During the first couple of years of your baby's life, it is going to feel like you are constantly at the doctor's office. The reason for this is that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that during the first three years of your baby's life your baby should receive at least nine medical checkups. Most of the checkups are going to occur during the first year of your baby's life.
Here are the things that you can expect to happen during your well baby checkups.
Number one: Measurements
This is the first thing that the nurse will do for each of your well baby checkups. They are going to weigh your baby, measure their length, and measure their head circumference. In order to get the most accurate measurements you are going to need to undress your baby so that they are only in a diaper, for the first few checkups you will want to have a blanket handy so that your baby does not get cold.
Once these measurements have been taken, they will be plotted on a growth chart for your baby. This growth chart is going to allow you and your doctor to see how your baby is growing compared to other babies who are the same age. You want to avoid fixing on the percentages though; just because your baby is in a higher percentile than other babies are, that does not mean they are healthier or sicker than other children in that age range. What is important is that your child is growing steadily from one visit to the next.
Number two: Physical Exam
Your doctor is going to do a complete head to tow physical exam on your baby during each checkup. This is the time that you to want to mention any concerns that you might have about your baby and how they are developing. You can also ask that your doctor check out specific areas of the body that are of concern to you more thoroughly. Here is what you can expect during the physical exam:
- Head - they are going to check the soft spots on your baby's head to make sure that they have not started to fuse together too early. The soft spots are gaps in the skull bones that give your baby's brain plenty of room to grow. They do not usually start to disappear until your child is 12 to 18 months old. The doctor is also going to check the shape of your baby's head. If they notice flat spots they will recommend that you alternate the direction that your baby's head faces while they are playing, but you should still put them on their back to sleep.
- Ears -using an otoscope your doctor will check your baby's ears for fluid or infection. Unless you have some type of concern or your doctor has a concern formal hearing tests are not needed at well-baby checkups, instead your doctor might observe how your baby reacts to certain sounds, such as your voice.
- Eyes - your doctor will be looking for blocked tear ducts and eye discharge, which can signal an infection. They will also use an ophthalmoscope to look inside of your baby's eyes. As your baby gets older, they will use a bright light or even a flashlight to grab your baby's attention so they can track your baby's eye movements.
- Mouth -your doctor will usually take a quick look inside their mouth to see if they can see signs of oral thrush, a common yeast infection that is easily treated. As your baby gets older, your doctor will be looking for signs that your baby is teething.
- Skin -During well-baby exams, various skin conditions can be identified, such as birthmarks, rashes, and jaundice. Depending on the skin condition discovered, your doctor would recommend various treatments. Jaundice, a yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes, develops soon after birth and in most cases will disappear on its own within a few weeks. Other cases of jaundice might require light therapy or other treatments.
- Heart and lungs - using a stethoscope your doctor is going to listen to your child's heart and lungs to see if they can detect any abnormal heart sounds or rhythms, they will also be listening for any breathing difficulties that your child has. Majority of heart murmurs that are detected in babies are innocent, but in some cases, a follow-up with a specialist can be recommended.
- Abdomen-your doctor will gently press on your baby's abdomen so that they can detect any tenderness, enlarged organs, or an umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is a piece of intestine or fatty tissue near the navel breaks through the muscular wall of the abdomen, most of them resolve on their own by the time your child is a toddler.
- Hips and legs - your doctor will move your baby's legs to check for dislocation or other problems that are associated with the hip joints.
- Genitalia -your doctor will be checking for tenderness, lumps, or other signs of infection. Your doctor will also be checking for an inguinal hernia, which is a weakness in the abdominal wall. If you have a girl, your doctor will ask about vaginal discharge. If you have a boy, your doctor will check to see if both testes have descended into the scrotum, they will also check that there is no fluid-filled sac around the testes.
Number three: Development
At each checkup, your doctor is going to want to find out about your baby's motor skills, both fine and gross, but they are also going to want to see if your baby's development is on track. To help discover this information your doctor is going to ask you a variety of questions about your baby, what questions they ask is going to depend on how old your baby is. The reason for this is that at certain ages your baby should be doing certain things so this will give your doctor an idea of whether or not your baby's development is on track. Here are some examples of the types of question that your doctor might ask:
- How well does your baby control their head?
- Does your baby imitate your facial expressions and sounds?
- Does your baby put objects into their mouth?
- Does your baby attempt to roll over?
- Can your baby sit up with support?
- Does your baby pull up into a standing position?
- Does your baby use individual fingers to pick up small objects?
Number four: Immunizations
During their well child checkups, your baby is going to need their immunization. What immunizations they need, will depend on how old your baby is, and what immunizations they received when. The doctor will go over the immunizations that are required for your baby, but they will not be the ones administering the immunizations. During the injections comfort your baby as well as you can, sometimes just talking softly to your baby and holding them close is enough to make them feel secure.
Number five: Talking
During this appointment, you and your doctor will spend a lot of time talking about your baby and the things that they are doing. The more you share with your doctor the more they will be able to understand what a normal day is for you and your baby. If they think, things are, off they can recommend you to a specialist, or they can order further tests. Your doctor is also the best place to go for advice on your baby and their development. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have.
Your doctor will also talk to you about safety issues that deal with your baby. Your doctor will talk to you about putting your baby to sleep on their back and the importance of using a rear-facing carseat during the first few visits. As your baby gets older, your doctor will talk to you about childproofing your home, why it is important and tips on what you can do. Your doctor will also talk to you about adding solid foods to your baby's diet, as they get older.