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Well-child visits

Definition

Childhood is a time of rapid growth and change. Children have more well-child visits when they are younger. This is because development is faster during these years.

Each visit includes a complete physical exam. At this exam, the health care provider will check the child's growth and development in order to find or prevent problems.

The 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 a good time to focus on your child's wellness. Talking about ways to improve care and prevent problems helps keep your child healthy.

Information

At your well-child visits, you will get information on topics such as:

  • Sleep
  • Safety
  • Childhood diseases
  • What to expect as your child grows

Write down your questions and concerns and bring them with you. This will help you get the most out of the visit.

Your provider will pay special attention to how your child is growing compared to normal developmental milestones. The child's height, weight, and head circumference are recorded on a growth chart. This chart remains part of the child's medical record. Talking about your child's growth is a good place to begin a discussion about your child's general health. Ask your provider 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 provider before the baby is born can be particularly important for:

  • First-time parents.
  • Parents with a high-risk pregnancy.
  • Any parent who has questions about issues such as feeding, circumcision, and general child health issues.

After the baby is born, the next visit should be 2 to 3 days after bringing the baby home (for breastfed babies) or when the baby is 2 to 4 days old (for all babies who are released from a hospital before they are 2 days old). Some providers will delay the visit until the baby is 1 to 2 weeks old for parents who have had babies before.

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 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years
  • 2 1/2 years
  • 3 years
  • Each year after that until age 21

Also, you should call or visit a provider any time your baby or child seems ill or whenever you are worried about your baby's health or development.

RELATED TOPICS

Elements of the physical exam:

Immunization information:

Nutrition advice:

Growth and development schedules:

Preparing a child for an office visit is similar to test and procedure preparation.

Preparation steps differ, depending on the child's age:

References

Hagan JF, Duncan PM. Maximizing children's health: screening, anticipatory guidance, and counseling. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 5.

Kelly DP, Natale MJ. Neurodevelopmental function and dysfunction in the school-age child. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.

Review Date:2/16/2017
Reviewed By:Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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