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Your baby's checkups
Your baby will have several checkups during the first year. These visits let the doctor check that your child is growing properly.
The first year of your baby's life is a time of remarkable growth and development. By the end of the first year, most babies triple their birth weight; grow to more than 2 feet tall; and progress from grunts, cries and lying nearly still to "mama," "dada" and first steps.
And that's just the stuff you can see from the outside.
To help ensure that everything's going smoothly inside during all of these changes, your child will need regular medical checkups. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), you'll probably see your child's doctor more often in your baby's first year than at any other time in your child's life.
Well-child visits will still be important in the years to come. But more frequent visits during the first year are needed for many reasons:
- They allow the doctor to track your baby's growth. This is one of the best ways to detect problems with feeding, health or development early on.
- Your child will get vaccines. They prepare his or her immune system to fend off diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough.
- You'll have a chance to ask questions and get to know your child's doctor. You can also find out about local resources such as child care, support groups and other services.
At the least, your child should see a doctor at birth and 3 to 5 days, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months old. According to the AAP, at each of these visits the doctor will check your child's:
Growth. Your baby's length, weight and head circumference will be measured to see if your child is growing steadily.
Head, ears and eyes. The doctor will check to make sure the soft spots on your child's head are closing normally. And the eyes and ears are checked to see if they are working normally and free from signs of disease and infection.
Mouth. The doctor will look for signs of infection and, as your baby gets older, for signs of teething.
Heart and lungs. The doctor will listen to your baby's heart and lungs to check for abnormal rhythms or breathing problems.
Abdomen. The doctor will check for tenderness, unusual growths or unusually large organs by pressing gently on the abdomen.
Genitalia. The doctor will look for lumps, tenderness or signs of infection. This is especially important for boys who have been circumcised recently. Male babies are also checked to make sure the testicles have descended from the abdomen.
Hips and legs. The doctor will check for a dislocation or poor alignment by moving the baby's legs around in the first months and watching the baby walk later on.
Development. The doctor will ask about the child's general development. And he or she will monitor milestones such as when the baby starts to smile, roll over, sit up and walk. The doctor will also watch how the child uses his or her hands and arms. The doctor will also test reflexes and general muscle tone.