Understanding the Guidelines for Well-Child Visits

Understanding the Guidelines for Well-Child Visits

Is it time to take your kids to the doctor? Learn the guidelines and find out when it's time for your child's next well check.

By Lila Havens, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirmed its 2007 recommendations for well-child checkups from birth through age 21. The guidelines strengthened the focus on prevention and finding problems early, when treatment has the best chance of success.

One of the biggest changes was the addition of screening for autism disorders in the second year of life. This change followed on the heels of AAP guidelines that help doctors identify the signs of autism and refer children for treatment. Early intervention has been shown to have long-term benefits.

In general, the update included more well-child visits in the early years and some changes in the testing done during these visits. The added visits help doctors:

  • Keep immunizations on schedule
  • Observe the developing child more closely
  • Address any concerns the parents have

These extra visits can also help a doctor know a child better and build a trusting relationship.

Wellness visits: what changed?
The main changes included:

  • Checking newborns within 2 to 3 days after hospital discharge for feeding problems and jaundice
  • Screening for developmental problems at ages 9, 18, and 30 months
  • Screening for autism at 18 and 24 months
  • Referral to a dentist starting at 12 months
  • Checking body mass index (BMI) starting at 24 months, which can help a doctor assess the risk for weight-related problems
  • Assessing for risk factors of cholesterol problems (dyslipidemia) at ages 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 years and then every year, with cholesterol testing done between ages 18 and 21
  • Three new routine visits taking place at ages 30 months, 7 years, and 9 years

How often does my child need a checkup?
The AAP now recommends that:

  • Newborns should see their doctors within 3 to 5 days after birth and within 2 to 3 days after leaving the hospital.
  • Babies should be seen at age 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months.
  • Toddlers should be seen at age 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, and 30 months.
  • After age 3, children should see their doctors once a year.

These guidelines are for healthy children. Children who have health problems or are at risk may need to see their doctors more often.

Insurance companies may have their own schedules for well-child visits. Check your policy to see how many well-child visits are covered.

Click the thumbnail below to see the full recommendations developed by the AAP.

Recommendations for Preventive Pediatric Health Care


  • American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine and Bright Futures Steering Committee. Recommendations for preventive pediatric health care. Accessed: 05/02/2011
  • Myers SM, Plauche Johnson C, Council on Children with Disabilities. Management of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1162-1182.
  • Plauche Johnson C, Myers SM, Council on Children with Disabilities. Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 2007;120(5):1183-1215.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Policy statement - AAP publications reaffirmed and retired. Accessed: 05/02/2011

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