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Having a child is considered by many to be a major life milestone. Although many couples are waiting longer to have children, there were approximately 3.95 million live births in the United States during 2016. That same year, roughly 1.2 million millennial women gave birth for the first time, representing 82 percent of births during this period. But whether you’re in your mid-30s and recently discovered you’re expecting or you’re pregnant and in your early 20s, there’ll be a whole lot of firsts to contend with—including your baby’s first medical appointments.
During your pregnancy, you’ll become accustomed to seeing doctors on a frequent basis. But once your baby is born, you’ll need to start making medical appointments for your little one. These initial examinations are essential to ensure your infant is developing properly.
Sometimes referred to as “well-baby” or “well-child” visits, these checkups will allow your pediatrician to monitor the growth and development of your infant. They’re also an excellent opportunity for families to get to form a lasting relationship with their child’s doctor. During these visits, the doctor will take your baby’s measurements (length, weight, and head circumference) and chart their growth. Your child will also receive a complete physical examination to ensure that he or she is developing properly. Babies will also receive vaccinations at these check-ups, once they have reached the proper age, and parents will have the opportunity to ask their doctor any questions or express any concerns they may have.
Your child’s first well-baby visit will be scheduled three to five days after his or her birth (or shortly after you’re discharged from the hospital). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a subsequent checkup at two weeks, though some doctors may have you make an appointment when your child is one month old. After that, you’ll bring your baby in every couple of months (typically at two, four, six, and nine months; then at 12, 15, 18, and 24 months). Then, you’ll likely need to make an appointment when your child is two-and-a-half, after which he or she will see the doctor on a yearly basis.
Comprehensive eye exams are an important part of proper healthcare, even for babies. Of course, eye exams are structured a bit differently for infants than they are for adults. A pediatrician or eye doctor may use toys and lights to assess whether your baby is able to properly focus, perceive depth, and recognize colors. An eye doctor may also dilate a baby’s pupils to check for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, as well as checking for any diseases that might begin to present symptoms early on in life.
Your child’s doctor will perform some basic tests to assess general infant eye health. But for children with a higher risk of developing eye issues (such as premature infants or those with a family history of eye conditions), it’s important to have eye exams performed by a specialist early on. In fact, some doctors believe that all children should be examined by an eye care professional by the time they turn one, or even at six months of age. Most children have their vision tested before they enter elementary school, but it’s often a good idea to make an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist before your child heads off to preschool. If it’s determined that your child may require glasses, your child should undergo exams regularly to screen for any vision changes.
During pregnancy, oral health should be a major priority for expectant mothers. But it will continue to play a key role in the well-being of your child after he or she is born. Poor oral health can have a number of serious consequences; not only can dental problems lead to other physical issues, but lack of superior dental care can also make children more likely to miss school or to receive lower grades. In other words, it’s vital for parents to facilitate good dental habits in their kids from early on. When your child is very young, you can do your part by wiping down your baby’s gums twice per day to keep bacteria and sugars away.
Although your baby won’t have teeth to worry about right away, it won’t be too long before his or first tooth starts to emerge. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends that parents schedule their baby’s first dental appointment when their child turns one, or when their baby’s first tooth appears—whichever comes first. As soon as your baby starts to develop teeth, he or she has the ability to get cavities. Being proactive about dental care when your child is young can allow your child to avoid more serious (and expensive) problems later on. During this first exam, your pediatric dentist will perform an examination to ensure your child’s teeth and jaw are developing properly. Your dentist will also check for cavities, injuries, or other oral problems, as well as performing a thorough cleaning. Finally, your dentist will also provide you with oral health tips for improved daily care.
There are numerous new responsibilities to juggle as a new parent. But along with the day-to-day obligations you take on, you’ll need to prioritize these health appointments to ensure your child is growing as he or she should. By marking them off on your calendar early on, you’ll help your child thrive as time goes on.