Childhood is a time of rapid growth and change. Your child will have more pediatric well-child visits when they are younger and developing the fastest.
Each visit includes a complete physical examination. At this exam, the health care provider will check the infant or child's growth and development in order to find or prevent problems.
The health care provider will record your child's height, weight, and other important information. Hearing, vision, and other screening tests will be part of some visits.
Even if your child is healthy, well-child visits are important because it is good time to focus on your child’s wellness. This means talking about what is being done well and how it can be improved. Preventive care is important to keep children healthy.
Well-child visits are key times for communication. Expect to be given information about normal development, nutrition, sleep, safety, diseases that are "going around," and other important topics such as what to expect as your child grows up.
Make the most of these visits by writing down important questions and concerns to bring with you.
Special attention is paid to whether the child is meeting normal developmental milestones. The height, weight, and head circumference are recorded on a growth chart, which the health care provider keeps with the child's medical record. This can be a great start for a discussion about your child's health.
Ask your doctor about the body mass index (BMI) curve, which is the most important tool for identifying and preventing obesity.
Your provider will also talk about other wellness topics such as family relationship issues, school, and access to community services.
There are several schedules for routine well-child visits. One schedule, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is given below.
PREVENTIVE HEALTH CARE SCHEDULE
A visit with a health care provider before the baby is born is important for first-time parents, those with high-risk pregnancies, and any other parent who wishes to discuss common issues such as feeding, circumcision, and general questions.
After the baby is born, the next visit should be 2-3 days after bringing the baby home (for breast-fed babies) or when the baby is 2-4 days old (for all babies who are released from a hospital before they are 2 days old). For experienced parents, some health care providers will delay the visit until the baby is 1-2 weeks old.
After that, it is recommended that visits occur at the following ages (your provider may have you add or skip visits depending on your child’s health or your parenting experience):
By 1 month
2 1/2 years
Each year after that until age 21
In addition to these visits, call and visit a health care provider any time your baby or child seems ill or whenever you are worried about your baby's health or development.
Auscultation (listening to heart, breath, and stomach sounds)
Hagan JF, Duncan PM. Maximizing Children’s Health. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011: chap 5.
Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.