Preventative care is essential to making sure your child is and remains healthy. During well-visits, a pediatrician tracks growth and development, makes sure the child receives the necessary vaccines, and listens to any questions or concerns the parents might have. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a recommended schedule for well-visits and guidelines on what should be assessed at each one. Infants and toddlers usually make many pediatrician visits; after age three, preventative screenings only need to be performed once a year.
New parents might be surprised by how often pediatricians expect to see their infant. The APP recommends checkups between three and five days, between seven and fourteen days, and again at two months. These checkups are primarily to make sure the baby is eating, growing, and gaining weight. By two months old, babies should begin looking at their parents' faces, cooing, smiling, and turning toward loud sounds. The two-month checkup is also the time for vaccines, and some pediatricians screen mothers for postpartum depression at these visits.
At the four-month checkup, the doctor will administer several vaccines and make sure the baby is continuing to grow and gain weight. He or she will also assess developmental milestones, including spontaneous smiles, babbling and copying sounds, and reaching for toys with one hand. Physically, the infant should be able to hold her head up unsupported, hold and shake a toy, bring things to her mouth, push down with the legs when held up on a firm surface, and may be able to roll from front to back. The doctor will also perform another maternal depression screening.
The six-month checkup is similar to the four-month, with the doctor delivering several more vaccines and ensuring the baby is growing and eating well and assesses more developmental milestones. By six months, the infant should show emotions, look at himself in the mirror, respond to his name, string together vowels and make some consonant sounds, and pass things from hand to hand. He should also be able to roll from back to front and vice versa, sit unsupported, and support his weight when standing, with assistance. A final maternal depression screening is done, too.
At the nine-month visit, the pediatrician continues to make sure the baby is growing, gaining weight, and meeting developmental milestones. By this age, the infant should have a favorite toy and start to be clingy with adults they know and wary of strangers. They understand the word "no," can point to what they want, and babble and make even more sounds. Infants at this age can usually play peek-a-boo, sit up on their own, pull themselves up to standing, and crawl.
At the one-year visit, the doctor again assesses growth and development. In addition to growing and gaining weight, the child should also have reached several developmental milestones, including being shy or nervous with people they don't know, handing you a book when they want you to read to them, following simple one-step directions, saying simple words, and using simple gestures. They can solve simple problems like finding a hidden toy and have often begun walking, either by cruising along the furniture or taking independent steps.
At a year and a half, the frequency of visits has begun to slow down, though some pediatricians recommend a 15-month visit, too. Growth is assessed, as are developmental milestones, including following one-step commands, undressing, scribbling, pointing to named body parts, walking independently, and using a spoon and cup. The APP also recommends a routine autism screening at this visit.
By two years, a child has likely met many developmental milestones. He or she should be more independent, participate in parallel play, and show defiant behavior, such as not doing what they're told. They should say two to four-word sentences and be able to identify simple objects by name. Physically, the child should begin to run, climb up and down stairs while holding on, throw a ball overhand, and draw simple lines and circles. There is another routine autism screening at this checkup, and the child may need more vaccines.
Checkups from age three to age ten are relatively standard. The doctor continues to assess general health and growth and delivers a series of vaccines at the four-year checkup. Developmental milestones are also assessed, as the child can do more things physically and cognitively. Although these checkups are fairly standard, it is still important that the child see their pediatrician once a year.
As children enter the pre-teen and teenage years, checkups change slightly. Their growth and development are still monitored, but the pediatrician also begins to assess for alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, screen for STDs, and screen for depression. Some pediatricians stop seeing adolescents once they reach the age of 18, while others continue seeing patients until they are 21 years old.
Developmental milestones are a big part of essential checkups for children. It's important to remember that all children develop differently, and some may take longer to meet these milestones than others. That said, parents should talk to their child's pediatrician if they notice difficulties with cognitive, physical, or social development. It is especially important to reach out if you notice your child has lost a skill they once had.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.