are a time when parents can check up on their child’s health and make sure
their child is growing and developing normally. Well-child visits usually start
a few days after children are born, and continue until your child turns 18.
How Do I Choose a Doctor for My Child?
There are two kinds
of doctors who treat children:
- A pediatrician takes
care of children when they are born up until they become teenagers. Some
pediatricians have experience with specific diseases, such as pediatric cancer.
- A family physician
(FP) is a doctor who takes care of patients of all ages. Family physicians
are trained to take care of children, but they also have training in other
areas, such as bone health, women’s health, or general internal medicine.
The type of doctor
you choose depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a doctor who can
care for your child through adulthood, you may choose an FP. Or you may decide
you’d rather have a doctor who specializes just in children.
Start looking for
your child’s doctor early, at least three months before your baby is due. Start
by checking which doctors are covered under your insurance policy. Then ask for
recommendations from friends, coworkers, and other healthcare professionals. You
can also research physicians online. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American
Academy of Family Physicians maintain lists of board-certified doctors in your area.
Next, schedule a
prenatal appointment (an appointment before your child is born). A prenatal
appointment is a great time for you to “interview” your selected physician.
During your office visit, consider the following:
- What is the doctor’s personality
- Is the office staff pleasant?
- When is the office open and how
busy is it?
- If your child has an emergency or
you need to contact the office after hours, who would take care of that?
What Happens During a Well-Child Visit?
During a well-child
visit, your doctor will:
- perform a physical exam
- give the child any necessary shots
(immunizations or vaccinations)
- track how your child is growing
- talk about illness prevention,
diet and physical fitness, and health and safety issues
- talk about how to handle
emergencies and sudden illness
Make sure your
doctor isn’t doing all the talking. The well-child visit is your best
opportunity to bring up any worries about your child’s growth and development,
especially if your child is not reaching important milestones. Remember, your
doctor may be an expert in children’s health, but you are the expert on your
Also, don’t be
afraid to ask questions, medical or otherwise. Your child’s doctor can give you
valuable advice on how to promote your child’s learning and development, how to
potty train, tips on playground safety, and more.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Vaccinations are an
important part of your child’s well-child visit. Some parents worry that these
shots can lead to developmental disorders, such as autism. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have done a number of studies on
vaccine use and autism, and they have never found a link between the two.
Vaccines are not only safe, but also play an important role in keeping all
You can check out
the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule.
Is My Child Developing Normally?
Your child’s doctor
will look at your child’s growth and development at each well-child visit. This
includes measuring your child’s weight and height and specific milestones, such
At 6 Months Old
The child should
respond to his or her own name, roll over, and have good hand-eye coordination.
At 1 Year Old
The child should be
able to take a few steps and say simple words, such as “da-da” or “ma-ma.”
At 2 Years Old
The child should be
able to say two- to four-word phrases, be more active, and show signs of being
ready for potty training.
At 4 Years Old
The child should be
social with other children, print some letters and numbers, and have good
Recommended Doctor’s Visits
Academy of Pediatrics has a recommended schedule of visits for children
starting soon after they are born. You should visit a doctor for a well-child
- at 3 to 5 days after birth
- at 1 month old
- at 2 months old
- at 4 months old
- at 6 months old
- at 9 months old
- at 12 months old
- at 15 months old
- at 18 months old
- at 24 months old
- at 30 months old
- at 3 years old
- at 4 years old
After age 4, a
well-child visit should take place every year and should include a physical
exam and a developmental, behavioral, and learning assessment.