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The complete guide to your baby's checkups

The first year of your baby's life is a time of remarkable growth and development. By the end of the first year, most babies triple their birth weight and grow to around 2 and a half feet tall. Milestones include first steps and progressing from adorable baby talk to "mama" and "dada."

And that's just the stuff you can see from the outside.

To help ensure everything's going smoothly inside during all of these changes, your child will need regular well-child medical checkups. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you'll probably see your child's provider more often in your baby's first year than at any other time in your child's life.

Why are these early visits important?

More frequent visits during the first year of life are needed for many reasons:

  • They allow your child's provider to track baby's growth. This is one of the best ways to detect problems with feeding, health or development early on.
  • Your child will get vaccines. They prepare his or her immune system to fend off diseases such as measles and whooping cough.
  • You'll have a chance to ask questions and get to know your child's provider.

You can also find out about local resources such as child care, support groups and other services.

How often will my child need a checkup?

Your child will have his or her first exam right after birth. They should also see a doctor at three to five days, one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months and 12 months old.

What will happen during each visit?

According to the AAP, at these visits the provider will check your child's:

  • Growth. Your baby's length, weight and head circumference will be measured to see if he or she is growing steadily.
  • Head, ears and eyes. The provider will make sure the soft spots on your child's head are closing normally and will check baby's eyes and ears to see if they are working normally.
  • Mouth. This is a way for providers to spot signs of infection and, as your baby gets older, signs of teething.
  • Heart and lungs. Expect the provider to listen to your baby's heart and lungs to check for abnormal rhythms or breathing problems.
  • Abdomen. By gently pressing on your baby's abdomen, the provider will look for tenderness, unusual growths or unusually large organs.
  • Genitalia. The provider will look for lumps, tenderness or signs of infection. This is especially important for boys who have been circumcised recently. Male babies are also checked to make sure the testicles have descended from the abdomen.
  • Hips and legs. Moving the baby's legs around in the first months and watching the baby walk later on will help the provider check for poor alignment or any dislocations.
  • Development. The provider will ask about your baby's general development and will monitor milestones such as when baby starts to smile, roll over, sit up and walk. The provider will also test reflexes and general muscle tone.

Well-child visits will still be important in the years to come. But these early, more frequent visits give your doctor time to know your little one better from head to toe.

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Reviewed 3/15/2021

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