From the day your child is born until they reach the age of 18, pediatricians want to monitor their growth and development. These doctors appointments are called “well-child” visits. Regular visits with your child’s doctor not only helps keep your child healthy, they also help develop a level of trust that will allow your child a safe person to confide his or her medical concerns as they grow to become adults.
During a well-child visit, the doctor will:
- Check your child’s height and weight against average growth guidelines to make sure your child is growing normally.
- Listen to your child’s heart rate, breathing and check your child’s blood pressure.
- Complete a head to toe physical examination.
- Give any immunizations or vaccinations necessary.
- And give you a chance to ask questions or discuss your child’s development.
Children are also assessed differently based on their age.
At an infant well-child visit doctors will:
- Measure your baby’s head circumference in addition to height and weight.
- Look at your baby’s head, ears, eyes, and mouth.
- Press on your baby’s tummy area to make sure internal organs are not enlarged and the belly button area doesn’t have a hernia.
- Check your baby’s genital area for lumps or signs of infection.
As a toddler, your doctor will be looking for signs of mental, emotional and social development. The well-child visit will include:
- Questions about how your child reacts to strangers.
- Asking about your child’s language, hearing, and social skills.
- Learning about your child and family’s general well-being.
- Questions about your child’s general behavior.
When your child reaches school-age, your doctor will be asking about physical activity and sleep habits in addition to:
- Motor and language skills.
- Asking about your child’s level of independence from parents and family.
- Reading and problem-solving skills.
When your child becomes a teenager, they will be changing in many ways and it will be important to have a doctor that your child is comfortable with. Doctors may ask to speak privately with your child to ask about alcohol or drug use. They will ask about depression and discuss sexual health. As a teen, your child is probably less likely to speak to you directly but will feel more comfortable discussing privately with a doctor. In addition, doctors begin discussions about:
- Sexually transmitted diseases and avoiding unwanted pregnancy.
- Learning about self-exams for breast cancer (if there is a family history).
- Learning about hernias (in boys).
A well-child check is a good time for you to get information from the pediatrician on what to expect in the coming year. You can ask questions about any development or behavioral concerns. Your child’s doctor has a lot of good information and resources to help you keep your child healthy and beyond. They can help you with concerns about your child’s learning at school or whether your child needs the help of a therapist (and good therapists in the area).
As your child grows, the relationship between your pediatrician and your child will also develop. This is important so your child will feel comfortable telling the doctor anything and everything that can help keep him or her happy and healthy.
For more information about child development and well-child visits, check out this information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.