Kids grow up quickly, so it’s important to track the health and development of your child as they move through the infant and toddler stages into adolescence. Following the recommended well-child visit schedule is a key step toward helping build a foundation of good overall health and wellness for your child.
A well-child visit is a regular appointment with your child’s doctor or pediatrician that tracks your child’s growth and social, cognitive, and emotional development. These appointments are very different from a sports physical your son or daughter may need for school. Well-child visits offer many benefits and they play an important role in preventing, identifying, and correcting any health concerns.
Your child’s height and weight are recorded during a well-child visit. Then, your child’s provider will compare those numbers to previous measurements. Well-child visits are also a time for the pediatrician to perform a head-to-toe physical exam, which may include checking blood pressure, listening to your child’s heart and lungs, and feeling their abdomen. Screenings may include tests for vision, hearing, and anemia.
Another point to consider is that well-child visits are a time to review and update any necessary vaccinations. Vaccinations play a vital preventive role in keeping your child safe from infectious diseases, including whooping cough, Hepatitis A and B, and measles. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends COVID-19 vaccines for infants and children six months and older.
Well-child visits offer an opportunity for you to ask their pediatrician any questions you have, from car seat safety and child-proofing to mental health and substance use. At these visits you can also discuss how to keep your child safe and healthy. Your child’s provider can go over preventive measures for specific family illnesses and review healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as sleep and eating habits.
The American Academy of Pediatrics worked with Bright Futures, a national health promotion and prevention initiative, to develop a recommended well-child visit schedule. Their schedule also outlines the recommended screenings and assessments that a provider should perform during each appointment. According to this schedule, children should have a well-child appointment as early as three to five days old. The proposed schedule ends at 21 years of age.
The schedule states that for the first 18 months, a child should have an appointment every one to three months. Once a child is three years old, they can switch to annual visits. Even during a pandemic, it’s important to follow the recommended well-child visit schedule.
Well-child visits are a great opportunity for you to support your child’s overall health and well-being. Making the most of these appointments is essential. As your child’s next exam approaches, consider following these simple steps to prepare:
Visit the Bright Futures Resources for Families for additional tools and resources to help you prepare for a well-child visit.