“Why does my child need well child visits?”
This is a question we get in primary care all the time. And I totally get it – it’s really hard to justify wrangling your child into your doctor’s office, exposing them to whatever junk is floating around that season, and to sit and wait to see the doctor for an unknown amount of time when nothing is wrong! But there is a reason it is recommended, and why it’s not a total waste of your time!
I think it’s probably more obvious why your child’s provider wants to see them at certain intervals when they are babies – we typically recommend seeing infants at 3-5 days after birth to discuss your delivery and how your baby is doing so far, 2 weeks old to check for jaundice and weight gain, again at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months for growth checks, development, and immunizations, 9,12,15,18 months and 2 years to monitor their development, weight gain, make sure that they are up to date on all their vaccines, answer any questions you may have and screen for autism and other developmental problems.
But why every year after that when they are doing just fine? For a couple reasons – first things first, to remain an “established patient” in most practices, you have to be seen at least every 2-3 years, depending on the practice. And there’s probably nothing worse than trying to get your sick kiddo into their primary care provider and finding out that you can’t because they now need a “new patient appointment” that is 1-2 months out.
Another reason to take your child to see their doctor yearly is the screening tests that are completed in the office. We look at vision, hearing, weight and height, and know your family history so we can clue in on things your child might be at risk for and need to be screened for.
As your child becomes a pre-teen and teenager (eek!), it’s also a good idea to take them in at least every 2 years to see their provider, so that they have the opportunity to ask any questions they might have about things that are going on and changing with their bodies, and with their social and emotional development – especially these days with social media and bullying. It’s a good idea to give your teen a few minutes alone with their doctor at the end of the visit to discuss things they might not feel comfortable discussing in front of you, no matter how close your relationship may be. I’ve seen and heard it all, and there are things we are bound by law to report, so don’t worry- if there is something bad going on, we do know how to deal with it and will make sure you know about it.
Hopefully this helps shed some light on why it’s recommended to have well visits for your children on a regular basis. Thanks for reading!