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A well baby visit is a trip to the pediatrician when a baby is in fine physical health, without any illnesses. The focus of well baby visits is preventative care. Parents schedule well baby visits to the doctor for several reasons: to check the baby’s weight, general growth and development, monitor the baby’s hearing and vision, measure the baby’s head to ensure that his or her brain is developing properly, discuss or receive vaccinations and answer the mother or father’s parenting questions regarding their baby’s sleeping and eating habits, breast feeding and other issues. Later well baby visits can also include help with toilet training and adjusting to preschool.
A well baby visit will typically be scheduled every few weeks for the baby's first months. Visits may be every few months during the baby’s next two years. At least nine check-ups before the baby turns three are recommended, since babies develop so quickly in their first few years. Visitation schedules can be discussed with a pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a recommended schedule.
Immunizations are a major focus of a well baby visit. Vaccinations for polio and hepatitis B are recommended when the baby is two months old. The pneumococcal vaccine, which prevents pneumonia and the DTP vaccine, which protects against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, are also commonly administered during a well baby visit. The Hib vaccine is another common immunization administered during a well baby visit; this shot prevents the flu.
Follow-up rounds of these same immunizations are completed during a well baby visit made during the baby’s fourth and sixth months. A twelve months, a well baby visit can include the Varicella vaccine to prevent chicken pox, if a parent desires. These vaccines are still recommended for all children, despite some parents' misgivings about preservatives in vaccines that have been linked (though inconclusively)to autism. Immunizations may cause a slight fever or minor pain, which many doctors recommend be treated with acetaminaphen; more severe problems are rare.
To prepare for a baby's first well baby visit, parents should review their family's medical history and write down any questions or concerns they may have. Checklists created by the American Academy of Pediatrics can help parents know what to expect at a well baby visit, as well as monitor their baby's growth and development themselves.
Parents need to make sure their insurance covers well baby visits, as well as sick baby visits. Some insurers cover only so many visits per year, so it's good to know what your company provides.
This is also a good opportunity to ask questions about the baby's development, feeding schedules, what to feed, when and how much, and to cover other topics.
A parent is well advised to write down a list of questions to take to the appointment so he or she will not forget to ask them. Most doctors appreciate it when a patient or parents writes down questions and answers. That way, they know they are providing good care and can address minor concerns before they become major issues.