Your pediatrician will ask you questions about how your child is doing -- whether she's hit typical milestones, is active, and is feeding and sleeping okay. Although everyone wants their child to be ahead of the pack, the truth is that "normal" covers a broad range when it comes to reaching developmental milestones. For example, some children start to walk at 10 months while others crawl until 15 months. Both scenarios are normal, and hitting milestones earlier doesn't mean a baby is innately more intelligent. Nonetheless, these discussions with your doctor are an opportunity for you to bring up any concerns you have about baby's development or health -- say, if your 14-month-old hasn't said his first word, or your 8-month-old is having trouble sleeping through the night.
Your doctor should also give you relevant safety information for your baby's age. For example, I warn the parents of a 4-month-old who hasn't yet turned over that their child may do so for the first time when left unattended in the middle of an adult bed, and could roll off. And I tell the parents of a 9-month-old who is pulling up to be sure to babyproof her environment, so that it's free of dangling appliance cords and tablecloths that she can pull down.
Well-baby visits are a chance for you to address your concerns -- parents are usually the first ones to notice a problem -- and to get comfortable with your doctor before you have to bring your child in sick with a cold or an ear infection. Come prepared with questions and an open ear -- you are an equal partner in your baby's health.
Loraine M. Stern, MD, is a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a practicing pediatrician.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, March 2004.