Preparing for Pediatric Appointments
Parents, guardians, and even children can find pediatric appointments to be stressful. Whether it’s a routine well-child check or your child is sick, being prepared and knowing what to expect can help. Here are some recommendations to help make your child’s next doctor’s appointment a breeze.
How to Prepare for Routine Well-Child Visits
Well-child visits are routine appointments that track your child’s mental and physical development. At every well-child visit, expect a similar process.
1. Fill Out Development Documentation
Upon arrival, you’ll fill out documentation asking about specific mental and physical milestones. What you record about your child will be discussed during your appointment with your pediatrician. Ensure the person who accompanies the child is able to answer specific questions about their physical and mental abilities.
2. Expect A Physical Evaluation
Your child’s care team— a nurse and physician—will record their weight, height, and vitals. All information will be charted in your child’s medical record. The physician will then conduct a full medical exam and answer any questions or concerns you have. If necessary, you may discuss a future care plan if your child has further needs.
3. Prepare for Immunizations
Immunizations, or vaccines, are recommended to be given on a specific schedule. When scheduling your appointment, ask for information about the vaccine(s) that will be administered. While it may be difficult to watch your child get an immunization, vaccinating your child protects not only them but others around them from harmful illnesses and diseases. If you have questions or concerns about immunizations, discuss them with your child’s doctor. You will receive detailed information before leaving the hospital about the vaccine(s), potential reactions, and what to do if a reaction occurs.
How to Prepare for a Newborn Well-Child Visit
Before being sent home from the hospital with your newborn, you’ll likely get your first well-child check scheduled for a later date. For many parents, this may be the first time they travel with their baby outside of the home. While this can be an intimidating experience, here are some tips to help you prepare.
1. Bring a Companion
The first couple of outings with a new baby can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced parents. Doctor appointments require paperwork and traveling with lots of supplies, so having a partner along can make the trip so much easier.
2. Plan to Feed Your Baby
Feel empowered to nurse your child before or after your appointment. You may even be able to request early access to the room if needed. If you are not breastfeeding, consider bringing a bottle for your child in case your visit falls over a typical feeding time.
3. Dressing Your Baby
Expect to fully undress your infant for weight, measurements, and a physical exam. Consider dressing your child in functional, simple clothing (ex: zip-up pajamas).
4. Bring a Diaper Bag with Essentials
Pack essentials to bring along so you can be prepared. Below is a simple checklist of essentials you may want to consider:
- Diapers & wipes. You may need to change a wet or dirty diaper.
- Extra clothes. Bring an extra set (or two) of clothes for the baby and yourself.
- Extra pacifier
- Bottles, formula, or other feeding items
- Nursing pads if you’re breastfeeding and start to leak.
- A blanket to keep your baby warm during the physical portion of the exam
5. Feeding & Schedule Information
The nurse and doctor will be asking you specific questions about how much and how often the baby is eating, as well as when and how long they’re sleeping. You will also be asked how many wet and dirty diapers they’re having per day. It’s a good idea to keep track of this information on paper or on your phone when you first get home from the hospital all the way through your first newborn appointment. Tracking this information will prepare you to answer a lot of questions your child’s care team may have.
6. Have Questions Prepared
Every baby is different, so whether this is your first child or you have several, write down your questions as they come up. Coming to your appointment with a list of questions is not only a good idea, but likely expected from the pediatrician.
7. Ask What to Expect Next Time
Before you leave, schedule your next well-check appointment and ask what to expect. You’ll likely need to fill out physical and developmental paperwork, but you may need to prepare for more immunizations as well.
Preparing Your Young Child or Adolescent
As your baby grows, their doctor appointments will adapt to their development. Often, regardless of age, pediatric appointments can include getting immunizations, screening for any health risks or illnesses, and checking your child’s growth and development. At this stage, you’ve likely gotten the basics down, but here are some tips on how to prepare your child for the doctor’s office:
- Communicate what to expect: For some children, doctor appointments can create anxiety. Try to communicate what they may experience. You could practice taking their vitals or show them how to put on a band-aid to familiarize them with the process.
- Bring some distractions: Your little one may be patient, but waiting for a pediatric appointment can be difficult for young children. Grab some crayons and paper, an activity book, or even a few toys to keep them preoccupied.
- Encourage your child to express their concerns: If your child is old enough, ask them to think of any questions they have for the doctor; this gives the child an active role in the experience.
Final Note: Being Prepared Helps
Going to the doctor's office can be overwhelming for both the parent and child, but being prepared can make all the difference. If you are concerned about what to expect at your pediatrician’s office, be sure to reach out and ask. Doctors and nurses are there to help and want to make sure your child receives the care they need.
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