As a parent, there are so many things you are thinking about in terms of your child’s development. Are they growing? Do they weigh to little or too much? Am I feeding them enough? How many naps should they take and for how long? What is that bump on his head? Should she be rolling over or crawling? It can be overwhelming and many parents don’t feel prepared when they have their checkups. In the beginning, you’ll see your doctor once a week, then once a month; but after that it is ever three months, and a lot can happen within that time. As a doctor, I give all of my patients (and their parents) ample time to ask any questions they want at our appointments. However, I’ve heard that many don’t know what to ask, or leave without remembering things that may have happened months before. There are some things you can do to prepare for each doctor visit to maximize your time, ease stress, and get all the answers to your questions and future questions.
It is important to understand that preparing for your child’s well visits are not the same as preparing for your own. Here are three key steps to making the most of your appointments:
Time Management: Timing is key. I’ve always joked with parents saying, “If it takes you 30 minutes to get ready and arrive on time for your personal appointment, you need to pack on an extra 45 minutes for your baby.” It’s true. The process of taking a child outside of the house is a lengthy one, and to avoid feeling stressed and being late to any appointment, planning for your visit in advance can make a world of difference. The last thing you want is to go into the doctor feeling flustered — all that work you took to be prepared could be forgotten. Give yourself time for a late nap wake-up, unexpected feedings, and diaper changes. Most practices will give you a 15-minute grace period. However, if you show up too late, then you might have to reschedule so you don’t impact other appointments.
PRO TIP: Try not to schedule appointments during expected feeding or nap times. This might be a bit difficult to manage since typical “well” child appointments are usually two to three months apart and a lot could change in your child’s schedule within that time frame, but it will help you be more stress-free if you know your baby is rested, fed, and ready for the day.
PACK YOUR DIAPER BAG: Get your diaper bag ready the night before your appointment and make sure to pack plenty of diapers — this is a great tip for any outing. Newborns can have multiple bowel movements within even a one-hour time span. Be sure to also pack diaper cream, a change of clothes, spare formula (if you’re not breastfeeding), snacks for your toddler, and, of course, the vaccination card. Remember, your baby will be naked at the appointment and your doctor will remove the diaper. Having the spares will be helpful.
PRO TIP: All doctors try to be as on time as possible to see your child. However, there are always the unexpected holdups. Bring a small toy to help entertain your baby in the event there is a delay. Also, bring a blanket. It can get cold in some offices, and this way you can have your baby ready to go in their diaper — but still cozy.
WRITE QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE: This is the most important part of the visit. Take the time to write all of your thoughts and questions on paper so the visit can be timely as well as efficient. For your next well visit, these are the five key questions you should be sure to ask:
DEVELOPMENTAL: Developmental questions, aka your child’s milestones are a common area to inquire about. Looking online is a great place to start as a reference point, but beware of where you look for information. AAP.org (American Academy of Pediatrics) and CDC.gov are the best and most informative. All you need to do is type in Developmental Milestones on their search engine and voila! — all the milestones for each specific age group are listed. You can even download the CDC milestone tracker app. Start off your appointment — and impress your doc — by initiating what your child can or cannot do. By doing this, not only are you on top of your child’s progress, but you are kicking off the appointment in proactive, informational way. Once your doctor hears the updates, they can give their guidance regarding those milestones, ask any questions regarding other developmental milestones and give you updates on what’s next for your child.
It is important to note: Your child does not have to do all the milestones at once or specific times because there’s a window of opportunity to achieve them.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO BRING UP:
- My baby is 6 months and not sitting up or at 9 months not pulling up or clapping or playing peak-a-boo. Are there any exercises I could do for that progress?
- How often should my baby be doing tummy time?
- She isn’t clapping yet, is that an issue?
- Is eye contact important?
GROWTH CHART: All parents want to know what their child’s percentile is. As fun as it is for the parents to see their child grow, these charts become an assurance for the pediatrician that the child is growing healthy. No matter how low or high the percentile is, tracking at the same trajectory means well being. Any deviation from the child’s trajectory alerts the pediatrician to ask more questions.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- What does the 78 percent in weight mean? Is my baby overweight?
- My child is always at a low percentile, should I be worried, is there anything I should do?
FEEDING: Ask your doctor for a feeding chart, something that will outline and guide you through the process of feeding your child. Remember, there are no strict guidelines for feeding. Schedules are based on trends in the medical field and your doctor’s expertise. If you plan to divert from your pediatrician’s feeding schedule, talk with them first. It’s always a smart and safe idea to ask before initiating any changes to your child’s routine.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- How often should I be giving my baby a bottle?
- When can we skip night feeds?
- When I introduce food for the first time, what do I start with? And when?
- When do I stop breastfeeding/bottle-feeding?
- How can I tell if there is an allergy?
NON-MEDICAL QUESTIONS: There are a lot of non-medical questions my patients ask me with every visit. I’m always very happy to answer the parents’ questions and I’m even happier when they’ve written them down so they can easily remember them. Your doctor is there to not only discuss developmental, physical health and feeding questions, but also mental health, organizational, travel, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician any questions you may have. None are too silly!
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- How often should we burp our baby? What is best technique?
- What is this rash (photos are great if you have them!)
- Appropriate dress codes for summer or winter, and comfortable house temperature.
WHAT’S NEXT: In order to have a complete visit, you want to briefly discuss the expectations of the next visit. You are definitely overloaded with the information you just received, but it’s a good idea to mentally prepare for the next visit from now. This way, you’re aware of what is coming up, if it’s time to baby proof the house, lower the crib, and watch the language you use because, at some point, your child will be repeating everything. Your doctor is there to help you with all of those aspects.
SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK:
- What are the next set of vaccines?
- Are there any procedures, such as blood work, that needs to be done.
- What are the next developmental expectations.
PRO TIP: As I mentioned, there may be a couple months before you see your doctor. Keep a running list of questions you can reference before your appointment so you don’t forget something that was important to ask, but may have happened a month or two before.
Of course this is a beginner, general list of what to expect for your child’s next well visit. Each age group might differ a bit, but if you keep these few things in mind, you will always be ready and prepared for a successful visit with your child’s doctor.