When I arrive at my office in the morning, the first thing I do is see how many well-baby checks are listed on my schedule. The more there are, the happier I am. It means I get a chance to sit and talk with parents, look at all aspects of their child's life and health, and prevent future problems.
During the first two years of your baby's life, you will probably spend more time in the pediatrician's office than you ever will again. Regular checkups, called well-baby visits, help your doctor make sure that your child's weight gain and growth are on track, his development is progressing normally, and he's eating well and getting the nutrients he needs. The visits also prepare parents for what to expect in terms of baby care and developmental milestones before the next exam.
Your first well-baby visit will probably be a day or two after coming home from the hospital or birthing center. Your pediatrician will want to check your newborn for problems, such as jaundice, heart murmurs, and feeding difficulty, which sometimes aren't apparent until the third or fourth day of life. After that, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a checkup at 2 weeks, followed by visits at 2, 4, 6, and 9 months, 12, 15, and 18 months, and 2 years.
Why so many visits? Your baby's body and mind are changing at a phenomenal rate, and frequent checkups can reveal deviations from what's normal. Your doctor is on the lookout for any medical issues that may affect your baby, because detecting problems early makes them easier to correct. In addition, these visits coincide with the schedule of immunization shots your child will receive.