Toward a Better Well-Baby Visit
At an ideal infant check-up, the doctor will perform these steps:
- A weigh-in, along with measurements of length and of head circumference. The doctor is more concerned with your child's overall rate of growth than with the baby's precise size at any one visit.
- A whole-body exam. Among the parts regularly assessed are a baby's heart, lungs, abdomen, skin, eyes, ears, nose, throat, teeth, nerves, muscles, genitals, and bones (particularly hips, for displacement).
- Vaccinations. The battery of inoculations that the American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends is posted in the "You and Your Family" section at
- A developmental assessment. Some doctors ask parents to fill out a checklist. Others ask open-ended questions like "What great things is your baby doing since his last visit?" Additional routine diagnostics include the doctor making eye contact with and talking to the baby, as well as handing over a small object for her to grasp.
- A measure of family well-being. Some pediatricians observe the way Mom and Dad hold and comfort the infant as well as how they interact with each other. Some inquire outright. Barbara Howard, M.D., a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in Baltimore, likes to ask: "What's hardest about having (for example) a 6-month-old?"
- A question-and-answer session with parents. Good pediatricians value parents' observations and concerns.
Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission from the May 2003 issue of Child Magazine.