Well-child visits are a time when parents can check up on their child’s health and make sure they’re growing and developing normally. Well-child visits usually start a few days after children are born and continue until they turn 18.

There are two kinds of doctors who treat children:

  • A pediatrician takes care of children when they’re born up until they become teenagers. Most pediatricians see children up to age 18; however, in some cases, they may continue to see patients until age 21. Some pediatricians have experience with specific diseases, such as pediatric cancer.
  • A family physician (FP) is a doctor who takes care of patients of all ages. FPs are trained to take care of children, but they also have training in other areas, such as women’s health or general internal medicine.

The type of doctor you choose depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a doctor who can care for your child through adulthood, you may choose an FP. Or you may decide you’d rather have a doctor who specializes just in children.

Start looking for your child’s doctor early, at least 3 months before your baby is due. Start by checking which doctors are covered under your insurance policy.

Then ask for recommendations from friends, co-workers, and other healthcare providers. You can also research physicians online. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Board of Family Medicine maintain lists of board-certified doctors in your area.

Next, schedule a prenatal appointment (an appointment before your child is born). A prenatal appointment is a great time for you to interview your selected physician. During your office visit, consider the following:

  • What’s the doctor’s personality like?
  • Is the office staff pleasant?
  • When is the office open and how busy is it?
  • If your child has an emergency or you need to contact the office after hours, who would take care of that?

During a well-child visit, your doctor will:

  • perform a physical exam
  • give the child any necessary shots, such as immunizations or vaccinations
  • track how your child is growing and ask about development and behavior
  • talk about illness prevention, nutrition and physical fitness, and health and safety issues
  • talk about how to handle emergencies and sudden illness

Make sure your doctor isn’t doing all the talking. The well-child visit is your best opportunity to bring up any worries about your child’s growth and development, especially if your child isn’t reaching important milestones.

Remember, your doctor may be an expert in children’s health, but you’re the expert on your child.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions, medical or otherwise. Your child’s doctor can give you valuable advice on how to promote your child’s learning and development, how to potty train, tips on playground safety, and more.

Vaccinations are an important part of your child’s well-child visit. Some parents worry that these shots can lead to certain health problems.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have done a number of studies on vaccine use and autism, and they have disproven that there’s a link between the two. Vaccines aren’t only safe, but they also play an important role in keeping all children healthy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a recommended schedule of visits for children starting soon after they’re born. You should visit a doctor for a well-child checkup and immunizations, if due.

The chart below gives a general idea of when immunizations are given. Note that there can be some variation depending on your child and your doctor’s recommendations.

AgeImmunizations
3 to 5 days after birthhepatitis B (Hep B)
1 month oldcheckup
2 months oldrotavirus (RV)
Hep B
diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP)
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
pneumococcal (PCV)
inactivated poliovirus (IPV)
4 months oldRV
DTaP
Hib
PCV
IPV
6 months oldRV
Hep B
DTaP
Hib
PCV
IPV
influenza (flu)
9 months oldcheckup
12 months oldmeasles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
hepatitis A (Hep A)
varicella (chickenpox)
Hib
PCV
Flu
15 months oldDTaP
18 months oldcheckup
24 months oldflu
30 months oldcheckup
3 years oldflu
4 years oldDTaP
IPV
MMR
varicella
flu

After age 4, a well-child visit should take place every year and should include a physical exam and a growth, developmental, behavioral, and learning assessment.

You can check out the CDC’s recommended immunization schedule.

Your child’s doctor will look at your child’s growth and development at each well-child visit. This includes measuring your child’s weight and height and specific milestones, such as:

At 6 months old

The child should respond to their own name, roll over, and have good hand-eye coordination.

At 1 year old

The child should be able to take a few steps and say simple words, such as “da-da” or “ma-ma.”

At 2 years old

The child should be able to say two- to four-word phrases, begin to run, and start to show signs of being ready for potty training.

At 4 years old

The child should be social with other children, copy some letters and numbers, and have good language skills.