Chances are you will have many pediatrician visits in your child’s first year. Some first time parents feel anxious about these visits. This isn’t too surprising. After all, few people like going to see the doctor. Having to see a doctor can be stressful especially when most of us just see a doctor when something is wrong. Knowing the reasons and benefits of seeing a doctor, though, can remove that stress almost completely.
In this article we want to help you know what to expect with the pediatrician visits in your child’s first year. The first check of a newborn by a pediatrician should happen in the hospital within 24 hours of birth. After that visit, you will see your child’s doctor often.
Knowing the frequency of those visits and exactly what to expect provides you an opportunity to prepare yourself and your child for the visits. Additionally, you can assist your pediatrician with staying on top of your child’s growth and development. Let’s look first at the frequency of visits to expect and then what to expect throughout those visits.
Number of Visits
Before we dive head first into what your doctor looks for during pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, we should talk briefly about the number of visits. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends at least 5 pediatrician visits in your child’s first year after the first few days after birth. The recommended interval for these visits is at one month, two months, four months, six months, and nine months.
While the number of visits might initially feel overwhelming, soon they become just another part of your regular routine. Additionally, through having regular communication with the pediatrician’s office, staying on top of each visit becomes mostly painless. With working with the doctor’s office, you won’t even think about how often you need to see them.
Now that we have an idea of how many visits you should expect in the first year, let’s talk about what the doctor looks for at the visits. While your pediatrician might approach each visit slightly different, all of these visits will typically include several common elements. Let’s consider some of those elements one by one.
Checking for Growth
First, at each of the pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, your doctor checks for growth. During the first year of life, a baby grows significantly. For this reason, it’s important for both you and your doctor to track this growth and make sure the growth stays on schedule.
A pediatrician will measure your baby’s length and check his or her weight at each visit. The pediatrician will also measure your baby’s head size. All of these measurements help the doctor track how your baby is growing and whether or not there might be any concerns. Your child’s growth can be compared with the standard growth of children in the same age group.
While every child might grow at different rates, your pediatrician will look for certain milestones and indicators in growth. If they see any concern with the rate your child grows, they will discuss those concerns and possible solutions with you at the wellness visits.
Head, Ears, Eyes, and Mouth
Secondly, during the pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, your doctor will normally perform checks on your baby’s head, ears, eyes, and mouth. Since your baby grows and develops so quickly in their first year, your pediatrician will use theses checks to make sure everything is progressing as expected.
During the first few visits, your pediatrician checks your child’s head. They want to see the soft spots in the head start to come together and close. Additionally, your pediatrician looks into your baby’s ears. They want to check for signs of fluid, which might indicate infection. As your child gets older, your pediatrician will ask you about how they respond to sounds to check and see if their hearing is developing normally.
Finally, during pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, your doctor checks your child’s eyes and mouth. Usually, your pediatrician shines a bright light in your child’s eyes and checks how your child responds to light and how well they follow the light. This helps to tell the pediatrician how the eyesight might be developing. The doctor also looks in your child’s mouth to see other signs of possible infection.
Development of Other Body Parts and Functions
In addition to routinely checking your baby’s head, ears, eyes, and mouth, during the pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, your doctor will also check on the development of other body parts and functions. During the initial visits, your doctor uses a stethoscope to check both the heart and lungs. With the stethoscope, the pediatrician can listen and hear an abnormal heartbeat or difficulty with breathing.
The pediatrician also checks your baby’s abdomen. By pressing and feeling on the abdomen, the doctor can get an idea of whether or not any internal organ has become enlarged and check for any tenderness. Additionally, the doctor checks the development of the genitals. For circumcised boys, the pediatrician makes sure the incision has healed properly.
Finally, the pediatrician checks your child’s legs. Through moving the child’s legs, the doctor can detect hip dysplasia or dislocation. As long as the legs are moving normally, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
General Cognitive and Behavioral Development
Another key concern during pediatrician visits in your child’s first year involves your baby’s cognitive and behavioral development. During these early visits, your doctor normally asks questions about certain development milestones. The pediatrician wants to know if the baby has hit certain milestones at home and whether or not development has lagged or progressed as normal.
In talking about milestones, we need to warn parents that milestones normally occur in larger windows of time. Many times parents become concerned because they think something might be wrong with their child if they don’t behave exactly the same way as another child. In reality, all children develop at different rates. Your pediatrician knows and understands this. They want to help check these milestones with you but can also help explain how different stages take longer for some kids than others.
In general, important milestones that your pediatrician wants to see in the first year include smiling, rolling over, tracking objects with their eyes, sitting up, laughing, and starting to crawl among many other things. Your doctor will ask about some of these milestones at each of your visits. Tracking these milestones helps to generally gauge the general growth of your newborn.
Finally, when talking about pediatrician visits in your child’s first year, we have to cover the most dreaded topic: shots. No one likes shots. When it comes to newborn vaccinations, parents hate them more than anything.
Newborns can’t understand what is happening with shots, so to them it’s just a painful experience filled with crying and tears. As parents, though, we understand that shots provide a vital boost to the baby’s developing immune system.
Throughout your child’s first year, they need to get a number of different shots. For some of the first year visits, they may even get several at one time. Each of these shots provides a vital link for developing a robust immune response.
As a parent, you need to educate yourself on what shots your child needs and when. Before you even have your baby, be sure you have an idea of what shots you need to schedule for. Your pediatrician’s office will help you with staying on top of this shot schedule. As you go in for each shot, talk to your pediatrician about the purpose of each vaccination and how it might affect your child’s eating or behavior afterwards.
Shots can be a difficult experience for both baby and parent. Knowing when and why you need each shot, though, can help ease some of the pain. Talk with your pediatrician and work together to stay on top of everything that your baby needs.
Staying on Top of Pediatrician Visits in Your Child’s First Year
You will spend what seems like a lot of time on pediatrician visits in your child’s first year. After all, since your baby grows so quickly in such a short period of time, there is a lot to measure, track, and stay on top of. To help you out with remembering wellness checks, you should try to put reminders for yourself on your email or on a calendar hanging in your home. Many pediatrician offices also can give you phone call reminders in advance of your scheduled dates.
When your child is first born, they will normally see a pediatrician within 24 hours of birth in the hospital. Be sure you connect well with your pediatrician and feel comfortable communicating with them and setting up future appointments. If you don’t have a pediatrician yet, here is a helpful article on what to look for when selecting a pediatrician.
At that first visit or soon after, though, you can set up the first of the many upcoming wellness check visits. At each visit thereafter, you can then set up and arrange for the next one. This way you continually think of and have a plan for the next visit to come.
While few people like visiting the doctor, pediatrician visits in your child’s first year provide a vital link between you and your healthcare provider. Use these opportunities to ask as many questions as possible. Learn to recognize developmental signs and lean on your pediatrician’s experience to learn more about your baby. These visits can provide a great time to connect with your pediatrician and even learn how to be a better parent.