By Jason Bortz

Naval Hospital Pensacola Public Affairs

Well-baby exams, which are just regular checkups, are an important way to ensure babies are growing and developing properly.

These exams also provide an opportunity for parents to develop a relationship with their baby's pediatrician or physician. 

Well-baby exams begin three to five days after birth and continue until the baby reaches the age of 24 months. In total, 11 exams should be conducted during this time at three to five days, two weeks, one month, two months, four months, six months, nine months, 12 months, 14 months, 18 months and 24 months. 

"Well-baby exams are preventative care," said Lt. Chad Lomas, pediatrician, Naval Hospital Pensacola, "but they are also an opportunity to build a relationship between the physician and parents. Babies don't come with an instructional manual, so I work with the parents to answer questions or address any concerns they may have during the exams."

Well-baby exams usually begin with measurements that will be plotted on a growth chart to determine a baby's growth curve, which track's a baby's height and weight progression. Parents can expect a thorough exam during the appointments that will include the following:

⢠Head: The physician will exam the shape of the baby's head and the fontanels, which are soft spots that give the baby's brain room to grow.

⢠Ears: The baby's ears will be checked for fluid or infection and the physician will observe the baby's response to various sounds.

⢠Eyes: The physician will use a bright object or flashlight to track the baby's eye movements. 

⢠Mouth: The baby's mouth will be examined for signs of oral thrush, which is a common and easily treated yeast infection. The physician will also look for early signs of teething such as drooling or chewing.

⢠Skin: Birthmarks and rashes may be identified during the exams.

⢠Heart and Lungs: The physician will listen to the baby's heart and lungs to detect abnormal heart sounds or breathing complications. 

⢠Abdomen: An exam of the baby's abdomen can show tenderness, enlarged organs or an umbilical hernia.

⢠Hips and Legs: The physician will check for dislocations or other problems by moving the baby's legs.

⢠Genitalia: The baby's genitalia will be checked for tenderness, lumps or other signs of infections. 

⢠Neurological: The physician will check for appropriate muscle strength and tone.

During some well-baby exams, parents may also choose to have their baby receive the recommended immunizations such as chickenpox, hepatitis A and B, polio, measles and mumps. While vaccines are not required during well-baby exams, they are encouraged.

"Parents do not have to have immunizations for their babies during well-baby exams, but they are strongly recommended," said Evelyn Johnson, nurse consultant for Disease Management, NHP. "Immunizations are the single most important way parents can protect their children from serious diseases." 

Eleven appointments may seem like a lot of visits, but a baby's body and mind are changing at a remarkable rate and frequent exams can reveal medical issues that may need attention. Identifying problems is always in the best interest of the baby and parents.

"Well-baby exams help ensure optimal physical, emotional and mental growth of a child," said Lomas.

"They are also an opportunity for parents to ask any questions they may have to a physician."