There will be a lot of visits to your pediatrician for checkups during your baby's first year. These checkups, or well-child visits, include an evaluation of your baby's growth, development, and feeding habits; a complete physical examination; a discussion of what you should be doing to take care of your baby's needs; and usually some vaccines. Because appointments for well-child visits are planned far in advance, both parents should make every effort to attend. This is especially important in your baby's first months, when it's likely that both mom and dad have a lot of questions.
Recommended Checkup Schedule
Most pediatricians stick to a standard timing schedule for well-child visits as recommended by the AAP. This schedule calls for visits at these ages:
The first visit to the pediatrician is usually well before two weeks though. The AAP recommends that all babies see their pediatrician within three to five days of leaving the newborn nursery to make sure they are feeding well, not losing too much weight, and aren't becoming jaundiced.
What to Expect
At each well-child visit, in addition to a standard history and physical, your pediatrician should have your baby's height, weight, and head circumference recorded and plotted on a growth chart to make sure that he is growing well. It is also important that the exam include a testing of your baby's red reflex, which is part of an eye exam, and a hip check to evaluate for developmental dislocation.
If your pediatrician is leaving out major parts of a traditional well-child visit, such as not measuring his height, weight, or head circumference, or not checking your child's hips or eyes during the physical exam, you might want to change to another doctor.
Other tests will include getting a hematocrit or hemoglobin level to screen for anemia. This test is done sometime during the first year, often at the nine-month checkup. It's likely that your baby also will be either screened or tested for tuberculosis and lead poisoning sometime during his first year of life.
When attending a well-child visit, be prepared to answer the following questions about your baby:
How often is he breastfeeding or taking a bottle of formula?
What new foods have you introduced since the last visit?
What new milestones has your baby picked up, such as rolling over, sitting up, or standing?
How well is he sleeping at night and during naps?
In what position is he sleeping?
Where is he sitting in the car, and in what kind of car seat?
Has he had any reactions to his immunizations?
Are you giving him a vitamin or any other medications?
What concerns do you have about his development?
If your child has a chronic condition, such as asthma or eczema, don't wait until your well visits to talk about them. If you do, it will take away much-needed time for your pediatrician to talk about your child's nutrition, growth, development, and safety. A separate visit to talk about your child's illnesses is usually a better idea.
Be prepared so that your baby's doctor can more easily determine how well your child is doing. Questions you might ask your doctor include which foods to start next, what milestones to watch for, and what things you should avoid doing. (Also see Appendix B for a Well-Child Visit Worksheet that you can take with you to the doctor's office.)