The rites of new parenthood include feedings, near-constant diaper changes and ever-changing sleep schedules. They also include the wonderful world of pediatric care: experts recommend that babies have 6-8 well-baby visits during the first year. If you’re confused about what to expect at each of the well-baby checks, or why you need so many, you’re not alone. Which is why we put together this list with new parents like you in mind. Read on to find out what to expect from each doctor’s appointment, what you should bring and how to get the most of your visit.

photo: iStock

What Happens at a Well-Baby Doctor Appointment

Each appointment will vary depending on baby’s age, but there are certain things you can expect from most of your pediatrician appointments that first year:

Measurement of your baby’s height, weight and head circumference to monitor your child’s growth curve

A head-to-toe physical exam, including an assessment of your baby’s eyes, ears (and hearing), mouth, neck, skin, heart, lungs, abdomen, hips, genitalia and legs

A discussion of your child’s physical and cognitive development

Vaccinations, at most visits, if you’ve chosen them to protect your child against life-threatening diseases

Time for you to ask questions and bring up any concerns

What to Bring with You

Reference documents: driver’s license, insurance card, hospital documents from baby’s birth, information about family members’ health history and allergies

Baby necessities: burp cloths, extra diapers and wipes (the doctor will remove baby’s diaper), hand wipes, baby bottle or breastfeeding gear, a blanket in case baby gets cold after you take off their clothes, a lovey or favorite stuffed animal

Mom necessities: an extra shirt in case of spit-up, water and a snack in case you have to wait for the doctor. Once your baby is eating solids, bring snacks for them.

Questions: Keep a list on your phone or in a small notebook in your diaper bag so you can add questions when you think of them. Bring a printed version to your appointment so you don’t forget anything and can write down the doctor’s answers.

photo: iStock

Day 3-5 Well-Baby Visit

In the first week of your child’s life, pediatricians will do a physical exam; measure baby’s height, weight and head circumference; and observe baby’s behavior, reactions and reflexes.

Don’t sweat it: It’s common for babies to lose some body weight after birth. They typically gain it back by the time they hit two weeks old. As your doctor tracks your child's physical growth and tells you which percentile they're in, remember that the actual numbers and percentages are usually less important than whether your child is growing steadily along their curve.

Topics to discuss:

SIDS and creating a safe sleep environment

How often and how much your child eats

How frequent are the wet diapers and bowel movements, and what do bowel movement look like

Your child’s growth curve

 

1-Month Well-Baby Visit

At this visit, in addition to taking measurements, doing a physical exam and checking development, your doctor may give your child a second hepatitis B shot (they received the first right after birth).

Don’t sweat it: It’s normal for your child (and you!) to cry when they get shots. Shots are typically done at the end of the visit so you can comfort your child with cuddles or nursing before you leave.

Topics to discuss:

If your child is inconsolable in the evenings (aka the witching hours), what you can do about it

If your child is dealing with diaper rashes, baby acne or cradle cap, the doctor can give you advice on how to soothe these conditions

How often you are doing tummy time

Whether your child needs vitamin D drops

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child feeds

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and what bowel movements look like. Hard, dry poop could indicate constipation, and mucousy, soft stools can signal a food intolerance.

photo: iStock

2-Month Well-Baby Visit

Your child will likely receive immunizations at this visit, in addition to the items mentioned above. The doctor will also check your baby’s head control and posture.

Don’t sweat it: Some babies feel discomfort in the day or two after shots, so be prepared to notice a change in your child’s behavior and energy level, and to offer extra cuddles.

Topics to discuss:

If your child is dealing with colic, constipation, diaper rashes, baby acne, reflux, sleep or feeding issues, the doctor can give you advice

Whether your child needs vitamin D drops

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child feeds

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and what bowel movements look like

Whether your baby smiles yet

How you would characterize your baby’s temperament. If your child seems weepy, restless or uncomfortable, your doctor can explore possible causes

How you’re feeling. If you’re experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, you should bring it up to your child’s doctor and your own.

 

4-Month Well-Baby Visit

In addition to the usual assessments, your child will receive more immunizations and may receive a hemoglobin screening to test for anemia. The doctor will also begin looking for, and discussing with you, age-appropriate milestones for your child.

Don’t sweat it: Babies develop at their own pace, so don’t assume the worst if your child hasn’t reached a certain milestone. Tell your doctor if your child is losing skills they once had or if you’re concerned about any aspect of their development (like crawling, talking, hearing, eyesight).

Topics to discuss:

Whether your child needs vitamin D drops

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child feeds

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and what bowel movements look like

Age-appropriate milestones, such as whether your child can roll over, sit up with support, push up from their belly, grab items and kick with both legs.

Whether your baby communicates by babbling, squealing, laughing, copying caregivers’ facial expressions and sounds

 

photo: iStock

6-Month Well-Baby Visit

More standard tests and (sorry) immunizations. Your doctor may also do a lead screening, as older homes may have lead paint, which, in high doses, can be harmful to babies. Your child may also receive a tuberculosis test and, if any teeth have popped through, your doctor will want to see them. Since babies are likely to crawl soon, it’s a good time to talk to your doctor about childproofing your home.

Don’t sweat it: Childproofing your home doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. Here are 14 DIY ways to make your home safer as your baby gets more mobile.

Topics to discuss:

If it’s time to start your child on solid food. And, if so, which foods your doctor recommends

If your child has teeth, how you should care for them

Age-appropriate milestones, such as whether your child is rolling over in both directions, sitting up without support, showing interest in their environment, babbling and imitating sounds and expressions

Whether your baby needs vitamin D drops

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child feeds

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and how bowel movements change after introducing solid foods

 

9-Month Well-Baby Visit

In addition to the standard tests, a review of baby’s oral health and perhaps immunizations, your doctor will be looking more closely at your baby’s development. The doctor will likely ask you questions about how your child moves and interacts with you.

Don’t sweat it: If your child has any developmental delays, your pediatrician can give you valuable resources. Early intervention in the form of physical therapy or speech therapy can help your child develop new skills.

Topics to discuss:

Age-appropriate milestones, such as crawling, saying words, responding to their name, pointing, using the pincer grip, feeding themselves, playing games with you or others

If your child is experiencing separation anxiety or fear of strangers

How you should care for your child’s teeth

Whether your baby needs vitamin D drops or gets enough from solid foods

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child eats (breastmilk/formula and solids)

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and what bowel movements look like

 

12-Month Well-Baby Visit

You’re a pro at this point and know what to expect at these doctor visits. But as you've learned with babies, they're always learning new things and changing their routines, so you'll have lots to discuss at this and future appointments.

Don’t sweat it: You’ve almost made it through year one, with all the big changes and sleeplessness that goes along with it. You can handle whatever year two throws at you.

Topics to discuss:

Age-appropriate milestones, such as whether your child is pulling themselves up, cruising along furniture, walking, pointing, saying words, responding to what you say, playing games with you or others

How you should care for your child’s teeth

Whether you should introduce cow's milk into baby's diet

Whether your baby needs vitamin D drops or gets enough from solid foods

How your baby is sleeping

How often and how much your child eats (breastmilk/formula and solids)

Frequency of wet diapers and bowel movements, and what bowel movements look like

 

—Eva Ingvarson Cerise

RELATED STORIES:

Pediatricians 101: How to Choose a Doctor for Your Newborn

What’s the Right Age for Your Child’s First Eye Exam? The Answer May Surprise You

New Health & Safety Innovations for Babies & Toddlers