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To prepare for your baby's 12-month checkup, learn what will happen at the visit. You may also want to consider the questions the doctor is likely to ask and jot down answers beforehand.
What the doctor will do
Weigh and measure your baby
You'll need to undress your baby completely for weighing. The doctor weighs your baby, measures length and head circumference, and plots the numbers on a growth chart. The chart enables you and your doctor to track your baby's rate of growth.
Do a complete physical
- Heart and lungs: Uses a stethoscope to listen for any abnormal heart rhythms or breathing problems.
- Eyes: Checks for signs of congenital eye conditions and other problems. May also check for blocked tear ducts and discharge.
- Ears: Looks for signs of infection and observes how your baby responds to sound.
- Mouth: Looks for signs of infection and any new teeth, among other things.
- Head: Checks the soft spots (fontanels) and the shape of your baby's head.
- Body: Checks your baby's reflexes and muscle tone, and examines his skin for rashes and paleness. Pale skin is a sign of iron-deficiency anemia which babies are at high risk for between 9 and 24 months.
- Belly: Presses gently on the abdomen to check for a hernia or enlarged organs.
- Genitals: Opens your baby's diaper and checks for signs of infection.
- Hips and legs: Moves your baby's legs around to look for problems in the hip joints.
Give your baby her shots
Your baby will receive the Hib, pneumococcal, chicken pox (varicella), MMR, and hepatitis A vaccines (combined into two or three shots). Also: hepatitis B, and polio (if she hasn't had the third doses yet).
An assistant may administer the vaccines. This is usually done at the end of the appointment so you can have some privacy afterward to comfort your baby.
Address any other concerns
The doctor will order a blood test for iron-deficiency anemia and assess your child's risk of lead exposure and order a blood test to screen for it, if necessary.
The doctor will address any other concerns (such as questions about vitamins and treating falls, cuts and scrapes), ask you some questions (see below), and help you understand what's normal at this age.
You can expect your baby's doctor to:
- Weigh and measure your child to make sure he's growing at a healthy, steady rate.
- Check your child's heart and breathing.
- Check your child's eyes and ears.
- Measure your baby's head size to keep track of her brain growth.
- Answer any questions you have about vitamins, if you want your child to take them.
- Address any of your concerns about your 12-month-old's health, including how to treat colds, coughs, cuts, and bumps and falls.
- Offer information on how (and how not) to discipline your child.
- Make sure your child is continuing to learn new skills and not losing old ones.
- Offer insight into your child's development, temperament, and behavior.
- Assess your child's risk of lead exposure and order a blood test to screen for it, if necessary.
- Order a blood test to screen for iron-deficiency anemia.
Questions the doctor may ask:
- How does your child sleep? Your 12-month-old may be waking up often at night. He may miss the fun and companionship of daytime and be reluctant to go back to sleep. The doctor may have helpful suggestions, especially if you can provide details on how much your child sleeps and when. Most 12-month-olds sleep a little more than 11 hours at night and just under three hours during the day.
- How is your child eating? Twelve-month-olds can feed themselves with their hands and drink from a sippy cup. Most kids have tripled their birth weight by their first birthday. Don't worry if yours is a little ahead of or behind that marker.
- How many teeth does your child have? Many 12-month-olds have as many as eight teeth. Others still have none. Your child may suffer from red, swollen, and tender gums when her teeth are erupting, and your doctor can suggest ways to soothe them. As soon as teeth emerge, start brushing them once a day.
- Is your child pulling up? Standing? Walking? By now your child is probably an experienced cruiser and can stand on his own. He may even have taken his first steps. If not, don't worry – many children don't walk until they're 14 or 15 months old. But if your child can't bear his own weight on his legs, tell the doctor. In addition to pulling up and standing, your child should also be crawling or getting around some other way. If he's not, let the doctor know.
- Does your child point at objects? Between 9 and 12 months, most children start pointing at things that catch their attention, such as dogs and toys. It's a nonverbal way of trying to communicate with you and an important step in language development.
- What does your child say? At this age most kids can join syllables together and jabber wordlike sounds, say "mama" and "dada," and maybe say a couple of other words as well. Let the doctor know what your child understands. Your child should know and respond to her own name and other familiar words and show an interest in others' conversations. If she's not making any sounds or is making fewer than she was before, tell the doctor.
- How are your child's social skills? Most 1-year-olds enjoy playing games with others, including peekaboo and patty-cake. Your child will imitate everyday actions such as sweeping the floor or brushing his hair and will be exuberant and curious most of the time. He'll probably seek out interaction with familiar people but will be anxious when separated from you or around strangers.
- How are your child's fine motor skills? Twelve-month-olds like to point at things and can use both hands together when playing with objects. If your child isn't using both hands equally, tell the doctor.
- Have you noticed anything unusual about your child's eyes or the way she looks at things? At every well-baby visit, the doctor should check the structure and alignment of the eyes and your child's ability to move them correctly.
- How's your child's hearing? If your 12-month-old doesn't turn toward sounds, be sure to tell his doctor. The sooner potential hearing problems are investigated, the sooner they can be treated.
- Find out what's in store for you at the 18-month doctor visit.