The Basics: Overview
Babies need to go to the doctor or nurse for a “well-baby visit” 6 times before their first birthday.
A well-baby visit is when you take your baby to the doctor to make sure they’re 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’ll also have a chance to ask any questions you have about caring for your baby.
Learn what to expect so you can make the most of each well-baby visit.
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 before their first birthday. 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 3 to 5 days old. After that first visit, babies need to see the doctor or nurse when they’re:
- 1 month old
- 2 months old
- 4 months old
- 6 months old
- 9 months old
If you’re 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 understand how your baby is developing and learning to do new things — like smile or turn their head to hear your voice. These are sometimes called “developmental milestones.”
At each visit, the doctor or nurse will ask you how you’re doing as a parent and what new things your baby is learning to do.
The Basics: 1 to 2 Months
By age 1 month, most babies:
- Are gaining weight and growing
- React to sounds
By age 2 months, most babies:
- Lift their head when lying on their stomach
- Pay attention to faces and try to look at their parents
- Bring their hands to their mouth
- Make cooing sounds
- Smile at people
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
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)
- Sleep for 6 to 8 hours a night without waking up
- Respond to their name
- Show interest in and reach for objects
- Begin to recognize familiar faces
- Like to look at themselves in a mirror
The Basics: 9 Months
By age 9 months, most babies:
- Make sounds like “bababa”
- Play peek-a-boo
- Sit without support
- Stand by holding on to something
What if I'm worried about my baby's development?
Remember, every baby develops a little differently. But if you’re 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 vaccines (shots) your baby has received and results from newborn screenings. Read about 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.
What about cost?
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans must cover well-child visits. Depending on your insurance plan, you may be able to get well-child visits at no cost to you. Check with your insurance company to find out more.
Your child may also qualify for free or low-cost health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Learn about coverage options for your family.
If you don’t have insurance, you may still be able to get free or low-cost well-child visits. Find a health center near you and ask about well-child visits.
To learn more, check out these resources:
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 vaccines?
- 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 have screen time?
- How do I clean my baby's teeth?
Take a notepad, smartphone, or tablet 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 or using e-cigarettes (vaping)?
- 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, safe, 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 baby’s body parts (this is called a physical exam)
- Give your baby shots they need
Learn more about your baby’s health care:
- Read more about what to expect at your baby’s well-baby visit
- Find out how to get your baby’s shots on schedule
You may also be interested in:
Content last updated September 2, 2021
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