Does it feel like your parents are always taking your baby brother or sister into the doctor’s office — even if their feeling fine!  Don’t worry — that’s perfectly normal! They probably did it with you, too!  The newest member of your family is going in for Well Baby Checks.  Read on to find out more about what goes on during these visits!

The Well Baby Check

In the first two years of life, a baby will see the pediatrician A LOT. As a matter of fact, it is recommended that babies see the doctor a few days after coming home from the hospital, then at:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 1 year
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 2 years

That’s a lot of doctors visits!

What goes on during a Well Baby Check?

The first Well Baby Check will take place just a few days after your parents bring your new brother or sister home from the hospital. The doctor will check the baby for jaundice (for more information on this topic, see our article on Babies and Jaundice), which usually becomes apparent in the first few days of life. They will also listen to the baby’s heart to make sure there are no murmurs (which could indicate that the baby might be born with a heart defect, a problem that is generally correctable) and also listen to their lungs to make sure they are not having any problems with their breathing.

On later visits, the doctor will do a physical exam every time.  He or she will look into the baby’s eyes to make sure they are healthy and will also check the baby’s fontanel (the “soft spot” on top of the head) and the palate (or roof the mouth) to make sure it is forming properly.  They might also stretch out a baby’s legs to look for hip dysplasia, a common birth defect that can also be corrected.   In short, the physical exam part of the visit is meant to look for anything unusual going on with the baby.  In most cases, if something wrong can be detected early, it is easier to fix the problem.

Apart from the exam, Well Baby Checks also include growth charting, discussion of development, and vaccinations.

Growth Charting

When you go into the doctor for a checkup, they probably get your height and your weight, don’t they? Well, they do the same thing with your little brother or sister during a Well Baby visit!  Doctors will then chart the baby’s height and weight and compare it to what is average for the baby’s age.

Here’s an example: if your baby brother is 2 months old, the doctor will get his height and weight and then compare it to charts that tell him about all the other babies of the same age.  This will give him a percentile.  So if your baby brother is in the 85 percentile for height, that means that 85 percent of other 2 month-olds will be shorter than him and 15 percent will be taller.  It is a way of comparing a baby’s growth to the growth of other’s babies and making sure that the baby is gaining height and weight during the first two years of life.

Development Check

Height and weight is not the only thing the doctor will be charting! He or she will also be talking to your parents about the baby’s developmental milestones (we’ve got an article on this, too, if you want more details!).  Milestones are skills that a baby has to master as it grows in order to do the things that big kids like you do everyday.  They must learn to lift their head up, then eventually crawl and walk, they must learn how to talk, how to eat solid foods — there’s a lot of stuff to learn!

So each time a baby comes in,  the doctor will ask your parents about these milestones and see if the baby is on track.  Now, some babies will master skills faster than others, but it is also a way of seeing if something is wrong.  If a baby is 12 months old and still hasn’t spoken a word or doesn’t turn his head towards the sound of his mother’s voice, this might mean problems such as hearing impairment. Again, if these problems are caught early there is a better chance of fixing them!

Q and A

One of the most important parts of a Well Baby check is for parents to be able to ask the doctor questions about anything they may be concerned about. It may be that your parents, for example, are starting the baby out on solid foods and want information about which foods are best to try first.  Or they are having problems getting the baby to sleep through the night and need guidance on that.  This gives doctors and parents the time to have an open discussion about anything the parent is worried about.

Last but Not Least…Shots!

You might remember going into the doctors when you were younger, only to have them give you shots. Yuck!  But while getting shots is NO FUN, it is also a very important way that your parents make sure that you and your baby brother or sister stay healthy.

These shots are called vaccines.  Basically, they contain a weak or even dead virus or bacteria that causes a certain illness — such as the flu.  When you get a shot, the bacteria or virus will actually enter your body but because it is weak or dead, it will not make you sick! However, your body will respond to it by making antibodies, which are special cells that will remember what this virus or bacteria is like — and will attack it if it ever comes back!  Having these antibodies is what doctors call “immunity”.  It means that you are protected from getting a certain illness or disease.

There are actually a lot of diseases and illnesses that vaccines protect you from!  Some of them include:

  • The flu
  • Hepatitis A and B (these are viruses that attack your liver and can make you very sick)
  • Diphtheria, a very serious respiratory infection
  • Tetanus, a disease that attacks your nerves and usually happens because of wounds (for instance, if you stepped on a rusty nail)
  • Pertussis, or whooping cough, another serious respiratory infection
  • Chicken pox, a virus that causes an itchy rash all over your body

Sometimes you will have to get vaccinated more than once to get protection from a certain illness or disease. There is an actual vaccination schedule that tell doctors when they need to give babies a certain shot — and they are scheduled to be at the times that a baby comes in for a Well Baby check.

So now you know what’s going on when your parents take the baby in to see the doctor all the time. It might seem like a lot of extra fuss, but it is an excellent way for parents to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the baby, that they are growing and developing the way they should and getting their vaccinations to protect them from illness and disease.

Aren’t you glad you’re not a baby anymore?