Taking your child to the doctor for an ear infection or immunization is one thing, but when’s the last time you made an appointment for them to have a true ‘check-up?’
Check-ups with your child’s pediatrician are called well-child or preventative visits, and meant to address concerns about their health, track changes in weight or growth, and answer any questions that have come up since your last visit.
“Well visits are important in monitoring your baby’s development and building a continuous relationship with your pediatrician,” explains Megan Speare, MD, pediatrician with Riddle Pediatric Associates at Riddle Hospital.
In a busy society, visits like these have fallen by the wayside. Instead, parents are finding answers online rather than set aside time to visit their real doctor. But dismissing well visits could be preventing you from getting the health information you need to make the best decisions for your child.
“Your baby’s mind and body are changing at a rapid rate, especially in their first year of life,” says Dr. Speare. “Your doctor is going to be able to provide personalized health advice and make you aware of any medical issues.”
What should I ask during my child’s well visit?
There is no limit to what you can ask your pediatrician. Trouble sleeping? Picky eater? Struggling with potty training? He/she can answer your questions and clue you in to what’s normal, what’s not, and if and when you need to involve another doctor. In between visits, take note of questions you have and jot them down in a place you’ll remember them.
In addition to answering questions about your child’s health, well visits are also meant to measure your child’s development.
“Everything from height and weight to eyes, head and heart are all going to be observed during well visits,” says Dr. Speare.
How often should my baby have a well visit?
You’ll visit the pediatrician often for well visits when your baby is a newborn, as soon as 3-5 days after birth and continuing monthly or bi-monthly until the end of their first year. Your pediatrician will let you know how often you need to come, but most children can begin coming annually, rather than monthly, once they turn three.
What’s the difference between a regular doctor’s visit and a well visit?
“Your typical visit to the pediatrician might leave you feeling rushed,” says Dr. Speare. “You’re there to treat a sickness or address a specific issue. During well visits, you and your pediatrician both know that you’re there to discuss a variety of different issues, and you can both go prepared.”