During these frequently-scheduled “well-baby” visits, your
pediatrician focuses on your child’s development, not on treating
All parents understand the need to see a pediatrician when their babies
are sick. But new moms and dads should be prepared for more frequent trips
to the pediatrician than they may have anticipated. This is because pediatrician
visits are just as important for healthy babies as for those who are ailing.
Even babies who seem perfectly healthy go to the doctor a lot. That’s
because the first two years of a baby’s life are of prime importance
in terms of growth and development, and a pediatrician must keep very
close tabs on the baby’s progress. Parents can plan on spending
more time in the doctor’s office during those two years than they
ever will again.
The first exam should happen 24 to 48 hours after a newborn leaves the
hospital. Follow up visits are usually scheduled at two weeks, then at
1, 2, 4, 6, 9 and 12 months of age. These early appointments, that are
unrelated to specific illness, are called well-baby visits.
What happens during a well-baby visit?
During a well-baby visit, your pediatrician will want to make sure that
your baby’s weight, growth and development are advancing normally.
The doctor will check to see that your baby is eating and sleeping properly,
and look for problems like jaundice, heart murmurs or other difficulties
which may not be apparent in the first few days of life.
Your baby will also be thoroughly
examined for abnormalities of the liver, kidneys and spleen, lungs, eyes, ears
and mouth. The skin will be checked for birthmarks or rashes, and the
size and shape of the head, neck, collarbone, hips and legs will be checked
as well. Every detail of your baby’s development will be entered
into his or her chart.
Besides these critical examinations, well-baby visits are valuable for
helping you understand and prepare for the next stages of development,
and to get answers to any questions you may have as a parent. And since
he or she is doing the exam without the distraction of treating an illness,
you and your pediatrician can focus more on your baby’s wellness together.
Why is it necessary to have such frequent exams?
Your baby's body and mind are changing at a very rapid pace, and frequent
checkups can quickly uncover anything that doesn’t seem normal.
And it is much more advantageous to detect problems early, because they
are that much easier to resolve. Finally, these regular visits will coincide
with the schedule of immunization shots your child will be given: vaccines
for whooping cough, measles, mumps and other diseases.
How should parents prepare for well-baby visits?
Consider preparing a list of questions before your baby's visit. It's
often handy to write the list down so you don't forget anything. Topics
to think about are developmental milestones, nutrition, safety and your
family’s emotional well-being. Your doctor should be able to give
you good advice on these and other topics. For examples, check out the
health guidelines for well-child care, called Bright Futures, provided by the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
These guidelines can provide food for thought about what you may want to
ask about during your baby's visit; but remember, well-baby visits
are the best times to bring up any questions and concerns you have –
before there’s a problem. These visits help you and your baby's
pediatrician get to know each other better, helping make you a great team
in support of your baby's health.
Wilfredo Alejo, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Jude Heritage Medical Group.
Do you have any tips for new parents? Share your story in the comments.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.