From the time your child is born until they leave home as young adults, be sure to schedule regular checkups with your child’s health care provider. These visits are an important part of keeping your child healthy and establishing a medical home for him or her.
You should come to view your pediatrician as a valuable partner — one who is available to answer questions, address concerns, and treat unexpected illnesses or injuries when needed.
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When Should You Schedule a Well-Child Visit
Your pediatrician will recommend a series of well-child visits beginning within the first few days of life and extending through the young adult years. The timing for these visits reflects expected milestones for your child, which include growth spurts, developmental stages, and recommended immunizations.
Since children grow and develop so quickly in their first years of life, visits are more frequent during this period. As they approach and reach school age, the visits become less frequent. Of course, visiting the pediatrician’s office often early in your child’s life gives you more opportunities to learn what to expect, ask questions, and help build your parenting skills.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following well-check schedule for the first year of your child’s life.
- 3 to 5 days
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
What Is a Well-Child Visit?
A well-child visit or checkup is an appointment scheduled for your child that focuses on growth, development, and staying healthy. Sometimes it is also about shots and forms — the ones needed to attend daycare or school, participate in sports and activities, or even to learn to drive.
While the specifics change from visit to visit as the child enters different stages of life, the structure of each will be quite similar.
When you first arrive at the office:
- Check-in. Whether you choose an in-person or virtual visit — be sure to let the staff know you have arrived.
- Update your contact information so the office can stay in touch or reach you if needed.
- Receive information about the visit, which may include:
- Information to review about screenings, treatments, or immunizations planned for your visit.
- Questionnaires to complete. Topics may include family history, age-appropriate developmental questions, or other factors that can impact your child’s health. The answers will be reviewed during the visit.
- Learn about office changes, such as new hours, new programs (video visits, online scheduling, specialty care), or upcoming events.
Next, you go into the clinical area or exam room where a nurse or doctor will:
- Weight, height, and head circumference (during infancy). These measurements are plotted on a growth chart to track and watch for steady growth, which is more important than how your child compares to others.
- Your child’s provider will discuss any concerns you may have and review various health topics. Some of this information may be gathered during the check-in process, by other clinical staff, or from reviewing your child’s chart.
- Physical exam
- The doctor will do a head-to-toe exam and they will listen to your child’s heart and lungs. They will also look in the mouth and ears and observe your child’s behavior and acquired developmental skills.
- These may include additional questionnaires, testing such as hearing and vision, or lab work such as blood or urine tests.
- Discuss immunizations and what is expected to be administered per the recommended schedule.
- Offer advice and review next steps
- Answers for questions and recommendations for healthy choices and routines, how/when to start solid foods, approach toilet training, healthy sleep habits, and other questions you might have.
- Guidance on what to expect and safety topics.
- Order testing, medicine management, or follow-up visits as needed.
- Referrals for routine care like dental or vision, or specialty care (if needed) to evaluate or treat identified problems.
Finally, you will check out.
This is the last part of the visit and your chance to wrap up any remaining needs. Don’t forget to pick up any forms that were completed and the after-visit summary. This contains important information from your visit and any instructions that your provider may have added.
This is also a great chance to get more information about recommended testing or referrals, arrange any needed follow-up care. During checkout, be sure to schedule your next well-child visit.
When your child seems ill, don’t wait for a well visit. Contact your pediatrician’s office right away.
American Academy of Pediatrics, Recommendations for Preventative Pediatric Health Care, Link
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Make the Most of Your Child's Visit to the Doctor (Ages 1-4), Link
Healthychildren.org, AAP Schedule of Well-Child Care Visits, Link
Kidshealth.org, Your Child's Checkups, Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Recommended Child and Adolescent Immunization Schedule for ages 18 and younger, United States, 2021, Link
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.