Well-child visits are recommended every few weeks during a baby's first year of life. After that, it is recommended that the child sees their pediatrician every few months, then every year after that. These visits help prevent disease and illness and track developmental progress through growth charts.
Here's what to expect at a well-child visit:
- Physical exam: The pediatrician or family medicine physician will perform a full-body physical exam to check for infections and abnormalities. The skin of the child will be visually checked for jaundice. A stethoscope will be used to check for breathing difficulty and heartbeat regularity. The organs in the abdomen, as well as the genitalia, will be checked for infection or abnormal lumps. The bone structures in the head are lightly examined to make sure that the bones in the skull are forming and joining properly.
- Measurements: During the physical exam, the pediatrician, or family medicine physician, will measure certain areas of the child's body to track development and growth. For example, a special tape will be used to measure the child's head circumference. The child will also be weighed. These measurements are recorded on a growth chart that tracks the child's growth curve. This helps determine if the child is growing normally, and what the child's growth is like compared to other children of a similar age.
- Immunizations: At certain times during the child's growth, it will need vaccines to help protect against disease and illness. Both the CDC and the AAP have released recommended immunization schedules to help parents stay on schedule with vaccinations and disease prevention. Immunizations help boost a child's immune system while protecting against diseases such as tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis B, mumps, chickenpox, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).
The CDC strongly recommends following the immunization schedule listed above. While immunizations may cause mild side effects, these are expected and typically go away quickly. There are many common misconceptions about the risks of vaccination for children, and the dangers of not vaccinating a child against contagious, harmful diseases far outweigh these potential side effects. Studies have shown that vaccines do not cause autism, or sudden infant death syndrome, which are two commonly held misapprehensions about vaccination.
- Motor skills and development: Doctors will check the child's developing motor skills with a few simple tests. This includes checking whether or not a child turns toward sound, and if their eyes follow a certain sight. A doctor may ask about social behaviors (such as imitation of sounds and facial expressions), and skills such as crawling, standing, and reaching.