What You Should Know About an Infant Wellness Checkup

The first two years of life are a critical time for children. Your baby should attend regular newborn wellness checkups to make sure they’re progressing. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends scheduling a well-child visit for newborns when they are three to five days old during the first week of life. After that, babies should receive checkups every few months until they are two years old.

What to Expect at an Infant Wellness Checkup

Height and weight. Most visits start with measuring and weighing your baby to see how they compare to other newborns. The doctor plots those figures on a growth chart, making them the benchmark to use during subsequent visits to track your baby’s growth progress. You should feel free to ask the doctor questions you have or share concerns about your baby. 

Physical exam. During your baby’s first visit, the doctor looks them over while they are fully undressed for signs of anything out of the ordinary. Other elements of a physical exam usually include an eye exam, checking the baby’s pulse and heartbeat, checking out the umbilical cord, and examining the baby’s hips.

Screening tests. If you gave birth in a hospital, the staff should have performed screening tests that checked for problems with:  

  • Metabolism, including any problems with any missing enzymes or enzymes that may not be functioning correctly.
  • Hormones, including ensuring that your baby produces the right level of hormones in the thyroid and adrenal gland. 
  • Hemoglobin, including abnormalities in the baby’s blood cells.    
  • Medical disorders, like cystic fibrosis, heart disease, hearing loss, and galactosemia. 

Your doctor may conduct the screening tests again as needed. Physicians typically perform a hearing test during every infant wellness checkup. 

Immunizations. Your doctor should administer any immunization shots recommended for different stages of your baby’s development. They protect your infant from illnesses that might cause serious problems.  

Milestones Checked During Well-Baby Exams

During baby checkups, doctors look for babies to hit specific markers depending on their age. Below is a general rundown of what they often check for at different stages. 

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3-5 days. Physicians look for babies to eat when they are hungry, typically every one to three hours. You can ask for tips about breastfeeding or infant formula recommendations if it seems your baby has trouble with those you provide. They should produce a certain number of wet and dirty diapers each day. 

Most newborns sleep up to 20 hours per day. Talk with your doctor if you see any unusual patterns when it comes to your baby’s bowel movements or sleep habits.

Babies at this age start noticing faces and responding to sounds. They move their arms and legs and try lifting their head for a moment when placed on their stomach. Newborns should exhibit instincts like rooting for a breast or bottle nipple and grasping hold of a finger within their palm. 

One month. Your baby should eat up to 12 times per day. It’s common to see variations in an infant’s bowel movement. They may go several days before having one. Formula-fed babies usually have one per day, while those who breastfeed can have three or more. 

Babies may sleep a little less, only 14 to 17 hours, including naps. Babies should be focusing more on objects and reacting more when they hear sounds. 

Four to six months. Babies should receive their nutrients from formula or breast milk and have regular bowel movements. Let your doctor know if your baby seems to have trouble passing stools. Your baby may be down to only two to three naps per day and sleeping up to 16 hours at night. 

Babies often start cooing, smiling, and laughing at four months. You may notice them folding their hands together over their chest or trying to grasp at objects.  Other typical milestones at this stage include demonstrating control of their head when in a sitting position and supporting themselves using their arms when placed on their stomach. They may also grab their toes or start growing teeth around six months. 

Nine months. You may notice your baby’s bowel movements' consistency changing as they start consuming more types of solid food. The baby should still be sleeping around 12 to 16 hours each day. They may start showing signs of basic speech and understanding of the word “no”. 

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Babies are typically able to sit up without any other support and may begin pulling themselves up to a standing position or even using furniture to “walk” around the room. 

Twelve months. If your baby drinks formula and has no lactose issues, they should be ok switching to cow milk. You can continue breastfeeding babies if you desire. Your one-year-old may be using simple words and show the ability to follow basic commands that involve one step. They may be walking without assistance and enjoy engaging with you through games like “peek-a-boo” or “patty cake”.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 16, 2021

Sources

RESOURCES:

American Academy of Pediatrics: “AAP Schedule of Well-Child Care Visits.”

KidsHealth: “Medical Care and Your 1-to 3-Month-Old.”

KidsHealth: “Newborn Screening Tests.”

KidsHealth: "Your Child’s Checkup: 1 Month.”

KidsHealth:  “Your Child’s Checkup: 1 Year (12 Months).”

KidsHealth: “Your Child’s Checkup: 3 to 5 Days.”

KidsHealth: “Your Child’s Checkup: 4 Months.”

KidsHealth: “Your Child’s Checkup: 9 Months.”

‌MyHealthfinder: "The Basics: Well-baby Visits."

St. Lukes: "Well-Baby Checkup: 6 Months."

St. Lukes: "Well-Baby Checkup: 9 Months."

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