Your Baby’s First Year Doctor’s Appointments
When you bring your bundle of joy into the world, it will be hard to keep your eyes off of him — every little movement and change is exciting. You get to witness his development right before your eyes! No one will know him better than you, but it’s important to share the details of those wonderful developments and changes with someone else in your baby’s life — his doctor!
Why Well-Baby Visits Are Important
Taking your newborn to see a pediatrician on a regular basis ensures that she is growing and developing healthily and as expected. Well-baby visits also allow for your baby to receive all the necessary vaccinations she will need to protect her from illnesses.
During your well-baby visits, you’ll get the opportunity to ask your doctor any questions you might have about your little one’s eating, sleeping, and even her pooping patterns. If this is your first baby, you’ll likely have many questions about your newborn’s behavior and growth. The most reliable person to bring these questions to is your baby’s doctor. Don’t be shy; when it comes to making sure your baby is healthy and happy, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
How Often Should You Take Your Baby to the Doctor?
You probably got used to doctor’s office visits during your pregnancy, having to go every few weeks to keep track of development, run tests, and prevent or treat any problems that can occur during the long months of pregnancy. Once you deliver your baby, the same idea applies — you’ll be bringing your little one to the doctor regularly for well-baby visits.
Within the first few days of your newborn’s life, he should have a visit with a pediatrician for a full exam to check on his body functions and alertness. After that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you bring your newborn in for well-baby visits at:
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 24 months
While not every doctor will use this exact schedule, doing well-baby visits on a similarly regular basis like this will allow for your doctor to easily notice, treat, and keep track of any problems that might come up in the first few months of your baby’s life.
What To Expect At Well-Baby Visits
Some appointments will be different from others, but for the most part, you can expect your pediatrician to do the following at your well-baby visits.
Take measurements. The doctor will measure your baby’s length, weight, and head circumference to keep track of how she is growing.
Assess development. To gauge whether your newborn’s development is on track, your doctor will ask you questions about his milestones, like rolling over, sitting up, etc. that are typical for his age range. Your doctor will also want to know about his feeding and sleeping habits.
Do a physical exam. Your doctor will thoroughly check every part of your baby’s little growing body, including the…
- Head, and any soft spots (also known as fontanelles)
- Ears and throat
- Nose and mouth
- Neck and underarms (where the lymph glands are located)
- Hips, legs, arms, and back
- Genitals, for hernias or undescended testicles
- Skin, for birthmarks, rashes, or other irritations
Additionally, at certain well-baby visits, your doctor will want to do some tests and screenings to further understand how your newborn is really doing. These tests might include:
Tuberculosis test. At the 1-month well-baby visit, your doctor might test your baby for TB, an infection that can cause cough, fever, and other problems. The doctor will inject an inactive strain of TB into your baby’s arm. A positive TB result is shown by redness and swelling around the injection site within three days.
Hematocrit or hemoglobin screening. When your baby is 4 months old, her doctor will draw some blood to check for anemia.
Development screening. At the 9-month well-baby visit, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your newborn’s behavior. He may also observe your baby as he plays or moves around to see if he is developing basic skills at the appropriate rate for his age. If your child is at a higher risk for developmental conditions because of preterm birth or family history, you’ll probably have more frequent developmental screenings.
When Should Your Baby Receive Vaccinations?
Certain diseases are much less common in the world thanks to vaccinations. Making sure your child is up to date on all his vaccinations is an easy way to protect him and other children from potentially life-threatening illnesses.
Here is a list of vaccinations your doctor will recommend:
Hepatitis B. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the first vaccine your baby will be given is shortly after her birth. This will be the first of three doses for the hepatitis B vaccine. Infants are more likely than adults to develop long-term infections that can harm their organs, so protecting them from hepatitis B with the vaccination is very important. He should receive his second dose of the hepatitis B vaccine at ages 1-2 months and his third dose between ages 6-18 months.
DTaP. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis are diseases that harm the muscles, lungs, and heart and can all lead to other health problems or death. Your baby will receive his DTaP vaccine at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years.
Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b). Hib is a disease that mostly affects children under the age of five and can cause meningitis, pneumonia, and other infections. The CDC recommends every child receive a Hib vaccination at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
Polio. A disease that once affected 15,000 people in the U.S. every year, polio can cause permanent paralysis and sometimes death. Children should receive a dose of the polio vaccination at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6-18 months, and 4-6 years.
PCV (pneumococcal vaccination). Pneumococcal disease is somewhat common in children but can be particularly deadly for adults. There are two types of pneumococcal disease vaccinations — PVB13 and PPSV23 — and all children should receive a PCV at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months.
Sometimes vaccine reactions can happen. Make sure to tell your doctor about any reactions your baby might have to the vaccines.
Frequent visits to the doctor can be stressful, and it’s hard to see your little one get her first shots, but ensuring the wellness of your newborn is your top priority as a parent. Your baby’s doctor has the same priority for his little patient as well!