The first 2 years of life are an important time for children. Your baby should be seen regularly at their newborn wellness checkups to make sure they’re growing and developing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends having a well-child visit for your newborn during their first week of life, when they are 3 to 5 days old. After that, your baby should have checkups when they're:
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
- 12 months old
After their 1-year checkup, your baby will start to have well visits every 3 months until they're 18 months old. Then, visits will happen every 6 months until your baby reaches 30 months of age.
If you're worried about your baby's development or health, don't wait until their well-visit appointment. Talk to a doctor right away.
What to Expect at an Infant Wellness Checkup
There are few things the doctor will check at your baby's first well visit.
Height and weight. Most visits start with measuring and weighing your baby to see how they compare to other newborns. The doctor puts their height and weight on a growth chart to track your baby’s growth progress for future checkups. You should ask the doctor questions you have or share concerns about your baby's growth.
Physical exam. While your baby is fully undressed, the doctor looks them over to check for signs of anything that may not seem normal. Other parts of your baby's physical exam usually include checking their eyes, pulse and heartbeat, umbilical cord, and hips.
Screening tests. If you gave birth in a hospital, the staff should have done screening tests that checked any concerns with your baby's:
- Metabolism, including problems with any enzymes or special proteins that may be missing or not working the right way
- Hormones, including making sure your baby makes the right level of hormones in the thyroid and adrenal glands
- Hemoglobin, including anything unusual in the baby’s blood cells
- Medical conditions, like cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hearing loss, and galactosemia
At your baby's first well visit, the doctor may do these screening tests again as needed.
Immunizations. Your doctor will give your baby any vaccines recommended for different stages of their development.
These shots help to protect your infant from diseases, like whooping cough or measles, that can cause serious problems, including sickness, pain, disability, and even death. In the U.S., millions of children receive vaccinations every year.
Side effects of vaccines are rare but can include pain, redness, and/or swelling where the shot is placed. There can be greater side effects in children with certain long-term conditions like cancer, diseases that affects their immune system, or if they have an allergic reaction to a vaccine. In such cases, your doctor will discuss any needed changes in your child's vaccination schedule.
The benefits of getting your child vaccinated are much greater than the side effects.
Questions the doctor might ask
In addition to checking your child's growth and development, the doctor may also ask:
- When is your baby nursing and how often?
- What is your baby's poop like?
- How many wet diapers is your baby having?
- How is your baby sleeping?
- What position does your baby sleep in?
Milestones Checked During Well-Baby Exams
During your baby's checkups, the doctor is looking for your baby to hit specific goals depending on their age. Below is a summary of what doctors usually check for at different stages, including how your baby is eating, sleeping, and developing.
3 to 5 days old
Eating. Doctors look for your baby to eat when they're hungry, which is typically every 1-3 hours.
You can ask for tips about breastfeeding or infant formula recommendations if it seems your baby has trouble with what you provide.
By day 4, your baby should no longer have meconium, the first type of poop in babies that is sticky and black. Their poop should become yellow and seedy if they are breastfed and darker and more solid if they are formula-fed. By this time, your baby should have about five to six wet diapers and three to four dirty diapers a day.
Sleeping. Most newborns sleep about 8 to 9 hours during the day and 8 hours at night. They typically wake up every few hours to be fed. Talk with your child's doctor if you see any sleep patterns that don't seem normal.
Developing. At this age, your baby starts to notice faces and respond to sounds. They move their arms and legs and try to lift their head for a moment when placed on their stomach. Your newborn should do certain things naturally, like looking for a breast or a bottle nipple and grabbing hold of a finger within the palm of their hand.
1 month old
Eating. Your baby should eat up to 12 times per day. It’s common to see differences in your infant's poop. They may go several days between pooping. Formula-fed babies usually have one per day, while those who breastfeed can have three or more. Talk to your doctor if your baby's poop doesn't seem normal.
Sleeping. Your baby may sleep a little less at this age, with about 7 hours of rest during the day and 8 to 9 hours at night.
Developing. Your baby should focus more on objects and react more when they hear sounds.
4 to 6 months old
Eating. Babies should receive their nutrients from formula or breast milk and have regular poop. Let your doctor know if your baby seems to have trouble pooping.
Sleeping. Your baby may be down to 4 to 5 hours of rest during the day and 9 to 10 hours at night.
Developing. Your baby may start cooing, smiling, and laughing at 4 months. You may notice them folding their hands together over their chest or trying to grasp objects. Other milestones at this stage include showing control of their head when in a sitting position and using their arms to lift up a little when placed on their stomach. Your baby may also grab their toes or start growing teeth around 6 months.
9 months old
Eating. You may notice your baby’s poop consistency changing as they start eating more types of solid food.
Sleeping. Your baby should still be sleeping around 14 hours each day.
Developing. They may start showing signs of basic speech and understanding of the word “no.”
Babies are typically able to sit up without any other support. Your baby may begin pulling themselves up to a standing position or even using furniture to “walk” around the room.
12 months old
Eating. If your baby drinks formula and has no lactose issues, it should be OK to switch them to drinking whole cow's milk. You can continue breastfeeding your baby if you'd like.
Sleeping. At this age, your baby should sleep about 3 hours during the day and 11 hours at night.
Developing. Your 1-year-old may be using simple words and be able to follow basic commands that involve one step. They may walk without help and enjoy engaging with you through games like “peekaboo” or “patty-cake.”
Tips for Feeding, Sleeping, and Crying
As you continue to watch your baby grow and develop, it's important to take note of changes and talk to the doctor at your baby's well visits.
Here are some suggestions to help with looking at your baby's feeding, sleeping, and crying patterns. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
- Infants should be breastfed every 2 to 3 hours or formula fed about 1-2 ounces every 2 to 3 hours in the first few days of life if they're only getting formula. If your baby seems satisfied after feeding and has a certain number of wet and dirty diapers a day, they are probably getting enough.
- If your baby is breastfed, 3 to 4 days after birth, their poops should be soft and yellowish and may appear to have seeds in it. Formula-fed baby poop will become tan or brown in color and will be more solid.
- A lactation consultant may be able to help with breastfeeding concerns.
- Your infant may cry when they're too hot or cold, have a wet diaper or an upset stomach, are hungry or tired, or just want to be held.
- If your infant doesn't need to be fed or changed, cuddle or swaddle them, rock or walk with them, play white noise, or sing or play soft music.
- Once breastfeeding is established, you can offer a pacifier, which can help calm them and has also been found to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Try to have plenty of skin-to-skin contact with your baby in these early months because it helps with their neurological development.
- To reduce the risk of SIDS, always put your baby to sleep on their back.
- Put your baby in a safe crib on a firm, flat surface, not on a bed, sofa, chair, waterbed, or cushion.
- Keep stuffed toys, pillows, and fluffy bedding out of the crib.
- You may swaddle your baby, but do not place loose blankets in the crib with them.
- Have your baby sleep in your room but not in your bed.
- If your baby falls asleep in a stroller, carrier, swing or baby sling, try to get them on a flat surface for the rest of their nap.
- Don’t rely on any device that claims to prevent SIDS, such as monitors and wedges.