Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Preventive Health Care Visits in Infants

By

Deborah M. Consolini

, MD, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Reviewed/Revised May 2023 | Modified Aug 2023
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
Topic Resources

Healthy infants should be seen by their doctor often during the first year of life. Preventive health care visits (also called well-child visits) typically take place within a few days after birth or by 2 weeks of age and at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 9 months of age. During these visits, the doctor uses age-specific guidelines to monitor the infant's growth and development Physical Growth of Infants and Children Physical growth refers to an increase in body size (length or height and weight) and in the size of organs. From birth to about age 1 or 2 years, children grow rapidly. After this rapid infant... read more and asks the parents questions about various developmental milestones (see table ). Tests are sometimes done, and during many visits, the doctor vaccinates the infant against various illnesses (see Childhood Vaccination Schedule Childhood Vaccination Schedules Vaccination protects children against many infectious diseases. Vaccines contain either noninfectious components of bacteria or viruses or whole forms of these organisms that have been weakened... read more ).

Health care visits also allow the doctor to educate the parents about eating, sleeping, behavior, child safety, nutrition, exercise, and good health habits. In addition, the doctor advises the parents what developmental changes to expect in their infant by the next visit.

Examination

The eyes are examined, and vision is tested. Infants who were born very prematurely (before the completion of 32 weeks of development in the uterus) usually need more frequent eye examinations by an eye specialist to look for retinopathy of prematurity Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) Retinopathy of prematurity is a disorder of premature infants in which the small blood vessels in the back of the eye (retina) grow abnormally. Retinopathy of prematurity is strongly associated... read more , which is an eye disease that occurs when infants are born before the blood vessels in their eyes are fully developed and may result in blindness, and for the development of refractive errors Refractive Disorders in Children In refractive disorders, the eye is not able to properly focus images on the retina, causing blurred vision. Refractive disorders result in blurring of vision. Children may be unable to make... read more , which result in blurring of vision. These disorders are more common among infants who were born very prematurely.

The doctor also examines the heart, lungs, abdomen, arms and legs, and genitals.

Screening

Screening tests are done to assess whether infants are at risk of certain disorders.

Infants are screened for tuberculosis (TB) risk factors with a questionnaire at all well-child visits, usually beginning in infancy. Risk factors include exposure to TB, being born in or having traveled to areas of the world where TB is common (countries other than the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and Western and North European countries), having a family member with TB, and having parents or close contacts who are recent immigrants from an area where TB is common or who have recently been in jail. Those with risk factors usually have tuberculosis screening tests Screening Tests for Tuberculosis Tuberculosis is a chronic contagious infection caused by the airborne bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs, but almost any organ can be involved. Tuberculosis... read more Screening Tests for Tuberculosis done.

Safety

At these visits, the doctor gives parents age-appropriate safety guidelines.

The following safety guidelines apply to infants from birth to age 12 months:

  • Use a rear-facing car seat and place it in the back seat of the vehicle.

  • Set the hot water heater to 120° F or less.

  • Prevent falls from changing tables and around stairs.

  • Place infants on their back to sleep on a firm, flat mattress for every sleep, do not share a bed, and do not place pillows, bumper pads, nonfitted sheets, stuffed animals or other toys, quilts, comforters, or weighted or loose blankets in the crib. (See also sidebar Safe to Sleep: Reducing the Risk of SIDS .)

  • Do not give infants foods and objects that can cause choking or be inhaled into the lungs.

  • Do not use baby walkers.

  • Place safety latches on cabinets and cover electrical outlets.

  • Remain alert when watching infants in the bathtub or near a pool or any body of water and when they are learning to walk.

Some Recommendations Regarding the Use of Infant and Child and Car Seats

Nutrition and exercise

Parents should provide infants with a safe environment they can roam in and explore. Outdoor play should be encouraged from infancy.

Screen time (for example, television, video games, cell phones and other handheld devices, and noneducational computer time) may result in inactivity and obesity. Limits on the time a child spends using devices with screens should start at birth and be maintained throughout adolescence.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
TOP