Knowing some of the things to expect during your child's first checkup will help you prepare better.
There are parents who seem to be a little nervous when it's time for their child's first pediatrician visit. But don't worry, knowing what to expect and being prepared ahead of time can make the most of your child's first doctor's appointment.
Most parents schedule their baby's first doctor's appointment while they are still in the hospital or shortly after they are discharged and back home. When you arrive at the doctor's office, you may also need to fill out some paperwork. Your child's first checkup may take up to 20-25 minutes. However, timing may still vary, depending on your child's overall health and condition.
Ideally, both parents should attend their baby's first visit to the pediatrician. These initial doctor's appointments will enable you and your child's doctor to get to know each other and discuss more information about your baby's overall well-being. Pediatricians are also a valuable resource regarding child care help and assistance, including parent support groups.
Although many pediatricians have various information sheets about the most common concerns of children's health, it is still a good idea to write down questions that you may have before your child's scheduled appointment to avoid forgetting them, especially the important ones.
If you're a single parent or if you're partner cannot attend your child's first doctor's visit, it is highly recommended to get an immediate family member, a friend, or a relative to accompany you. Having someone accompany you and your baby would let your appointment become much easier, especially when you're:
- Discussing with your child's doctor
- Dressing and undressing your child during the physical examination
- Carrying or gathering your child's things, including the diaper bag
- Opening and holding doors
If your parents or your child's grandparents live nearby, they can fulfill this role very well. The purpose of going to these early checkups is to ensure that your child is properly developing and growing without any serious abnormalities.
Read on to know some of the things to expect on your child's first checkup.
What to Expect at Your Child's First Pediatrician Visit
The doctor will specifically check the following:
To record your baby's weight and height, you will be asked to:
- Undress your baby to get his or her weight on an infant scale.
- Put your baby on a flat table with legs straightened to get your baby's height.
There will be a special tape that will be used to measure the size of your baby's head. These measurements are recorded to help monitor your child's growth curve after every visit.
The fontanelles or soft spots on your baby's head should be open and flat for the first few months. The soft spot at the back should be closed when your baby reaches the age of 2-3 months. When your child is around 18 months old, the front spot on your baby's head should already be closed.
A flashlight or a bright object will be used by the doctor to check your child's eyes and eye movements, including your baby's attention.
An internal eye exam may also be performed by the doctor by using a handheld device called an ophthalmoscope. Eye examinations are specifically helpful when it comes to detecting cataracts in babies.
To check if there is any fluid or infection in your baby's ears, a special instrument called an otoscope is used by the doctor to internally inspect both ears. An otoscope also called an auriscope, provides a view of the eardrum and ear canal.
Your child's doctor may also ask you regarding your child's response to sounds. Although hearing tests are performed in the newborn nursery, another test may be done later if the doctor suspects a hearing problem in your child.
Your baby's mouth is also checked by the doctor to look for any signs of infection and/or teething progress later as your child grows.
As part of your baby's physical examination, the doctor will gently press your child's abdomen to check if there are any enlarged organs, tenderness, or unusual masses.
7. Lungs and Heart
A stethoscope will be used by the doctor to listen to your child's lungs and heart, which include the front and back chest of your child.
Through this simple examination, doctors are able to detect if your child has breathing difficulties or has abnormal heart sounds or heart rhythms.
8. Legs and Hips
To detect hip joint problems and dislocation, the legs and hips of your baby will also be checked by the doctor. If a problem exists, early detection is crucial for proper referral and correction of your child's condition.
The doctor will also monitor your child's movements by the time your baby starts to walk. The doctor will make sure that your child's feet and legs are properly aligned with normal movements.
Checking the genital area of your child is also part of the physical examination. The doctor will look for any signs of infection, tenderness, and unusual lumps in the genitalia at each visit.
For baby boys who have undergone circumcision, the doctor will check and make sure that the circumcised penis is properly healing and without any signs of infection. Doctors will also check if a baby boy's testes are down in the scrotum.
10. Developmental Milestones
When it comes to your child's general development, the pediatrician will ask questions, observe, and discuss concerns, especially when your baby starts to roll over, sit up, smile, walk, stand, or use his or her hands.
The doctor will also check your baby's general muscle tone and will test reflexes.
Recommended Schedule for Well-Child Checkups
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended schedule of visits for children starts soon after birth. For well-child checkups, the following schedule is recommended:
- 3-5 days after birth
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
- 12 months old or 1 year old
- 15 months old
- 18 months old
- 24 months old or 2 years old
- 30 months old
- 3 years old
- 4 years old
When a child reaches the age of 4, the recommended well-child visits should be once a year, which includes a physical examination and assessment of the child's development, learning, and behavior.
The following questions may also be asked by your baby's doctor:
- How often is your baby nursing?
- How many wet diapers does your baby have in a day?
- How about your baby's bowel movements, what are they like?
- How is your newborn baby sleeping?
- What position does your baby sleep in?
Questions you may have about nursing or feeding your baby:
- How often should babies be nursed or fed?
- How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
Questions you may have about sleeping:
- Is it safe to put my baby on our bed to sleep?
- What should I do to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)?
Bowen, K. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. Am J Dis Child. 1992;146(8):984–985. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1992.02160200106040