied
Before you begin…gather what you might need
- Examine the baby in a warm, well-lit environment- get a blanket if needs be, or examine in the neonatal resuscitaire if available
- Preferably with parent/ guardian present (if newborn screening exam, if not call parent)
- Tongue depressor
- Ophthalmoscope that works!
- Stethoscope – In NICU/SCBU usually each baby will have their own special stethoscope. If you are using your own, make sure to give it a good wipe before and after use
- Measuring tape for head circumference and a set of weighing scales to examine the baby without the nappy!
- Keep the baby warm by wrapping them in a blanket or rocking the baby
- Auscultate the lungs and heart in mum’s arms or when the baby is settled
- If a newborn is unsettled or crying, consider whether the examination needs to be done at that exact moment. Perhaps suggest that the baby has a feed or a cuddle with mum or dad.
Before you begin
- Introduce yourself with “Hello, my name is…“
- Check the name and DOB on the name band
- Explain to parent/guardian why it is important and what the examination will involve
- Gain consent
- Wash your hands and don gloves!
PS – don’t forget to congratulate mum, it is a really nice touch and makes the parent or guardian feel at ease.
Before the baby cries – Perform these things first!
Assessment of circulation (0:36) – Auscultate the heart rate (all four areas), auscultate the lungs, feel the femoral pulses on both sides
Abdomen (0:48)- Palpate the abdomen for organomegaly, specifically the liver and the spleen. And look for any hernias
Structured assessment – Top to toe (1:14)
General inspection – Look for facial asymmetry and dysmorphic features.
Fontanelle –Palpate the anterior and posterior fontanelles
Ears- Look for skin tags or pits
Mouth – Assess the hard and soft palate. Ideally, you should use a tongue depressor and look directly with a light. Use a gloved finger in the mouth to look at the sucking reflex
*Chest and abdomen as before*
Hands – count the fingers, and look at the creases, assess the grasp reflex
Feet – count the toes, and look at the grasp reflex
Genitalia – Check for hypospadias and feel both testes
Bottom – make sure the anus is patent
STOP – warn parents- what you are going to do and not “I’m going to drop your baby”!!
Head lag (2:30)
Moro reflex (2:42)
Stepping reflex (2:45)
Tone and ventral suspension (2:49)
Spine (2:30) – Look at the sacrum for birthmarks, hairy patches, or for any sacral dimples
Hips (3:04) – Perform Barlow’s and Ortolani’s test to assess for developmental dysplasia of the hip
Pre-and post-ductal saturations (3:12) – right hand for pre-ductal saturations and post-ductal saturations can be either foot
Eyes – Check for the red reflex
TOP TIP! Wrap the baby in a blanket and sit them upwards, the baby should open their eyes and let you get a good look with the ophthalmoscope.
Look at the baby book and plot previous weight measurements and today’s weight on an age-specific growth chart along with the head circumference
This video was created by Bec Packton, Aarani Somaskanthan, Alice Munro, and Izolda Biro with special thanks to Lisa Crouch and baby James. Check out our YouTube channel for more great teaching.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Ear Pits, Skin Tags, and Hearing Loss. AAP Grand Rounds. 2009 Jan 1;21(1):2-.DOI: 10.1542/gr.21-1-2
Assessing for a patent anus in a neonate – Turowski, C., Dingemann, J. & Gillick, J. Delayed diagnosis of imperforate anus: an unacceptable morbidity. Pediatr Surg Int 26, 1083–1086 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00383-010-2691-5
Pre and post ductal saturations – Rüegger, C., Bucher, H.U. & Mieth, R.A. Pulse oximetry in the newborn: Is the left hand pre- or post-ductal?. BMC Pediatr 10, 35 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2431-10-35
Plotting growth chart UK – https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/uk-who-growth-charts-guidance-health-professionals & Plotting growth charts Australia https://www.rch.org.au/childgrowth/Growth_Charts/
Immunisations – DFTB – Immunisation Quick reference
Bibliography and some other approaches
Davies, Cartwright & Inglis, Pocket Notes on Neonatology, 2nd Ed. 2008. Elsevier: Australia
Examination Adapted from; Examination of the Newborn: A Practical Guide. Helen Baston, Heather Durward Pg 3