What to Expect at Your Child’s Well-Child Appointment

Kids grow up so quickly and because your child is growing at a fast pace, it’s important to keep an eye on their wellness each year. By scheduling a yearly well-child check, you’re ensuring your child’s health is assessed by a pediatrician you can trust.

Your child’s provider will focus on developmental milestones and see how much your child has grown in the time since your last visit. They will be familiar with your child’s medical history and be able to address concerns more accurately. Most importantly, regular visits give your child’s doctor the opportunity to find possible problems early and prevent serious illness.

What happens during a well-child visit?

  • The pediatrician will review weight and height and calculate body mass index (BMI) to determine if your child is growing normally
  • Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing will be checked
  • A head-to-toe physical exam will be done
  • Necessary immunizations or vaccinations are given
  • Your pediatrician will ask questions, address any concerns and offer advice about how your child is growing and developing

In addition to these procedures, your provider will assess your child differently based on their age. See the guide below for what to expect during each period of your child’s life:

At an infant well-check your pediatrician will look for the developmental milestones listed here and will complete a physical exam which includes:

  • Measurement of weight, length and head circumference to determine if your baby is growing normally
  • Looking at your baby’s head, ears, eyes and mouth to ensure normal growth
  • Checking the skin for birthmarks or rashes
  • Pressing on your baby’s abdomen to detect enlarged organs or an umbilical hernia
  • Inspecting your baby’s genitalia for tenderness, lumps or other signs of infection

When your child reaches the toddler years the doctor will complete a vision and hearing check and will ask questions to get a sense of your child’s mental, emotional and social development, including:

  • Whether any noticeable behavioral changes have occurred
  • Your child’s and families’ general well-being
  • How your child reacts to strangers
  • How your child plays and interacts with peers
  • Your child’s language, hearing and social skills

A school-age check-up will also involve the doctor asking questions to get a sense of your child’s mental, emotional and social development. These conversations will involve:

  • How much physical activity your child gets per day
  • Sleeping habits
  • Motor and language skills
  • Whether your child shows increased independence from parents and family members
  • Whether your child is developing reading skills and problem solving techniques

As teens reach puberty, they go through many changes that should be assessed by a doctor with whom your child is comfortable. During the physical exam, your provider will look for indications of alcohol, tobacco or drug use, depression, and discuss your teenager’s sexual health including:

  • Sexual activities and the risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, as well as ask questions about sexual identity or orientation
  • Discuss birth control, abstinence and sexually responsibility, if they feel necessary
  • Girls may be taught how to perform a monthly breast exam and your provider may recommend a gynecologic exam
  • Boys may be checked for hernias and testicular cancer and taught how to perform a testicular self-exam

Prepare for a well-child visit by writing down any concerns you have about your child’s development before your appointment. This is a great opportunity to talk with your pediatrician about your child’s health. Don’t hesitate to ask questions — medical or otherwise. Your child’s provider can give you helpful advice on how to promote your child’s learning and development.

Need a pediatrician? Nationwide Children’s Hospital provides several primary care centers with the expertise you can rely on.

Olivia Thomas
Olivia W. Thomas, MD, is the Section Chief of Ambulatory Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Ambulatory Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Her clinical interests include improving access to care for uninsured and underinsured children, improving asthma care for all children, health literacy, obesity prevention and family violence prevention. She is the principal investigator of the Child and Family Health Services Grant, a title V program funded through the Ohio Department of Health.
William Cotton, MD
William H. Cotton, MD, is Medical Director of the Primary Care Centers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He also is a member of the Section of Ambulatory Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He is a primary investigator for Ohio’s EMSC continuation grant. Dr. Cotton is immediate past-president of the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is also the current president of Nationwide Children’s Hospital Medical Staff. He is also an elected member of the national American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Community Pediatrics.

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