Important health check-ups for babies and children
Not sure when your little one needs to see the pediatrician? Our guide takes the guesswork out of well-child visits with a detailed schedule and information on what the doctor will assess.
Between all the regular health check-ups and the extra doctor visits for colds and sniffles, you might feel like you spend more time at your pediatrician’s office than at home in the first few years of your child’s life. But well-baby and well-child visits are important to ensure your little one’s growth and development are on track. Here’s everything you need to know about pediatrician visits from birth through age 21.
What’s the official schedule of well-child visits?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following schedule for well-child visits:
- 2 to 5 days old
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
- 12 months old
- 15 months old
- 18 months old
- 2 years old (24 months)
- 2½ years old (30 months)
- Every year between 3 and 21 years old
Parents should fill out a questionnaire before each visit to help the pediatrician assess their child’s growth and development. These questionnaires can be found on the AAP’s Healthy Children website.
You should also make a list of questions or concerns you have about your child’s health, development, behavior, sleeping patterns, eating habits or general wellbeing. Don’t be shy to ask your pediatrician anything – their role is to help and support you as a parent in addition to caring for your child.
What will the pediatrician check during well-child visits?
From birth to age two, your doctor will assess:
- Growth: The pediatrician will measure your child’s height, weight and head circumference.
- Health: They’ll also perform a thorough physical examination to ensure your child is healthy. Assessed areas include the head, eyes, ears, mouth, heart, abdomen and legs.
- Development: Your doctor will ask you questions about and evaluate your child’s physical, language and social development to ensure they’re hitting all their milestones.
- Nutrition: The doc will ask about your baby’s eating habits and discuss proper nutrition.
- Safety: You’ll get some tips on how to keep your child safe at home and on the go.
- Immunizations: At each one of the visits, your child will receive immunizations to protect them from preventable diseases. Find out more about the immunizations children need and the recommended schedule here.
Depending on your child’s age, your doctor may also perform screening tests to detect specific problems. Some of these tests include autism spectrum disorder screening (at 18 and 24 months), lead screening (at one and two years of age if you live in a house built before 1978 which could contain harmful lead paint), tuberculosis testing (for children at risk) and anemia testing.
From ages two to 21, the pediatrician will check:
- Growth: The doctor will check your child’s height, weight and BMI.
- Health: Your pediatrician will continue to perform a detailed physical exam, but they’ll do additional checks such as oral health, vision and hearing (see screening tests below).
- Development: You may be asked about your child’s speech, comprehension, learning, behavior, social skills, physical activity, coordination and sleep patterns to ensure everything is on track.
- Nutrition: Your doctor will want to know about your child’s eating habits, particularly if their BMI, blood pressure or cholesterol are high.
- Safety: The pediatrician will talk to your child about age-appropriate safety, including stranger danger, screen time, bullying, emotional wellbeing, car safety, smoking, drugs, alcohol and gun safety.
- Immunizations: Your child will continue to receive necessary vaccinations at these visits.
Your child will also undergo specific screening tests, including vision and hearing tests (starting around age three or four), blood pressure checks (starting at age three) and cholesterol screenings (between the ages of nine and 11 or earlier if the child is in a high-risk group). Adolescents at high risk may undergo STI, hepatitis B and HIV screening.
How much do well-child visits cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive health services for children – including well-child visits and screening tests – are fully covered by Marketplace health plans. Your insurance company can’t charge you a copayment or coinsurance even if you haven’t yet paid your yearly deductible.
But if you purchased your health plan before March 23, 2010, it could be “grandfathered” and may not be required to cover children’s preventive care. If you’re uncertain what your plan covers, call your insurance company as soon as possible to avoid any expensive surprises when you take your child to the pediatrician.