Regular health checks are recommended for all babies, from birth right up until they start school. Monitoring their growth and checking their development are important ways to make sure children are growing as they need to.
Regular health checks, particularly in the first 12 months, also help with early detection of problems.
After your baby is born, you’ll be given a Child Health Record book. Each State and Territory has their own style of book though they generally contain the same information. In NSW it’s commonly called the “Blue Book”, in Western Australia it’s the “Purple Book” . In QLD it’s called a PHR (Personal Health Record) or “Red Book” and in Victoria it's called the "Green Book".
You’ll get to keep this book as a record of your child’s health and development, right from birth to when they go to school.
No matter what colour it is or where you live, your baby’s health record book will include information on a range of topics.
- What to expect at each stage of your baby’s development.
- How to keep your baby safe.
- Developmental milestones.
- What to do if your baby gets sick including signs and symptoms of illness.
- General care for your baby.
- Breastfeeding, bottle feeding and nutrition information.
Who will do my baby’s health checks?
Child health nurses, also called early childhood nurses most commonly do baby health checks. They’re employed by the Government and work in baby health centres/clinics. Some nurses work in community pharmacies. General Practitioners and pediatricians also do baby health checks. What’s important is that the baby’s health checks, weights and measurements are all recorded.
Most health practitioners can also access electronic medical records and with your consent, share important information about your baby’s health.
What will happen at my baby’s health checks?
Your baby’s weight, length (height) and body mass index (BMI) will be checked. Their breathing, skin, responses and reflexes, vision and hearing may also be checked.
You’ll be asked if you have any concerns about your baby. These questions will be about your baby’s feeding, sleep, elimination (wees and poos), behaviour and general development. And importantly, you’ll have a chance to talk about how you’re going as well.
In most baby health record books, there are sections where parents and caregivers can complete ‘Age and Stages’ questionnaire ‘tick’ boxes. Filling these out before health checks helps the nurse or doctor to follow-up on any concerns. The questions will also be an opportunity for you to look for particular activities and milestones according to your baby’s age.
Each baby develops in their own unique way. However, the order they develop is generally the same, e.g., babies learn how to smile, then coo and then ‘talk’.
Health checks are not just about measuring and weighing. They’re an excellent opportunity for parents to ask questions and seek information about any aspect of their baby’s growth and/or development. No question is too simple to ask.
It’s important you feel comfortable to talk with your child health nurse or doctor so they can provide you with the most up to date, evidence-based information to help you care for your baby.
Remember, you are the expert when it comes to knowing your own little person. A healthcare professional’s job is to work in partnership with you.
How often should I take my baby for health checks?
There are ‘key ages and stages’ recommended for health checks; however not every parent feels they want, or need their child to be checked according to this schedule. Some want the reassurance of having their baby checked more, or less, frequently. You know your baby better than anyone and need to do what is right for you both.
Health and development checks are recommended at:
- 1 to 4 weeks
- 6 to 8 weeks
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 12 months
- 18 months
- 2 years
- 3 years
- 4 years or before starting school
The health check after birth
The midwife and/or doctor will check your baby at birth. Before being discharged from hospital, they’ll also be checked again. In the early newborn period, your baby will have a newborn hearing test and routine vaccinations of vitamin K and for Hepatitis.
Health check between 1-4 weeks
Your baby will be weighed, their length and head circumference measured. They may also have their hips checked and have a general, overall, head to toe check. Expect your baby to have regained their birth weight by around two weeks after birth.
You may also have a home visit, depending on where you live and how easy it is for you to get to your local child health centre.
Health check between 6-8 weeks
A more thorough check is done at this time, with a doctor or paediatrician checking your baby thoroughly. Their 2-month immunisations will also be due. Your baby’s hearing, vision, reflexes, weight, height and head circumference will all be checked.
Health check at 4 months
A weight check and other measurements will be done at 4 months of age and your baby will be due for more vaccinations. The child health nurse/doctor, will ask if your baby is smiling and cooing and showing other signs of social development.
Health check between 6-9 months
This check will include the usual weight, head circumference and length check as well as checks for hearing, vision and their oral health. Does your baby have any teeth yet? Expect the healthcare professional to give you some guidance on looking after your baby’s teeth and preventing early decay. More vaccinations are due at 6 months.
Health checks at 12 months
Your baby is 1 year old! Another opportunity for weight, length and head circumference checks at this appointment. And more vaccinations as your baby is getting closer to completing their primary course of childhood vaccinations.
Health checks beyond the first year
Health checks become less regular once a baby has turned one. Their growth tends to slow down and there’s more predictability around their behaviour, eating and sleeping.
Your baby will continue to need vaccinations at 18 months and again at 3.5-4 years of age.
Speak with your Child Health Nurse, GP and/or baby’s paediatrician if you’re unsure about anything to do with your baby. And check Nourish Baby if you’re interested in learning more.
About the Author:
Written for Nourish Baby by Jane Barry. Jane has qualifications in general, paediatric, immunisation, midwifery and child health nursing. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science (Nursing) and has almost 35 years specialist experience in child health nursing. She is a member of a number of professionally affiliated organisations including AHPRA, The Australasian Medical Writer’s Association and Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses.
Most women are fertile two weeks before their period starts. However, breastfeeding can delay the return of periods, making it hard for women to know with any confidence when their ‘fertile window’ may be. This is why some women conceive again before their periods have come back.
An epidural is an anaesthetic procedure, where a local anaesthetic is injected into the epidural space near the spinal cord. An epidural anaesthetic numbs the nerves so pain cannot be felt in certain areas of the body.
An epidural during labour helps to block pain signals from contractions. If birth intervention is needed, e.g., caesarean or forceps, an epidural is a common form of anaesthetic.