Preventive care is a key way of helping your baby thrive. During her first two years, regular checkups, tests, and routine care will make sure your baby is healthy and on track. If your baby does have any problems, your doctor will catch them and treat them early.
Hospital Care at Birth
Good preventive care starts in the hospital, right after your baby is born. While you're recovering from childbirth, doctors and nurses will run some tests on your baby.
- Blood tests. A nurse takes a tiny blood sample from your baby. The blood is checked for things like PKU, low thyroid levels, sickle cell anemia, galactosemia, and other problems. The doctor may prescribe iron or vitamin D supplements for your baby. You can have this filled at no cost to you.
- Hearing test. Your baby's hearing will be checked before leaving the hospital. Small earphones are placed onyour baby's ears and sound is played.
- Immunizations. Your baby gets a shot to protect her from hepatitis B before leaving the hospital.
- Measurements. The doctors and nurses will do some careful measurements, such as your baby's weight, length, and head size.
- Other tests or treatments. Your baby may need other preventive tests depending on any special circumstances, such as whether you have any health problems.
Checkups Until Age 2
Your baby will get a lot of checkups in the first two years of life. After you leave the hospital, most babies need checkups at:
After that, they need a checkup about every 3 months until they're 2 years old.
At every checkup, your child's doctor checks most of the same things:
- Your baby's growth by measuring the head, weight, and height
- Your baby's nourishment by talking with about your baby's eating habits.
- Your baby's physical development and movement.
- Your baby's language development by listening to the sounds she makes and how she echoes sounds.
- Your baby's socialization by talking with you about how she responds to you and to people.
- Your baby's safety at home, away from home, and in the car. This includes immunizations.
Of course, what you doctor is looking for depends on your baby's age.
Your child's doctor may do some specific screening tests or preventive measures at specific well-child visits:
Fluoride supplements. If you live somewhere without fluoride in your water source, your pediatrician will prescribe fluoride supplements for your child starting at age 6 months at no cost to you.
Autism screening. At almost every visit, the doctor looks for signs of autism based on what you say about your baby as well as by observing your child. A more formal test for autism happens twice -- at 18 months and at 24 months. At these times, your doctor will ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your baby's behavior and development.
Lead screening. If you live in a house that was built before 1978, your pediatrician will test a small sample of your child's blood at 9-12 months and 24 months to check the amount of lead in it.