Baby visit to doctor

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From the first few days of life all the way through to age 21, your child will have regular appointments with her healthcare provider. These are often referred to as well-baby visits or well-child checkups. Initially, they will happen every few months or so, but later on they will happen annually. Learn why well-child checkups are important, what the typical schedule is, and how to get the most out of each visit.

Well-Child Checkup Schedule

Well-child checkups are crucial for keeping your little one healthy and safe as she grows and develops. Below you will find the standard schedule of well-child checkups for the first three years, along with a few examples of what may come up during each checkup. Beginning at age 3, most children will have annual well-child visits. Keep in mind that your child’s healthcare provider may recommend additional visits, and you can always schedule an extra visit between appointments if your little one needs medical care.

The First Week

This visit usually happens within 72 hours of your newborn being home—usually when your baby is about 3 to 5 days old. As part of this checkup your child’s skin color may be checked for signs of jaundice. Your child’s provider may also take a peek inside your newborn’s mouth for signs of tongue-tie. If you are breastfeeding, your little one’s provider can answer any questions you have about latch or sore nipples, for example. The provider may also be able to recommend a lactation consultant for additional help and support.

1 Month Old

During this visit, your child’s healthcare provider may check things like your baby’s reflexes and muscle tone, as well examining the soft spots on your baby’s head called the fontanelles. If there’s something specific you’d like your child’s provider to check, go ahead and mention it. Your baby’s provider may ask you about how feeding is going. For example, you may be asked how much formula you’re offering, or how often you breastfeed your baby. If you’re planning to return to work soon while continuing to breastfeed, your newborn’s provider may give you advice on pumping and storing breast milk. You might also like to use this opportunity to ask how to go about finding good childcare. Use this appointment to ask any questions you have about adjusting to life as a parent. For example, if you suspect you may have postpartum depression or are not recovering as you had hoped after childbirth, bring this up as well. If you’re the dad, you might like to ask about what you can do to bond with your baby.

2 Months Old

At this visit your baby may receive some vaccines, including the DTaP, Hib, and IPV vaccines. Vaccinations will be given at a number of different well-child checkups, so it’s worth taking a look at the immunization schedule or asking your child’s provider for guidance on which vaccines to expect when. Your baby’s heart and lung health may be checked. Your child’s provider will use a stethoscope to listen to your baby’s heartbeats for signs of irregularity, and to listen to your baby’s lungs for signs of breathing difficulties. If your baby has diaper rash, your child’s healthcare provider can recommend ointments or barrier creams for treatment and prevention. Your child’s provider can also let you know about other common baby rashes to keep an eye out for.

4 Months Old

At this visit, your baby’s provider may examine your child's eyes and track her eye movements. Your child’s provider may also move your baby’s legs to check that the joints are developing well, and press gently on your baby’s tummy to check whether the organs are forming well. Sleep is an important part of your baby’s development, and so your child’s healthcare provider may ask about your baby’s daytime and nighttime sleep habits. Your provider may offer advice on naptime and bedtime schedules and how to help your child sleep through the night.

6 Months Old

This month, your child’s healthcare provider may offer pointers on introducing solids and tell you about signs of an allergic reaction to watch for as you introduce new foods one at a time. Your child’s provider can also give you personalized advice on which foods to start with, how to set up healthy eating habits, and how to actually feed your baby solids.

9 Months Old

As your baby’s teeth start erupting, your child’s healthcare provider may check on their growth and recommend a good pediatric dentist in your area. Your baby’s provider can also show you how to care for those first tiny teeth. Other topics that may come up at this checkup include how to wean your baby off the bottle when the time comes, when to start giving cow’s milk, and when to introduce utensils and a sippy cup.

1 Year Old

During this visit your child’s healthcare provider may ask about certain fine and gross motor skills, such whether your child can pull up to a standing position, or walk on his own or with his hand held, or use his finger to point at objects he wants. You might like to ask your child’s healthcare provider about when your little one might start walking, if he isn’t already; what baby proofing measures you should take at home now that your child is getting more mobile; and where to go to get shoes fitted for your child.

15 Months Old

Your child’s healthcare provider may ask about how your toddler’s interpersonal, language, and cognitive skills are coming along. For example, she might ask whether your child is starting to explore more independently, whether he points to common objects when you say their names, and whether he can follow simple instructions like “give the spoon to Daddy.” If you are planning to have another baby soon, you might like to ask the healthcare provider about how to introduce your toddler to the concept of him getting a little brother or sister.

18 Months Old

As your child gets more active and independent you may like to ask your child’s provider about strategies for keeping your child safe in your home environment. This is also a good time to discuss ways to manage your child's behavior and set up age-appropriate rules and boundaries. If your toddler has certain risk factors, the relevant screening tests may be offered at this checkup. For example, screening tests may be recommended for things like hearing, vision, development delays, or autism. Your provider may also bring up the topic of potty training, and go over some of the signs of readiness for potty training.

2 Years Old

Before this visit you may have been wondering about the upcoming “terrible twos” and how you should handle temper tantrums and the inevitable meltdowns at the grocery store. This visit is a great chance to bring up your questions and concerns around how your child’s behavior and personality may be evolving. Your child’s provider will explain what is normal during this stage of development and how to support your child’s growing independence. Preschool could be coming up in the next year or two, and your provider can help you find a preschool that's a good fit for your child.

2 ½ Years Old

Besides the usual checks, one topic that may come up during this visit is potty training. If potty training has begun and isn't going well, or if you're unsure how to get the process started, your provider can offer suggestions. This checkup may also be a great time to talk to your child’s provider about your little one’s temperament and personality. For example, if you have any concerns about how your toddler is interacting with other children, or if your child seems particularly shy, you might like to bring it up to see what advice or reassurance your toddler’s provider can give you.

3 Years Old

During this session your toddler’s healthcare provider may ask you about anything that’s disturbing your child’s sleep, like nightmares, for example, and how to handle other sleep issues. Screen time may also come up. You may talk about how much screen time a 3-year-old should be getting, and what type of programming is good for a child of this age.

What Happens at a Well-Child Visit?

Each visit may be a little different based on your child’s age and stage of development, any specific needs your child has, and the way your child’s healthcare provider does things. However, here are some of the things that typically happen at a well-child visit in the early years:

  • Tracking your child’s growth by measuring her length, weight, and head circumference

  • A physical exam that could include checking your baby’s ears, eyes, mouth, skin, limbs, tummy, and other body parts

  • An assessment of your child's physical development, including her movement and motor skills

  • An evaluation of her emotional and cognitive development; for example, checking that your child is reacting and interacting normally for her age, and is learning appropriately for her age

  • Immunizations may be given

  • Screening tests or other tests may be recommended if needed

  • Your child’s provider may give you advice on feeding and nutrition or recommend extra vitamins or supplements, like vitamin D or iron, if they are needed

  • Your provider may share insights into the next phase of your child’s development. If your child is not developing as expected, the provider will also be able to offer recommendations on treatment or therapies to help your child get back on track.

  • Your child’s healthcare provider will answer any questions you have about parenting or about your child’s health and well-being. No question is too big or too small. You can ask anything from how much your child should be sleeping during the day to when to switch your car seat from rear facing to front facing.

  • Your child’s healthcare provider can give your information about resources in your area, and about how to go about certain things like choosing a good babysitter, finding an affordable pediatric dentist, or selecting the right preschool.

Benefits of the Well-Child Visit

Well-child checkups are invaluable for both you and your child. Here are just some of the benefits of the well-child checks:

  • Spotting issues early. Your child’s healthcare provider will use these visits to keep an eye out for any possible problems so that steps can be taken to get your child back on the right track. As an example, if your little one is gaining too much weight, your provider can give you advice on nutrition so that your child gets back to a healthy weight.

  • Preventing problems. As an example, ensuring your child is immunized against certain childhood diseases helps prevent your child from getting sick with a preventable disease.

  • Getting answers. You might have some questions that aren’t pressing enough to warrant a separate doctor’s visit. Knowing that you have a well-child visit coming up gives you a chance to collect all of your questions and have them answered by a medical professional you trust. Remember, there are no “silly questions” when it comes to your child’s health and well-being.

  • Learning about what’s to come. Your child’s healthcare provider can give you insights and information about the next stage of your child’s development. That means that certain things might be less of surprise when they happen. As an example, your child’s provider might tell you what kind of behavioral changes to expect with the “terrible twos” and how to manage the tantrums that follow.

  • Creating a strong relationship with your child’s healthcare provider. Seeing your child’s provider regularly gives you the chance to build up a rapport. You’ll get to know her during these well-child visits, and she’ll get to know you and your little one. Having a relationship built on trust ensures that you can work as a team for the best outcomes for your child.

How to Make the Most of the Well-Child Visit

There are a few things you can do to ensure you get the most out of your child’s well-child checkups:

  • If it’s workable, schedule the visit for a time when you think your child will be well-rested and well-fed, and try to pick a time when you yourself aren’t rushed. Also, consider how busy your child’s healthcare provider will be. It may be easiest if you can get the first appointment of the day, or one that’s not during “rush hour.”

  • If it’s possible, both parents should be at the first few visits to ensure that you both get to know your child’s healthcare provider and get the same basic information about newborn baby care

  • Pack everything you’ll need like your insurance information, your child’s medical history, and your diaper bag (filled with extra diapers, snacks, and toys)

  • Consider keeping a physical or digital record of what was discussed at each well-child visit. Keep copies of your child’s lab results and evidence of immunizations in the same spot or format as well. Having all this information in one place from the start will make it easier to look back and find the information when you need it. When your child enters preschool or school, you may need to provide documentation of certain medical details.

  • Dress your child in clothes that are easy to remove and put back on. Your little one may be undressed for part of the visit and your child’s healthcare provider may need easy access to give immunizations.

  • Write down any questions you have and take the list with you so you don’t forget anything important. Having a list of questions also allows you to focus on the answers instead of thinking ahead about what to ask next.

  • In between visits, write down observations about your child’s development, including any milestones reached, and jot down your little one's feeding and sleeping schedules. Tracking your baby’s feeding and sleeping schedule on an app or on paper can help you present this information more clearly. The more information you can give your child’s healthcare provider about what’s happening between visits, the better advice your provider can give you about your child’s health, development, and well-being.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • During the first few years, this is the typical well-child visit schedule:

    • The first week
    • 1 month old
    • 2 months old
    • 4 months old
    • 6 months old
    • 9 months old
    • 1 year old
    • 15 months old
    • 18 months old
    • 2 years old
    • 2 ½ years old
    • 3 years old.
  • There’s no one size fits all answer. What happens at each well-child visit will depend on your child’s age and stage of development, any medical issues your child has, what immunizations or screening tests may be needed, as well as what your child’s provider plans for each visit.


    You can, however, expect topics around your child’s growth, health, and development to come up, and that your child’s healthcare provider will try to answer any questions you have about your child’s health and well-being.

  • This is the term used for the regular checkups your child has with his healthcare provider until the age of 21. The visit sometimes goes by the name well-baby checkup, or simply the 4-month checkup as an example.

  • You can ask anything that you’re curious about in terms of your child’s health and development, or even about parenting. Some examples might include:

    • How do I know if my baby is eating enough?
    • How can I burp my baby or relieve gassiness?
    • What's a safe sleep environment for my baby? How many layers of clothing does my baby need when he's sleeping?
    • How long can I be outdoors with my newborn?
    • My baby cries a lot — is it colic? How can I soothe my baby during crying spells?
    • What signs tell me that my newborn needs urgent medical attention?
    • If there is a medical emergency who should I call or where should I take my baby?
    • When exactly will the next well-child visit be scheduled?

The Big Picture

Well-child checkups are important for your child. They allow the healthcare provider to to track your child’s growth and development, give vaccinations or screening tests that are needed, and identify any problems nice and early. By working together, you and your child’s provider can give your child the best possible start in life.

Plus, each well-child visit is a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about your child’s health and parenting in general.

Try not to miss your scheduled well-baby checkups; they can be a wealth of information and an important way to help ensure your child’s happy and healthy development. By taking advantage of these one-on-one sessions with your child’s provider, you may find he becomes less of a “provider” and more of a partner in your parenting journey.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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