Whether you’re just welcoming baby home or your child is about to start high school, there’s one thing all kids need at least once a year: a visit with their pediatrician. A well-child visit is an opportunity for your child’s doctor to do a physical exam, provide routine vaccinations, and answer any questions you may have. They may conduct vision and hearing screenings, too.
Regular visits also allow your pediatrician to track your child’s development to ensure he or she is meeting milestones, and prevent or detect health issues before they get serious. To benefit from everything your provider can offer, it’s important to keep up with these routine visits.
When should your child visit the doctor?
Well-child visits are scheduled frequently in the first two years of your baby’s life to monitor his or her growth and development.
Beginning at age 2, well-child visits happen just once a year until adolescence. A typical schedule of visits may include appointments at the following ages:
- Infancy: 3 to 5 days old, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months
- Early childhood: 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years
- Middle childhood and adolescence: yearly from age 5 to age 21
“The frequency, especially in the first year, is due to infants’ rapid growth and vaccine schedule. Each visit is scheduled right around the times of the recommended vaccinations,” said Randolph "Randy" Thornton, MD, a pediatrician at Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “If all is well, after the 2-year visit, the appointments become annual, though some doctors like to have a visit at the 2½-year mark, as well.”
Most providers will schedule your child’s next appointment before you leave the office, but you can also use the start of the school year as a reminder that it’s time for a visit.
Why so many?
You may wonder why your healthy child needs to see the provider so often. But as you watch how rapidly your baby grows from infant to toddler to preschooler and beyond, you’ll see how much they change at each stage.
“We want to make sure they’re growing and developing properly,” said Dr. Thornton. “We screen for autism, heart disease, asthma, allergies, and other chronic medical conditions at certain ages. We also check their physical growth, like whether they are gaining weight and growing in height properly.”
Communication between parents and pediatricians is another important part of the well-child visit. Plan to ask about the health and development of your child and bring up any concerns, even if they seem small or insignificant. Your pediatrician will likely ask you and your child questions, too, and give you information relevant to your child's age.
What about the pandemic?
Wondering if you should postpone well-child visits until COVID-19 is under control? Dr. Thornton assures parents that well-child appointments are just as important as a doctor’s visit when they're sick.
“We can do these visits safely in the office,” he said. “When the pandemic first hit last year, there was a huge decrease in routine vaccinations, and that magnified the risk for children getting sick with whooping cough, measles and meningitis. If you don’t attend those well visits and keep vaccinating, children are incredibly susceptible to vaccine-preventable illnesses.”
Regular well-child checkups are the key to good health throughout your child's early years. If you're looking for a pediatrician, you can request an appointment online.