September 2013

The Benefits of Well-Child Visits

Childhood is prime time for episodes worthy of a doctor visit. Sprains, concussions, and ear infections-to name just a few. A trip to the doctor when your child is well can be just as essential. Periodic well-child visits can alert you to developmental delays and provide valuable parenting advice. They may even help deter critical care, such as hospitalizations.

Photo of a doctor holding an infant

Well on the way

In a recent study, researchers analyzed the health insurance records of more than 20,000 children younger than age 3½. Their goal: to see if there was a correlation between the number of well-child visits received and the chance for hospitalization.

What did they find? Children who missed half or more of recommended well-child visits were up to two times more likely to require hospital care. The most common reasons: pneumonia, dehydration, and stomach problems. Not surprisingly, children with chronic conditions-such as asthma or heart disease-fared worse. They had up to three times the chance of going to the hospital.

Thankfully, many children are receiving some well-child care. In the latest government report on children's health, an average of 78 percent of parents reported their child had a well-child visit in the past year. Unfortunately, that rate drops as children grow older. One past study found checkups declined significantly after 6 months of age.

More than vaccines

You may associate well-child visits with only vaccines and growth charts. But that's only part of their preventive power. They give parents an opportunity to discuss a variety of concerns, including nutrition, sleep troubles, toilet training, and social problems. Doctors can also provide tips on such topics as home safety and child discipline.

Another benefit of a well-child visit is developmental monitoring. While with a child, a doctor may spot problems with playing, speaking, or interacting. Such signs may indicate autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or a learning disability. Identifying children with these problems early can help ensure they receive much-needed care.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends well-child visits at the following ages:

  • 3 to 5 days old

  • 1 month

  • 2 months

  • 4 months

  • 6 months

  • 9 months

  • 12 months

  • 15 months

  • 18 months

  • 24 months

  • 30 months

Children ages 3 and older should have an annual wellness check.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.


Making the Most of Well-Child Visits

As a parent, you know your child best. That expertise can be invaluable during well-child visits. Working with your child's doctor, you can help ensure the best care for your child. These tips can help you make the most of each checkup:

  • Compile a list of any questions or concerns before each visit.

  • Talk with other caregivers, such as grandparents or babysitters. Ask them whether they've noticed any problems with your child.

  • Bring a list of your child's current medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter products. Include vitamins and herbal supplements.

  • Tote along your child's favorite toy or book. It can help distract your little one if he or she becomes anxious.

  • Always ask questions if something isn't clear.


Click here for another article on children’s growth and development.

Online Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics - Bright Futures

CDC - Family Health

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

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