What to Expect at Your Child’s Well Check
Well care visits are one of my favorite parts of being a pediatrician. I love getting a chance to talk to my patients and their families, and I truly cherish getting to know each one of them on a deeper level.
Your child’s well exam will look different depending on their medical history and your family’s unique relationship with your provider. But, make no mistake, that all well checks truly are vital to your child’s overall health and well-being.
Now of course, the frequency of well checks needed for your child—and the types of topics covered in their well checks—will depend heavily on their age. Let’s break it down for you by stages of life so that you can see what I mean…
Bring on the Babies
When your child is an infant we see them very frequently because so much can change so quickly!
- We start with the parent. Obviously, newborns and infants cannot speak for themselves, so we start every check-up with a conversation to see how your baby is doing and address any concerns you may have. We will talk about breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, spitting up, and the always important question of…sleep! This is a great time to address all the little things such as, “What’s that funny noise my child makes when they’re eating?” and, “Is there any truth to the sage advice from my mom that honestly sounds slightly outdated?”
- Developmental screening takes center stage during these first few well checks. We will ask what types of things your baby is doing, and at certain visits will have you fill out questionnaires to formally check development. Despite the anxiety, this may cause, Parkside believes firmly that early intervention is so important to reach positive outcomes. Finding and addressing concerns early, means we can get your child the help they need in a timely manner.
- In that same vein, we will also measure quite a few components of your child’s body during these early well checks. Checking your child’s weight, overall body length, and head circumference are all simple ways we can assess their nutritional status and overall health.
- After we measure your sweet little one’s body, we will also conduct a full physical exam. We examine your baby from the tips of their toes to the top of their head. We check for heart murmurs, hip dislocation, and other things that may not be readily apparent. While this sounds dramatic, most parents—and the baby involved—do not even notice when we are conducting a full physical exam on their child.
- Last is vaccines. Parents always dread this part because of the short-term discomfort it may cause, but getting vaccines on time is the most important resource we have for preventing deadly diseases. Parkside prides itself on the vaccine experience and, while we can’t take away the fact that there is an actual shot involved, we do provide your child with some distractions. Every one of our exam rooms is equipped with bubbles that magically come on right after their vaccines are administered. We also keep lollipops and stickers handy to help your child maintain a positive connotation around visiting the doctor.
Oh, the toddler years…These wild months can be so much fun but very challenging too! We are here to guide you through speech development, potty-training, the terrible twos, and much more. We still see you quite a bit during this time but definitely less than in your child’s first year of life.
- We will continue to check weight and height during this time, which can be especially important during the picky eating phases.
- Quite a few formal screenings are conducted from age 1-3. We are looking for early signs of autism, possible visual and/or hearing abnormalities, and any indicators of anemia or lead poisoning.
- If desired, your child can receive a fluoride varnish to help protect their teeth before those dentist appointments begin.
- Vaccines still remain pretty prevalent during the toddler stage. Don’t worry, these taper off as they become older but remain just as important.
The School-Aged Child
Typically we don’t see your school-aged child as often as we did when they were little, so an annual physical exam is a great time to touch base and check in on how things are going. Some parents even let their child take the lead during these visits, while others really utilize the time to let us answer the random questions and concerns that may come up throughout the year.
- Sleep, nutrition, behavioral concerns, and overall development are all important topics at these exams. If your provider feels your child may need a little extra guidance in an area, they may help you set up an appointment with our behavioral health and nutrition teams. We also will of course still weigh and measure your child to help you assess their growth compared to other children in their age bracket.
- Safety questions are often addressed during these school-aged well checks. We can help talk you through anything from car seat transition to sunscreen use.
- If school is not going as smoothly for your child as you would have hoped, we can discuss further evaluation and testing options.
- These annual visits are also a great time to make sure we are up to date on any new medications or treatments from sub-specialists and make sure chronic conditions are being properly addressed.
And just like that, you have a Teenager
Navigating the teen years can be tricky. Your pediatrician is here to help! Hopefully, by this point you have established a trusted relationship with your provider, but even if you are seeing someone new, this is a great time to discuss the new challenges that come with middle school and high school.
- Expect us to discuss friend groups, parental relationships, and academics with your teenager. We may even ask you to step out of the room so we can have a private discussion with your teen.
- Open discussions about drugs, alcohol, vaping, and sexual relationships are important between the parent and the child as well as their pediatrician, so don’t be surprised if your provider begins these kinds of direct conversations at these well checks.
- A thorough physical exam will be performed along with any necessary vaccines.
Here is a typical vaccine schedule broken down by age if you want to know the preferred times for vaccines to be administered. There are of course options for alternative vaccine schedules, just talk to your provider about what this could look like.
Wow! Time really flew didn’t it? Parkside is here to serve your family by providing preventative care—and sick care— for children from infancy through the college years. Call us today to set up your child’s well check.
Until next time,
Dr. Jennifer Heegard
Parkside Provider, potato chip stealer, and avid book worm