During your child’s early formative years, she or he will notch up a series of achievements, like taking those first steps, making that first smile and saying those first words. These are known as development milestones.
The first five years of life are critical and it is recommended that your child’s progress be checked on a regular basis to ensure they are growing and developing in the way they should, and to find any health problems so they can be treated early.
At these check-ups, your doctor or community nurse or paediatrician will discuss a number of health topics concerning your child, in addition to conducting tests and physical examinations. These may include growth, diet and nutrition, sleep, appropriate milestones and safety—to name just a few.
A typical schedule involves visits at:
The doctor or nurse will want to know how your baby has been developing, feeding and settling, and how you are managing with the newborn. They may ask questions about vision and hearing to determine if there are any problems. This assessment will be done by a nurse, doctor or paediatrician. They’ll advise you on feeding your baby, becoming a parent and how to help your baby grow up healthily.
This check-up will include physical, emotional and social assessments of both mother and baby.
The baby’s weight, length and head circumference will be measured. You may be asked about any health problems or concerns you have about your child.
Your baby’s weight and growth, hearing, vision and oral health will all be assessed. This visit will also cover family health and wellbeing, poisons information, how you can prevent your baby from being injured, being sun smart, improving communication, language and play.
At this check-up, the growth and physical development of your child will be assessed. The doctor or nurse may be interested to know how your child is learning and behaving, moving, walking, talking, and understanding what others say. You may wish to discuss toilet training and discipline. Doctors will routinely perform tests to check fine motor control by watching the way the child manipulates small objects. They may ask the child to perform certain actions to test physical development (e.g. walking or jumping).
This check-up will include an assessment of growth, hearing, vision and speech. Height and weight will again be measured at this age. Children’s walking will also be checked. Any concerns that you have about language, behaviour and learning may be addressed. Doctors may check the cognitive abilities of children by asking them to name objects or body parts and to participate in activities like drawing shapes or assembling blocks.
This health check is suggested just before your child begins kindergarten or preschool. This will be much the same as the check performed at two years of age, and will assess growth, hearing, vision and speech.
A schedule of vaccines is recommended and provided free during your child’s early years. They provide protection from a range of infectious diseases not only for your child but anyone else who comes into contact. These vaccines will be discussed and provided as part of your child’s check-ups.
It’s important to keep up to date with your child’s immunisations so they get them at the recommended times – it may help to check with your GP or health nurse and keep a calendar about upcoming immunisations.
Remember that your child’s check-up is your time to ask questions and to learn. Always ask your questions at each visit. If you think of questions after you leave the clinic, call to speak with your healthcare provider about the concerns that cannot wait unit the next visit. Between visits it is also a good idea to jot down your questions that can wait until the check-up.
Also, a lot of information is discussed while you are at your appointment so it is a good idea to take notes.
Check-up visits are important for your child’s health. A healthcare provider you trust for open and honest conversations can be a great partner for helping to ensure your child’s health.
Alison Mitzner, MD is a former practicing paediatrician and a Senior Director at Pfizer’s Worldwide Safety & Regulatory Operations.