It’s true what they say about kids - they do grow up fast. In a brief span of time, babies learn to walk, talk, eat, play and interact with others. Meanwhile, the body develops seemingly at warp speed. Never again will your little one undergo so many changes in such a short amount of time.
Think of well-child visits as essential pit stops on this momentous journey. Usually parents are reminded as these are the times at which immunizations are given, but there’s much more. With each visit, you and your care provider will track and discuss your child’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social growth - and address any issues as they develop.
During each well-child visit, your provider will:
- Complete a physical exam (heart, lungs, ears, eyes, nose, joints, skin)
- Administer scheduled immunizations
- Assess and discuss growth (height, weight) and development (crawling, walking, talking, feeding, etc.)
- Talk about diet and activity, illness prevention, safety issues, etc.
- Address any questions/concerns you have
The nice thing about well-child visits is they allow you to pause and reflect on your child’s progress. Each visit is geared to what you need to know at that stage of development. You can bring up any problems you’re having, for example – sleeping and eating habits, and receive additional helpful answers and advice. Your provider can also make age-appropriate recommendations about safety, from cabinet locks and choking hazards to proper car seat use and swimming precautions.
Well-child visits are also an opportunity for you and your child to develop a trusting relationship with your providers. Keep in mind, your child will one day advocate for his or her own health. These early visits lay the groundwork for a lifetime of proactive care.
To get the most out of your next well-child visit, talk to others – such as teachers and grandparents – who spend time with your child. Write down any concerns and bring them with you. Ask questions and take notes. The most common refrain heard in exam rooms: “Should I be worried?” Your provider can ease your concerns while providing helpful information, guidance and support.
Your first well-child visit can be as early as two to three days after bringing your baby home. The number of visits decreases with each passing year:
- First year: 1, 2, 4, 6, 9 and 12 months
- Second year: 15, 18 and 24 months
- Third year: 30 and 36 months
- Yearly thereafter
(Dr. Brandon Price is a family medicine physician at CHI St. Alexius Health Mandan Medical Plaza. He received his Doctorate of Osteopathy Degree from Des Moines University in Iowa and completed his family medicine residency at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota.)