Whether you’re preparing for baby’s arrival or already holding them in your arms, your newborn’s upcoming doctor visits have probably been on your mind. Starting almost as soon as your baby is born, you’ll be seeing a lot of their doctor through well-baby visits to make sure they’re growing and developing at a healthy rate, and to get any questions you have answered.
So when do these visits happen, and what happens during each one? Here’s your guide to the baby wellness schedule.
Welcome to the well-baby visits club: Here’s what you need to know
What are well-baby visits?
Well-baby visits – or well-child visits – are checkups that are recommended at specific times throughout your child’s life, with several happening during the first year.
Baby wellness visits are an important way to ensure that your child’s growth and development are on track, catch and address possible health issues early, and help you stay on top of childhood immunization schedules.
Wondering if your baby’s fussiness is normal? Considering when to introduce a toothbrush? A well-baby visit is also a great opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your child's doctor. Your pediatrician or family medicine doctor can help answer your questions, offer recommendations and give you the valuable gift of peace of mind.
Are well-baby visits mandatory?
While well-baby visits are not required by law, they are considered critical to a child’s health and development. Skipping wellness visits and falling behind on your infant’s checkup schedule could lead to missing certain health or developmental problems and delaying needed medical treatment.
If you’ve chosen to vaccinate your child, missing well-baby visits can put them behind schedule. Vaccine schedules are important to ensure your child gets the best possible protection from preventable diseases. Those shots are often required before a child can attend daycare or school and participate in sports, too.
Are well-baby visits covered by insurance?
Because they’re considered preventive care visits, well-baby visits are usually covered by most insurance plans. Check with your insurance company to learn about your coverage.
What happens during a well-baby checkup?
No matter the type of doctor you choose for your baby, well-baby visits usually follow a standard routine – although they can vary slightly depending on the baby’s age and health needs.
Before each visit, you may be asked to complete some forms online or by mail about your baby’s health and development, as well as how you’re recovering and adjusting to life with baby.
Typically, each visit will start with a nurse asking you questions about how everything is going, and whether you have any questions or concerns to talk with the doctor about. The nurse will also take some measurements of your baby, including their length, head circumference and weight. They’ll also gather any additional forms you’ve filled out.
Soon after, the doctor will come in and talk with you about your baby’s growth progress. The doctor will also do a gentle head-to-toe physical examination to check for any signs of health problems or developmental issues, and they’ll observe how baby responds to you and their surroundings to assess their cognitive, emotional and social development.
Your pediatrician or family doctor will also ask you questions about your baby’s daily habits relating to sleep, feeding and digestion. They’ll ask how you’re doing, too. Your health and well-being are just as important as your little one’s are.
Throughout the visit, the doctor will follow up on any information you shared with clinic staff or the nurse, and ask if you have any additional questions or concerns you’d like to discuss.
Parent tip: It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have about your baby or yourself ahead of time so they’re handy.
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The well-baby checkup schedule: Here’s when you need to bring your baby in for a wellness visit
We’ve laid out the checkup intervals and any unique details about each visit.
Days 1–2: Hospital care and the first doctor visit
Your baby will have their very first health check within 24 hours of birth – usually at the hospital. The doctor will do a head-to-toe check for baby’s general health, basic newborn reflexes and give guidance if there are any weight or feeding issues. Babies also have their first hearing test and an assessment of their oxygen levels.
Your baby will be checked for jaundice (a common newborn condition caused by extra bilirubin in the blood) and have a complete metabolic screening, which checks for certain health conditions. Doctors also recommend that newborns receive a couple important treatments before they leave the hospital, including:
- Antibiotic eye ointment – This helps protect your baby against possible infections caused by bacteria that may have gotten in their eyes during birth.
- A shot of vitamin K – Vitamin K is used by the body to form clots and stop bleeding, and babies are born with very little of this vitamin in their bodies.
- The hepatitis B vaccine – Mothers can unknowingly pass hepatitis B during birth. And since babies’ immune systems are brand new, the vaccine helps protect them from this potentially serious disease.
3- to 5-day well-baby checkup
Just a few days after birth, your baby’s first checkup appointment will take place with the doctor you’ve chosen for them. In some cases, babies may need to be seen sooner than the recommended three to five days after birth. For example, if a newborn has jaundice, or weight or feeding issues, they may need to be seen for daily checkups until their condition improves.
This first newborn doctor visit is so important because your baby’s growth in the first days and weeks of life is crucial to their overall health. So, to make sure baby’s on-track, baby’s measurements will be taken, and they’ll be examined head-to-toe. You’ll also be asked specific questions about baby’s sleeping and feeding schedule, including the frequency that baby pees and poops each day.
The doctor will also chat with you about how you’re feeling, provide information and support for breastfeeding or formula feeding, and bath and sleep safety guidance. Of course, they’ll also answer any questions you may have.
1-month well-baby checkup
The one-month appointment should happen around the one-month mark – so don’t worry about getting an appointment for the exact date your baby hits this milestone.
At this appointment, you’ll notice the routine starting to develop: Baby will be measured and checked out head-to-toe, their growth and development will be assessed to make sure it’s on track, you’ll be asked questions about how both you and baby are doing, and you’ll have time to ask questions, too.
Some of the big topics your doctor will talk with you about are how baby is sleeping and feeding, and how you can help baby’s brain development along by talking, reading, singing and engaging with them. These are all so important for making sure your little one continues to grow and develop. The doctor will also want to know how you’re doing and help make sure you have the support you need.
This appointment is also the perfect time to talk with the doctor about childhood vaccinations. The recommended vaccination schedule really kicks off at the two-month appointment, so this is a great time to get your questions answered.
2-month well-baby checkup
The two-month well-check is a big one for vaccinations. But you’ll be there to distract and comfort your little one while they brave those pokes. Fortunately doctors are able to combine some of the vaccinations to limit the number of shots.
During this visit, the following immunizations are recommended:
- Pneumococcal (PCV)
- Rotavirus (RV), which is an oral vaccine (mouth drops)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Polio (IPV)
- Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP)
- Second dose of hepatitis B (if baby didn’t get it at the one-month appointment)
Many parents have questions about vaccinations, and they’re happy to answer them. Your child’s doctor can give you information about the vaccination schedule and explain why it’s important.
4-month well-baby checkup
The four-month appointment is an exciting one because baby will have grown a lot in the two whole months between well-checks, and is starting to become more aware of their environment. This is the time your child receives their second round of vaccines for PCV, RV, Hib, IPV and DTaP vaccines.
6-month well-baby checkup
Along with the usual steps at the beginning of the appointment, the doctor will talk to you about feedings and introducing solid foods. Your doctor will also give recommendations for soothing sore gums during teething.
At this visit, your little one may receive a third dose of PCV, DTaP and possibly Hib or RV. Between the ages of 6 and 18 months, baby will also need a third dose of hep B and IPV.
If it’s flu season, your child’s doctor will likely suggest the influenza vaccine (aka flu shot), which is recommended annually for children 6 months to 19 years old. Their first flu shot will be two doses, given at least one month apart.
9-month well-baby checkup
Checking baby’s oral health will become a new part of the routine now, as some babies will be sporting a toothier grin. Your little one will also be growing by leaps and bounds physically, mentally and emotionally, and may be starting to move around on their own.
This is a great time to ask questions or bring up any new or worrying behaviors. Early intervention is important when it comes to developmental delays, so if you or your doctor have any concerns, your doctor can help you arrange for additional testing.
But it’s important to note that there’s a broad range for “normal” development, and each child is unique. Your doctor can explain things in more detail, and can often put your worries to rest.
12-month well-baby checkup
Happy birthday to your now 1-year-old! Your little one is much different than they were at that very first well-check. They’re likely crawling – or even taking those first steps – and babbling away.
Your doctor will do the usual measurements and physical examination, as well as continue to talk with you about feeding, nap schedules and ways to encourage positive physical, cognitive and social development.
During this visit, your little one will likely have a hemoglobin screening and lead test. It’s recommended they receive their first doses of the vaccines for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chickenpox) and hepatitis A.
As a sneak peek of their 15-month visit, your child will receive final doses of PCV, Hib, DTaP vaccines. And at 18 months, they’ll get their final Hep A shot. So, other than annual flu shots, your child’s next round of immunizations won’t begin until between the ages of 4 and 6.
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