By Steven Soriano DO, Lamoille Health Partners Medical Director, Pediatrics
Most new parents are familiar with the need to schedule pediatric checkups for their infants. They usually want a little reassurance that the baby is healthy and developing normally. But did you know it’s also crucial to continue to see your child’s medical provider at least once a year for a well-child visit, even when they’re older?
The reality for many families is that life gets busy, making it hard to keep up with yearly checkups. Instead, they wind up seeking care only when their children are sick. Research also suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced well-child visits, particularly in 2020 and early 2021.
But annual wellness visits are one of the best ways for parents and providers to keep kids healthy – physically, mentally and socially – from birth through age 21. They are essential for tracking growth and developmental milestones. It’s also a chance to address important questions or concerns you may have as a parent, from teething, toilet training, and temper tantrums as parents of younger children, to drinking, smoking, drugs, sexual activity, and mental health as parents of adolescents.
What is a well-child visit?
Annual well-child visits check your child’s health and development, based on age. As part of your child’s healthcare team, we’ll measure height and weight to make sure your child’s growth is on track and conduct a head-to-toe physical examination. During the visit, we may need to update immunizations to prevent illnesses such as measles or whooping cough, for example.
Then you’ll have a chance to talk with us about any questions or concerns you may have. These visits are an excellent time to ask questions that might not be addressed during a sick visit.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every well-child visit should include four specific activities:
- Determining whether your child has any health concerns
- Offering ways to keep your child from developing health concerns
- Providing support for your child’s overall health and well-being
- Talking through health information and offering advice
Throughout each activity, we can offer tools and information that you can use to support your child’s development.
At what age do I need to take my child in for a checkup?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a set of comprehensive health guidelines for well-child visits, known as the periodicity schedule. It provides recommendations for a schedule of screenings and assessments at each well-child visit from infancy through adolescence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lists its recommended immunization schedule for children age 0 to age 6, and children age 7 to age 18.
Depending on your child’s age, you may have well-child visits every few weeks, every few months, or yearly.
Babies under 1 year old should see their pediatrician at these milestones:
- 3 to 5 days old
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
Toddlers and preschoolers can begin to see the doctor a bit less frequently, at these milestones:
- 12 months
- 15 months
- 18 months
- 2 years
- 5 years
- 3 years
- 4 years
- 5 years
Once they hit school age, childhood wellness visits should happen once a year until the child reaches adulthood.
Are there certain things the pediatrician will look for in my child’s development?
Well-child visits can also be a critical opportunity to detect possible developmental delays that need to be addressed. Early detection allows for needed services and supports to begin as soon as possible, increasing a child’s likelihood of developing to their highest potential, while decreasing the probability of the child needing additional support in the future.
For example, at 2 years old, your child should be able to say about 50 words, and by 6 years old should be beginning to read a little bit, among many other developmental milestones.
The CDC’s milestone checklist can also be a helpful way for parents to track their child’s development. The CDC’s Milestone Tracker app even allows parents to use their smartphones to share the progress with our pediatric team.
Next, you might want to write down some of the suggestions you hear during well-child visits, like “keep healthy snacks in the house” or “make an appointment with the specialist” or “talk with teachers about special education services.” We cover so much in one visit, it’s helpful to be prepared.
It’s also important to remember that your well-child visit isn’t the only time you can talk with your child’s healthcare team. If questions arise after your visit is over, call the office and ask. We’re always here to help you make the most of every well-child visit.
Lamoille Health Partners is dedicated to helping families throughout Lamoille County. Providers within Lamoille Health Pediatrics provide specialized healthcare for infants, children, and adolescents to support their unique physical and mental wellness needs. Make an appointment for your child’s wellness visit today.