MRH Living Well Column: New baby? New school year? Think well child visit
August 2, 2017
As a parent, it's a good idea to align the start of school with your child's well child check to save both time and hassle. With one visit you can check three items off your to-do list: an annual exam for your child plus immunizations and sports screenings required for school.
"It's important for kids to receive a well child check every year. It's an opportunity to make sure your child is on track for healthy growth and development, especially in the younger years when gross motor skills and language development are taking off. It's a great time to ask questions and raise any concerns you might have about their physical health and behavioral health, as well as eating and sleeping habits," said Kevin Monahan, CHA/PA-C, Pediatrics, with Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic.
Babies and well child checks
Well child checks are frequent during the first two years of life. Babies come for a check up within the first few days, then at 1 month, 2 months, 4, 6 and 9 months. Once they turn 1 they are seen every 6 months until age 3, when the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an annual well-child visit.
The early years are a critical time for supporting parents in helping children reach their full potential, and well-child visits are designed to ensure babies are on track and that parents get the support they need. Frequent visits help parents and providers work together to make sure babies reach their full potential. Babies observe, learn and grow every time they interact with others.
"We are here to help ensure a strong foundation for your baby's future development. Whether it's taking turns cooing, playing peek-a-boo or touching your baby's toes, every interaction makes a difference for brain development," Monahan said.
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A baby's social and emotional development—equally important as cognitive and physical development—begins before birth. Well child visits provide developmental assessments, guidance, referrals when needed, and can help parents address all aspects of their child's wellbeing.
The school years
It's important to continue well child visits through the school years. Well child visits are a chance to check in on learning and social issues children face as they grow.
"Each stage has its own focus. At five, your questions and concerns are very different than at 14. Most kids are healthy, so it's a good time to touch base on different topics, including safety and screen time, and help support parents in continuing good habits," Monahan said.
Seeing your child every year helps your provider gain a sense of normalcy for your child, making them more able to catch something that is off. For example, your provider can compare your child's height, weight and BMI (body mass index) to past years to make sure they are in line with past numbers and family genetics. Don't be tempted to take a pass on getting your teenage kids in for a well visit, as a lot happens in adolescence. (And they need vaccines then, too.)
Adolescence is when depression or anxiety can set in. It's also a time to talk about making safe choices like wearing a seat belt, avoiding drug and alcohol problems and considering sexual practices. When your child knows his or her provider, they can be a sounding board for questions they may have.
Kevin Monahan is now accepting new patients. Well child checks are covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid. Often times, your co-pay is waived for preventive and wellness services. To schedule an appointment, call 970-826-2480.