The Basics: Overview
Babies need to go to the doctor or nurse for a “well-baby visit” 6 times during their first year.
A well-baby visit is when you take your baby to the doctor for a full checkup to make sure he is healthy and developing normally. This is different from other visits for sickness or injury.
At a well-baby visit, the doctor or nurse can help catch any problems early, when they may be easier to treat. You will also have a chance to ask any questions you have about caring for your baby.
To make the most of your baby’s visit:
- Gather important information
- Make a list of questions for the doctor
- Know what to expect from the visit
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover well-baby visits. Depending on your insurance plan, your baby may be able to get well-baby checkups at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to learn more.
The Basics: Well-Baby Visits
How often do I need to take my baby for well-baby visits?
Babies need to see the doctor or nurse 6 times during their first year. Your baby is growing and changing quickly, so regular visits are important.
The first well-baby visit is 2 to 3 days after coming home from the hospital, when the baby is about 2 to 5 days old. After that first visit, babies need to see the doctor or nurse when they are:
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
If you are worried about your baby’s health, don’t wait until the next scheduled visit – call the doctor or nurse right away.
The Basics: Child Development
How do I know if my baby is growing and developing on schedule?
Your baby’s doctor or nurse can help you identify “developmental milestones,” the new skills that children usually develop by a certain age. These include physical, mental, language, and social skills.
Each baby grows and develops differently. For example, some babies will crawl earlier than others.
At each visit, the doctor or nurse will look for some basic developmental milestones to see if your baby is developing on schedule. This is an important part of the well-baby visit.
The Basics: 1 to 2 Months
By age 1 month, most babies:
- Are gaining weight and growing
- Have a strong sucking reflex
- React to sounds
- Move their arms and legs symmetrically (the same way on both sides)
By age 2 months, most babies:
- Lift their head when lying on their stomach
- Begin to look at close objects and people's faces
- Bring their hands to their mouth
- Make cooing sounds
- Smile at people
See a complete list of developmental milestones for kids age 2 months.
The Basics: 4 to 6 Months
By age 4 months, most babies:
- Roll over from their stomach to their back
- Reach for, grab, and hold toys
- Have different cries for different feelings (like hungry, cranky, or uncomfortable)
- Start babbling
- Recognize a parent’s voice or touch
- Copy some facial expressions and sounds
See a complete list of developmental milestones for kids age 4 months.
By age 6 months, most babies:
- Begin to sit without support
- Roll over in both directions (from stomach to back and from back to stomach)
- Start teething
- Sleep for 6 to 8 hours a night without waking up
- Respond to their own name
- Show interest in and reach for objects
- Begin to know if someone is a stranger
- Like to look at themselves in a mirror
See a complete list of developmental milestones for kids age 6 months.
The Basics: 9 Months
By age 9 months, most babies:
- Sit for a long time without support
- Feed themselves with their fingers
- Throw and shake toys
- Have favorite toys
- Understand the word “no”
- Wave bye-bye
- Play games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
See a complete list of developmental milestones for kids age 9 months.
What if I'm worried about my baby's development?
Remember, each baby develops a little differently. But if you are concerned about your child’s growth and development, talk to your baby’s doctor or nurse.
Take Action: Get Ready
Take these steps to help you and your baby get the most out of well-baby visits.
Gather important information.
Take any medical records you have to the appointment, including a record of shots your baby has received and results from newborn screenings.
Make a list of any important changes in your baby’s life since the last doctor’s visit, like:
- Being sick
- Falling or getting injured
- Starting daycare or getting a new caregiver
Use this tool to keep track of your baby’s family health history.
Take Action: Ask Questions
Make a list of questions to ask the doctor.
Before the well-baby visit, write down 3 to 5 questions you have. Each well-baby visit is a great time to ask the doctor or nurse any questions about:
- How your baby is growing and developing
- How your baby is sleeping
- Breastfeeding your baby
- When and how to start giving your baby solid foods
- What changes and behaviors to expect in the coming months
- How to make sure your home is safe for a growing baby
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- Is my baby up to date on shots?
- How can I make sure my baby is getting enough to eat?
- Is my baby at a healthy weight?
- How can I make sure my baby is sleeping safely – and getting enough sleep?
- How can I help my baby develop speech and language skills?
- Is it okay for my baby to watch TV?
- How do I clean my baby's teeth?
Take a notepad and write down the answers so you can remember them later.
Ask what to do if your baby gets sick.
Make sure you know how to get in touch with a doctor or nurse when the office is closed. Ask how to reach the doctor on call, or if there's a nurse information service you can call at night or on the weekend.
Take Action: What to Expect
Know what to expect.
During each well-baby visit, the doctor or nurse will ask you about your baby and do a physical exam. The doctor or nurse will then update your baby’s medical history with all of this information.
The doctor or nurse will ask questions about your baby.
The doctor or nurse may ask about:
- Behavior – Does your baby copy your movements and sounds?
- Health – How many diapers does your baby wet each day? Does your baby spend time around people who are smoking?
- Safety – If you live in an older home, has it been inspected for lead? Do you have a safe car seat for your baby?
- Activities – Does your baby try to roll over? How often do you read to your baby?
- Eating habits – How often does your baby eat each day? How are you feeding your baby?
- Family – Do you have any worries about being a parent? Who can you count on to help you take care of your baby?
Your answers to questions like these will help the doctor or nurse make sure your baby is healthy and developing normally.
Take Action: Physical Exam
The doctor or nurse will also check your baby’s body.
To check your baby’s body, the doctor or nurse will:
- Measure height, weight, and the size of your baby’s head
- Take your baby’s temperature
- Check your baby’s eyes and hearing
- Check your child's body parts (this is called a physical exam)
- Give shots your child needs
See what else the doctor may ask when your baby is:
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on well-baby visits was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
Trina Menden Anglin, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP
Chief, Adolescent Health Branch
Maternal and Child Health Bureau
Health Resources and Services Administration