Parents know that they should take their child to a doctor in case they suspect something is wrong with their little one’s health. But visits to a pediatrician are just as important when it comes to marking health and developmental milestones for a baby.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infant and toddler check-ups must be conducted at specific times to measure a baby’s development. They have issued a “periodicity schedule” which includes a timetable of well-child checkups and screenings beginning from the first week of infancy through adolescence. These checkups help mark baby milestones and make sure your child is on track in their first year of life and beyond.
In this post, you’ll find a brief overview of these important developmental milestones to ensure your baby is growing at a healthy rate.
What Is a Well-Child Visit?
Young children need to go to a nurse practitioner or pediatrician for multiple well-child visits during the first four years of their life. These visits involve a doctor or nurse practitioner checking your child over to make sure they are healthy and developing as anticipated.
It is similar to your annual physical, but instead of every year, your baby needs to go in for these health assessments every few weeks since they are growing so rapidly. During these visits, the doctor or nurse can help catch any problems regarding the child’s development early, when they might be easier to treat. You can also ask about your child’s sleeping habits, eating habits, and behavior during these appointments.
Here is what you can expect from each of these visits:
Wellness Checkup #1: Three to Seven Days Old
It’s recommended that all babies who are breastfeeding, firstborn, or who are at an increased risk for jaundice be seen by a doctor at 3 to 7 days of life. This is the time when your baby will receive the Hepatitis B vaccine (if they didn’t get it in the hospital within 24 hours of birth).
At this checkup, the pediatrician will take a look at the results of two screenings – blood and hearing – that all newborns receive in the hospital. Based on these results, the doctor may order additional screenings or refer you to a specialist.
Their weight and height will also be measured during this appointment to ensure your infant’s development is on track.
Wellness Checkup #2: One Month Old
It’s time for your baby to receive the second dose of Hepatitis B vaccines. While most babies receive this dosage during their first month, some may get it at the 2-month checkup. Your pediatrician will again weigh and measure your baby and perform a physical exam. You may be asked about how well your infant is eating and their feeding schedule.
They may also ask about how you are feeling. If you have been feeling sad, anxious, or anything else, know that you are not alone and your pediatrician can help.
Wellness Checkup #3: Two Months Old
Another major milestone in the baby’s first year is when they turn 2 months old. During this checkup, they will receive vaccinations for disease control of 7–8 different illnesses such as rotavirus vaccine, inactivated polio vaccine, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, haemophilus influenza type V vaccine, and the diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis vaccine, among others.
New parents often get intimidated by the sheer number of shots given to their baby at once, but please know that this is completely safe and normal. Also, the doctors sometimes combine these shots so there’s less pricking.
Wellness Checkup #4: Four Months Old
As your baby’s growth continues, their doctor will check their behavioral and psychosocial development in addition to the physical one.
This is also the time for second doses of vaccines mentioned above (at two months old). They may also receive a blood screening to catch any early signs of anemia. You may be asked whether your baby is drinking anything other than breast milk or iron-fortified baby formula, as it can lead to anemia.
Some babies begin to hold their head steady without support and recognize familiar sounds by the age of 4 months, so the doctor may ask you questions about that as well.
Wellness Checkup #5: Six Months Old
Both the AAP and CDC recommend the seasonal flu shot for kids 6 months of age and older. If your child’s pediatrician has the flu vaccine available, make sure to ask them to administer it to your baby. Also, most infants and children up to 8 years old who are getting their flu shot for the first time need two doses, 4 weeks apart. If your baby gets their first dose at this appointment, be sure to follow up with their second dose.
Most babies develop their first tooth around 6 months, so the doctor may also apply fluoride varnish to that first tooth and refer your child to the dentist. The ability of your little one to grab hand toys and differentiate facial expressions is supposed to develop in the first 6 months, so if you have any questions about that, feel free to ask the doctor.
Wellness Checkup #6: Nine Months Old
By this time you may have reached other important baby milestones, for example, your baby may have started staying in a sitting position by themselves or even started crawling. Your pediatrician can guide you through what to expect as they become more active.
In addition to all the routine weight and height checks, the doctor will be looking at your baby’s gums for signs of teeth. While most babies get their first tooth at around 6 months, some might be latecomers as they all grow at a different pace.
At this age, many babies are laughing, babbling, interacting with themselves in the mirror, rolling over in both directions, bringing stuff to their mouth, and playing with their toes. They are also starting to munch on finger foods around 8–9 months.
Again, keep in mind that children develop at their own pace and every baby is unique. But if you still have any concerns about your baby’s milestones talk to the doctor.
Wellness Check #7: Milestone Baby’s First Year (12 Months Old)
By this time your toddler is probably able to identify familiar objects and are standing and walking on their own while holding onto something (or someone). Some babies reach this milestone at around 15–18 months or even later so there’s nothing to worry about if your tot baby is a little late.
During this wellness check, your baby may receive vaccines for chickenpox, Hepatitis A, measles, mumps and rubella. They may also be due for a booster shot for earlier immunizations. Based on your child’s health and any risk factors, the doctor may also test their blood pressure, vision, hearing, upper body strength, hands and knees position, and blood lead level.
First birthday is one of the important milestones for babies. They would generally be responding to simple verbal requests, simple commands, familiar faces, simple gestures, and have some hand-eye coordination at one year mark. At this time, the pediatrics medical director or their team may identify any developmental delays.
Why Well-Child Visits Are Crucial at Major Milestones
As you can see, during these visits, your baby’s doctor checks them over from head to toe for certain milestones, which can be helpful in many ways:
They Help Prevent Illness
Your baby receives much-needed vaccines during these visits, plus, the pediatrician makes sure they are getting sufficient nutrition and sleep which is paramount in preventing a lot of diseases and disorders in babies.
For example, lack of sleep can lead to a poor immune system and developmental disabilities later on. If your baby is not sleeping as much as they should, or they seem unable to recognize familiar people even by the age of 12 months, your doctor will be able to identify the cause and recommend the best course of action.
They Help Track Physical Growth Milestones
As they continue to grow older, babies learn how to behave, how to identify objects correctly, how to respond to stimuli like bright lights and loud sounds, how to grasp toys and other small objects, and so on. If your child is not reaching these certain milestones by the time they are supposed to, their doctor can tell you exactly why that is and take appropriate measures.
They Help Answer Your Important Questions
You probably have a long list of questions regarding your child’s eating, sleeping, behavior, cognitive milestones, birth defects, etc. The regular wellness checks are an excellent time to get all these concerns addressed.
Your baby’s doctor not only keeps track of their health, but can also help you with a variety of other issues such as how to handle separation anxiety, how to cope with postpartum depression, and more.
Schedule a Well-Child Visit Today
Vaccinations are just one reason to take your child to visit a doctor. At VNA Health Care, we provide detailed medical examinations for infants and children, which also include:
Vision and hearing checks
Routine blood tests (when necessary)
Developmental screenings for learning disabilities, speech delay, and autism
Screening for anxiety and depression
Referrals to specialty care (when necessary)
A time to ask any questions you may have