Your baby's checkups

KEY POINTS

  • Taking your baby for regular medical checkups (also called well-baby visits) can help keep your baby healthy.

  • At well-baby visits, your baby’s health care provider checks your baby’s overall health and makes sure his development is on track.

  • If you’re worried about your baby’s health and think she needs medical care, call her health care provider right away. 

  • If you think your baby needs emergency services, call 911 right away.

Why are well-baby checkups important for your baby’s health?

Even when things are going well, regular medical checkups (also called well-baby visits) can help keep your baby healthy. During well-baby visits, your baby’s provider checks your baby’s overall health, growth and development. Your baby also gets vaccinations to help protect her from harmful infections.

When does your baby get well-baby checkups?

Most babies get checkups at:

  • 2 to 5 days after birth
  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 15 months
  • 18 months
  • 24 months

Your baby’s provider may use a different schedule for checkups. Ask for a schedule when you first meet your baby’s provider or at your baby’s first checkup. Your baby may need extra visits if he gets sick or has a health condition that needs treatment or that needs to be watched closely.

What happens at well-baby visits?

At your baby’s checkups, your baby’s provider:

  • Charts your baby’s growth. This means the provider weighs your baby and measures her length and the size of her head. The provider puts this information on a chart so you can see how much your baby is growing between visits. You also can see how your baby’s growth compares to other babies at the same age.
  • Gives your baby a physical exam. The provider checks your baby from head to toe to make sure he’s healthy. If there are problems, the provider can give your baby tests or treatments. The provider also may refer you to a health care provider who specializes in treating babies with certain medical conditions.  
  • Checks your baby’s development. Your baby’s provider checks to make sure your baby is meeting developmental milestones. These are skills and activities that most children can do at a certain age. Milestones include like rolling over, picking things up, and eventually walking and talking.
  • Talks to you about your baby’s nutrition. Your baby’s provider talks to you about what, how much and how often you feed your baby. If you’re breastfeeding, this is a great time to tell your provider if you’re having trouble feeding your baby or if you’re worried about how much she’s eating. As your baby grows, talk to the provider about when to start solid foods and what foods are best for your baby to eat.  
  • Gives your baby vaccinations. A vaccination is a shot that contains a vaccine that helps protect your baby against certain diseases. A vaccine is medicine that makes your baby immune to certain diseases. If your baby is immune to a disease, he can’t get that disease.
  • Talks to you about general baby care. You and your baby’s provider can talk about what to expect as your baby grows. Ask any questions you have—write them down so you don’t forget them. You can talk about things like car seats and how to make your home safe for your baby. Your baby’s provider may ask how you and your family are caring for your baby and if you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. It’s OK to tell your baby’s provider how you feel, especially if you have signs or symptoms of postpartum depression. This is a serious medical condition that can make it hard for you to care for yourself and your baby. Don’t be afraid to tell your baby’s provider if you’re feeling run-down, stressed or depressed.

At the end of your baby’s checkup, schedule his next well-baby visit. Make sure you know how to contact the provider between visits if you have questions or if you think your baby is sick or not acting right.

When should you call your baby’s health care provider?

Call your baby’s provider if you’re worried or have questions about your baby’s health. It’s OK to call to ask questions and tell the provider what’s worrying you. Babies don’t come with a set of instructions, and they can’t tell you when something is wrong. So it can be hard for you to know what to do. Call your baby’s provider if: 

  • You think your baby needs medical care but not emergency care.
  • You’re worried about your baby because she doesn’t look or act well, especially if she was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), spent time in the newborn intensive care unit (also called NICU) after birth or has health problems. 

Call your baby’s health care provider if your baby:

  • Eats less than usual or has other changes in appetite
  • Cries regularly or is really fussy and can’t be comforted; is less active than usual or has changes in behavior
  • Often has diarrhea or stools that are loose or watery; is constipated and has fewer-than-usual stools for a few days; or has blood in the urine or bloody diarrhea
  • Has vomiting (more than just spit up) that lasts for more than a few hours
  • Has a fever and seems more than mildly ill; or has a fever with vomiting, a rash or a cough or cold that doesn’t improve or gets worse
  • Has ear pain or fluid draining from the ears; or has red eyes or mucus coming from the eyes
  • Has a tender navel or penis, especially with redness, bleeding or oozing fluid in these areas

When in doubt, trust your instincts! If you’re worried about your baby, call his provider. If you think it’s an emergency, call emergency services (911).

When should you call emergency services? 

Call emergency services (911) right away if your baby:

  • Has trouble breathing or his skin or lips look blue, purple or gray
  • Has a seizure. When a baby has a seizure, his whole body or parts of his body move uncontrollably, and he may become unconscious.
  • Is hard to wake up or is not responding normally or is limp and not able to move
  • If your baby is less than 2 months old and has a rectal temperature above 100.4F
  • Has a head injury and is unconscious, acting strangely, vomiting or has unusual skin color
  • Has bleeding that doesn’t stop or has blood in his vomit or in his stool (poop)
  • Has yellowish skin or eyes
  • Has signs of dehydration (not having enough water in the body). Signs include fewer than six to eight wet diapers in 24 hours; sunken eyes; a sunken soft spot (called the fontanel or fontanelle) on the top of the head; or no tears when crying.

If you think your baby has been poisoned, call emergency services (911) or the Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222 right away. Poisoning can happen by swallowing, breathing in or touching harmful substances. Children can be poisoned by common things in your home, like makeup, shampoo, lotions, perfume, cleaning products and even plants. Signs that your baby may have been poisoned include: 

  • Having burns or redness around the mouth and lips
  • Having breath that smells like chemicals, like gas or paint thinner
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Being sleepy

Last reviewed January, 2019