How to Prepare for Baby’s Well Checks
Well checks are an important part of your baby’s life and there are some helpful ways to make trips to the pediatrician go smoothly. This isn’t to say that it will always go easy and I’ve certainly experienced those classic moments, but being prepared can make a difference...or at least make us feel better when we have the blowout diaper along with the realization of a forgotten wallet.
How to Prepare for Baby’s Well Checks
It’s most important to feel comfortable with your pediatrician, their office staff as well as office procedures and policies. They are a critical part of the team that will help to support you and your baby.
Your pediatrician will advise you of the times they like to see babies for well visits, but a “common” breakdown is:
- 3-5 days after birth and discharge home
- 2 weeks of age
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months.
Some pediatricians schedule a little differently, but yours will guide you and should be willing to work with you. Of course, if there are any concerns, you may be seen more frequently because it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Since your baby will have these well-check visits pretty frequently, you’ll figure out what works best for you.
Here a few tips on what to expect and suggestions for a smooth well check.
1. Be Prepared.
Always make sure you have a well-stocked diaper bag with you. At your baby’s well check, they will typically start with weighing and measuring the baby, which will require the baby to be stripped down to just a diaper, and then nothing when they’re being weighed.
To check your baby’s length, they will usually lay the baby flat and stretch out their legs and then use a flat measuring tape to measure from head to toe. They will also measure your baby’s head circumference with a flat measuring tape that they’ll wrap around the head to get a measurement.
Your baby will also be placed on an infant scale to check their weight. Be prepared for surprises! Lots of times if babies are cold or upset, they may pee, or poop, on the scale. Don’t worry if this happens to you – it won’t be the first time, and the doctor’s office should have a cover on the scale so that cleanup is super easy and fast. For this reason you’ll want to be sure you have extra diapers and wipes as well as an extra outfit or two in your diaper bag.
The doctor will then compare the measurements to the previous ones, and they’ll be plotted on a growth chart to ensure that baby’s growth is proportional and appropriate for their age.
2. Physical Exam.
Following the measurements, the pediatrician will perform a head to toe physical exam. Depending on your pediatrician, and also on your preferences, the doctor may have you hold your baby in your lap for the physical exam, or they may prefer to hold the baby or place the baby on the exam table. If you have a preference, let your pediatrician know. The more calm and comfortable you are, the better things will go for you and your baby. The doctor will examine:
a. Head – the doctor will check the fontanels (soft spots) on your baby’s head, and the shape of your baby’s head.
b. Ears/eyes – the doctor will look in the baby’s ears and eyes to ensure there’s no fluid or signs of infection, and they’ll likely begin to watch for how the baby follows/responds to sounds, and track baby’s eye movements.
c. Mouth – the doctor will look and inspect the tongue as well as signs of teeth. Feel free to mention if you’ve noticed increased drooling – often a sign for teething.
d. Heart/lungs – the doctor will listen to your baby’s heart and lungs to ensure there’s no abnormal heart sounds or breathing difficulties.
e. Abdomen – the doctor will press gently on your baby’s belly to check for any tenderness or enlarged organs.
f. Hips/legs – the doctor will move your baby’s legs, especially at the hip joint, to make sure there’s no dislocation or issues with joints/mobility.
g. Genitalia- the doctor will check in the baby’s diaper to ensure there’s no tenderness, signs of infection, discharge, etc. If you have a baby who has been circumcised, they’ll check to ensure proper healing.
h. Skin – the doctor will be examining your baby’s skin during the course of the physical exam as well to ensure there are no unusual rashes or skin issues, and to note any birthmarks that may be present.
You will be asked various questions about your baby’s development, ranging from questions about head control to rolling to reaching for objects, etc. It’s important to remember that there is a wide range of normal for when babies may reach various milestones.
4. Discussion time.
Your pediatrician should take some time to discuss you and your baby’s daily routines, such as how often your baby is eating, how many wet and soiled diapers your baby makes in a day, if your baby does tummy time, how much and where your baby is sleeping, who is watching your baby during the day, etc. This is often a good time to bring up any questions or concerns you may have.
Your pediatrician will advise you about their vaccine schedule. Since this is a topic with lots of strong feelings (which I will also address in another article in the near future), it’s important to make sure you and your pediatrician are on the same page.
Well-baby visits can sometimes be stressful; just getting baby and yourself ready and out on time while ensuring you have everything you need can be an event in and of itself! But if you are able to prepare in advance and allow for extra time, it can help.
One last big tip! Keep a list of questions somewhere – on your phone, on a notepad in the diaper bag - with any concerns you have so that you can be sure to ask the pediatrician while you’re at the appointment. It’s impossible to remember and it’s easier to ask while you have the attention of your pediatrician than to call the office later.
As for what time of day to schedule your well check visits? If your baby has settled into a sleep schedule, try to schedule the appointment around a time that is least disruptive.
Here’s to good health and happy babies and moms! What tips can you share that help you when your baby has well checks? We’d love to hear what works for you, because together we can empower each other.
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Linda Scruggs RN, BSN serves as a resource for parents in the digital space, creating helpful health and wellness content. She has specialized for over 12 years in reproductive medicine, and family and women's health as a nurse. A mom of two young children, her work can be seen on her own blog via her site, lindascruggs.com, as a contributor to The Huffington Post, and created the patient education program in one of the top fertility centers in the country. Linda is all about empowerment in motherhood and would love to connect on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as @UnboxedMom
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