Your Baby's Medical Home

How can I get the best health care for my child?

All babies need a "medical home." A medical home is the doctor, nurse, physician's assistant or healthcare team who takes care of your baby's health as he or she grows and develops from an infant to a toddler, to a preschooler, and all throughout childhood and adolescence. A medical home is the place you always bring your baby for a check up or when your baby is sick. And, a medical home is the place where you go with questions and concerns about your baby's health and development.

Health insurance is available for your baby and your older children, too. Children in your family who are 14 years of age or younger are eligible for Medicaid coverage if your family qualifies financially. All Medicaid-eligible children are provided with 12 months of continuous coverage, even if your family's income exceeds eligibility levels during that period.

If you need health insurance to pay for your baby's care, New York State's Child Health Plus program can help.

Child Health Plus pays for:

  • Regular visits to the doctor;
  • Visits to the doctor when your baby is sick;
  • Hospital care for your baby if needed.

To be eligible for Child Health Plus:

  • You and your baby must live in New York State.
  • Your family must either have insurance that doesn't cover your baby's needs or have no health insurance.
  • Your children must be under the age of 19.

To find out more about Child Health Plus, call toll-free 1-800-698-4543.

The best beginning you can give your baby is good health care! Your baby should start getting regular health care right after birth. This includes:

  • A FIRST check-up at birth in the hospital or birthing center.
  • Routine check-ups at 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months and, then, every year, until your child is six years of age.

Your baby's routine check-ups will include:

  • Height, weight and head measurements
  • Vision and hearing tests
  • A check to make sure your baby is developing and growing
  • Physical examinations
  • Shots to keep your baby safe from common illnesses
  • Lead poisoning screening
  • Information for YOU about how to take care of your baby

Ask questions! Your doctor or nurse can help you understand your baby's health and give you advice if you think there is a problem. Remember, your baby's good health DEPENDS ON YOU. And remember, injuries can happen at any age! Ask your doctor what you can do to keep your baby safe.

Always call your doctor or clinic if your baby:

  • Has a very high fever.
  • Has a strange skin rash.
  • Has an injury or bleeding that cannot be stopped by pressure.
  • Has difficulty breathing.
  • Has been vomiting and seems to be in pain.
  • Has diarrhea.
  • Is very cranky or fussy.
  • Looks sick.

Newborn Screening For Health Problems That Need Early Treatment.

Some babies are born with health problems that can harm growth and development. Early treatment can keep babies healthy and further their development.

In New York State, all babies are tested at birth for seven health problems. To do this, a tiny blood sample will be taken from the baby's heel before he or she goes home.

You will get your baby's test results only if there is a problem. You may be asked to have your baby retested. Don't panic. It's more likely a problem with the blood test, not the baby.

Checking Your Baby'S Hearing.

Your baby's ability to hear your voice and other sounds clearly may be affected for a variety of reasons. Doctors can test a baby's full range of hearing to detect problems.

To help detect any hearing problems:

  • Pay attention to your baby's response to sound.
  • If you have concerns, ask your doctor to refer you to someone who can test young infants for hearing impairment.

The sooner hearing loss is detected and treated, the better your child's language development will be. Some hospitals even test babies' hearing in the hospital before they are discharged!

Shots (Immunizations) Are Important To Your Baby's Good Health.

They protect your baby from 10 diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, polio, Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib disease), hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and varicella (chickenpox).

To keep your baby healthy:

  • Make sure you bring your baby for regular check-ups — from the time your baby is born. The first shot your baby should get is the hepatitis B vaccine. Your baby should get a first shot at birth, and "booster shots" in the first few months of life.
  • Other shots will begin at two months of age. Your child will get shots until his or her second birthday.
  • Booster doses of some vaccines must be given to your child before starting kindergarten.
  • Bring your baby's immunization record card to every check-up. Keep the card up to date. Make sure the doctor or nurse fills it out each time your baby gets a shot. You will need this information for your baby to go to day care or school.

Lead Screening Helps Keep Your Baby Safe From Lead Poisoning.

Very young children are curious! They love to explore. But lead poisoning from lead paint, chips and dust, and lead in water, can interfere with growth, harm hearing, lower IQ scores and cause behavioral problems. There are usually no signs or symptoms until a child is seriously ill with lead poisoning. To check for lead poisoning, have a simple blood test for lead at regular appointments around your child's first and second birthdays.

You can get an early start protecting your baby from lead by:

  • Using cold tap water, not hot, to make infant formula. Let the cold water run for at least a minute to remove any lead picked up from the pipes.
  • Using iron-fortified infant formula and cereals for toddlers, to help lower your baby's lead risk.
  • Washing your baby's hands, pacifier and toys often.
  • Being sure your toddler doesn't put paint chips or plaster in his or her mouth, or chew on windowsills or stair rails.
  • Damp mopping floors to remove lead dust.
  • Keeping your toddler out of the house during any home renovations.

Finally - A Special Health Alert!

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant, under one year of age, who seems perfectly healthy. Doctors and nurses don't know what causes SIDS, sometimes known as crib death, but here are some things you can do to make your baby safer:

  • Put your baby on his or her back to sleep. Do this when your baby is being put down for a nap or for the night.
  • Check with your doctor to make sure your baby can sleep on his or her back. Most babies can, but a few babies have health conditions that require them to sleep on their stomachs.
  • Make sure your baby sleeps on a firm mattress or other firm surface. Don't use fluffy blankets or comforters under the baby.
  • When your baby is very young, don't put stuffed toys or pillows in the crib with him or her.
  • Don't allow anyone to smoke around your baby.

For information or support regarding the sudden death of an infant, from any cause, call the New York State Center for Sudden Infant Death at 1-800-336-SIDS (800-336-7437).

When Babies Need Special Medical Care

Even when you get the very best care, things can go wrong. Some babies are born too soon. Some babies are sick when they are born, or they have disabilities. Birth may be a difficult and confusing time - not the joyful, happy time that you expected.

Your baby may have to stay in the hospital for a long time. You may have to leave the hospital without your baby. If there is a problem with your baby, try not to blame yourself or your partner. You need each other.

No matter what the problem, you can learn to take care of your baby. Babies with problems need a lot of love and they can give a lot of love, too. One of the hardest feelings that goes along with a very sick baby is loss of control over your life. Take every step you can to help your baby and yourself:

  • Ask the doctor questions. If you have trouble understanding what's wrong, ask again. Make the doctor explain what's wrong in a way that you can understand.
  • Talk about your feelings with your partner.
  • Talk to other parents who have children with special needs. Look for a support group.
  • If your baby has a serious medical problem, he or she may require expensive medical care or equipment and medication. If you have no health insurance or your insurance is inadequate, help may be available from the Children with Special Health Care Needs Program.
  • Ask your doctor or health care provider about the New York State Early Intervention Program. The statewide Early Intervention Program provides many different types of services to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. The services are free to eligible children and families. And, any child can get a free evaluation if a parent or doctor, or other professional is concerned about his or her development. Early Intervention services include:
    • Evaluation by qualified professionals to find out if children are eligible.
    • Therapeutic and support services, such as family counseling, speech, physical and other therapies.
    • Respite or temporary care for a child with a disability to provide relief to the family and reduce stress.

    Early intervention services can be provided to families at home or anywhere in the community! Early intervention services can help you and your family:

    • Learn the best ways to care for your child.
    • Support and promote your child's development.
    • Include your child in your family and community life.

To find out more about the Early Intervention Program, Children with Special Health Care Needs Program, and other health care services, call the New York State "Growing Up Healthy" 24-hour Hotline at 1-800-522-5006. Ask for the phone number of your county's program. In New York City, call 1-800-577-2229.