Are well-child visits worth it? Should you do them, or just some of them? And if so, how do you find a good doctor who can meet your needs?
I’m not going to give you a straight answer to it, though. There are a lot of things to take into consideration before saying “yes” or “no,” and the answer will be different for different families. What I’m going to do is explore some questions that you need to ask before deciding whether or not it’s worth it to you.
What are Well-Child Visits For?
First, we need to understand why well-child visits exist. There are a few main purposes:
- Weight/length/head circumference check
- Developmental milestones
- Health history/relationship
Those are the main reasons why doctors have well-child visits. Of course, through these visits, doctors also get to know the patients a little bit and get a health history on them. This is probably of limited value since visits are typically only 10 minutes long, but the doctor will at least know what the child is eating, if there are any developmental concerns, if there are allergies, etc. Many parents feel better knowing that they have a doctor who has met and seen their child several times and has some type of basis for making health decisions in case of emergency.
Doctors also like to check in on patients just to make sure everything is “okay.” This means, in rare cases, that there is no abuse or other weird stuff. In most cases, it means that children are meeting their milestones appropriately. They also dole out (sometimes outdated) advice on feeding, sleeping, and other parenting practices. This can be very helpful for some, and not as much for others.
Should You Do Well-Child Visits?
Some parents feel that they are capable of weighing and measuring their babies at home, as well as noting developmental milestones, and if they choose not to vaccinate, do not feel the need to go to regular well-child visits. These parents may also be afraid that the doctors will not support, or even ridicule their parenting choices, and they’d prefer to skip such meetings.
However, if you do choose to vaccinate, you will need to go to some or all the visits (depending on if you’ve chosen a delayed/modified schedule or not). That is something you would need to discuss as a family, as well as with your chosen pediatrician.
Some parents, especially those who are not vaccinating or have chosen a delayed/selective schedule prefer not to bring young babies to the doctor. There is always the (valid!) concern that there will be sick children in the office, and that these children could pose a risk to a young baby. Some doctors have separate waiting areas for sick and well patients to help combat this, and even separate examining rooms.
But, there is still the chance that the doctor could visit a sick patient who coughs on his coat, and then comes into your room to check your new baby. Many parents find this situation unnerving and prefer to skip at least the early well visits. Doctors don’t like this because they usually feel that young babies need the most care.
(I know when I called the pediatrician when Daniel was 4 days old — remember he was born at home, so no one notified him that the baby had arrived — they were quite upset at having only just found out, and insisted I bring him in immediately. Like two hours later. I’m not sure I’ll even call next time so soon. Although I have been told that the new pediatrician we found does house calls, so we’ll see.)
As far as developing a relationship with a pediatrician, I have a number of thoughts on that matter.
Is it nice to have a doctor who knows your child, has his health history handy, and whose advice you can trust in case an emergency were ever to arise? Yes. And if you can find a doctor who fits these criteria, then you may be best doing the well-child visits. Hopefully, you will never need a doctor in this capacity, but it would be good to have the relationship if you ever did.
On the other hand, if you cannot find a doctor who meets these criteria (I’ll list them more clearly below), I don’t think it’s worth it. If you don’t trust your doctor or his/her advice, no matter if s/he is willing to “accept” your parenting choices or not, it’s not worth it. It’s not a true relationship and s/he will be little help in an emergency.
How Do I Know I Have a Good Doctor?
There are several things you want to look for when searching for a doctor. And if you don’t find it with the first person (or third, or seventh), don’t hesitate to keep looking. Remember, a doctor you can’t trust is no better than no doctor at all!
#1: You have similar philosophies on health
You don’t have to agree on everything, but you should generally agree on things. For example, if you’re inclined to “wait and see” and look for natural alternatives first, but the doctor is a “nip it in the bud with some antibiotics” type, you won’t work well together.
#2: You can truly be honest with the doctor
Even in the areas when you don’t agree, you should feel that you can tell the doctor what you’ve chosen, and feel that he’s not going to disrespect you.
#3: The doctor respects your role as a parent and treats you well
The doctor should understand that as a parent, you have the final say, but hope that you trust his judgment. And if he treats you with respect, you probably will!
#4: The doctor makes his policies clear to you upfront
This includes basic office policies (like billing, appointment scheduling, etc.) and any medical preferences (such as you “must” get certain vaccines, or whatever). This way if you think you might clash you can find someone else.
#5: The doctor is open to questions and concerns (at all hours!)
You should feel open to ask your doctor any question that you need to about your child’s health, especially during office visits. But many parents also need to know they can reach someone outside of office hours in case of emergency. The doctor should have a policy for handling questions that arise outside of appointments, emergency or no. (I once called my daughter’s doctor because she was 4 days old, crying non-stop, and had been refusing to eat all day. Turned out she wasn’t latching well and was starving and frustrated! Smart, right? But that sort of thing comes up a lot with your first baby.)
Some parents would include “takes our insurance” on this list, and my husband would tend to agree with them. But I don’t. I haven’t found a doctor who does take our insurance with whom I mesh well, and I’m not going to take my children to a doctor just to say I did because “it’s free.” I’d rather pay and see a doctor I can really trust and respect. If those visits do end up partially covered, that’s just a bonus (the current word is yes, we will get reimbursed at the out-of-network rate, if you’re curious)!
To find a doctor you like, start asking other parents in your area, especially ones who are like-minded. You’ll probably find that the same 3 or 4 names come up repeatedly. These would be the top doctors to check out! Of course, you can also check with your insurance company, the person who delivered (or will deliver) your baby, local parenting guides, etc.
What If There’s No Good Doctor?
It may happen, especially in smaller areas, that you just can’t find a doctor you mesh well with. What do you do then?
Some parents may need to have a doctor, either because they are vaccinating, or because their baby has a health issue, or because they just feel uncomfortable without one. In this case, I’d encourage you to go with someone who at least respects your opinions and treats you nicely, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye and well as you’d like. Perhaps this relationship will not be as helpful as would be ideal, but at least there is someone there.
If you can’t even find a doctor you can stand, try looking a bit of a distance away from you or start checking out some alternatives. Maybe, depending on your needs, a naturopathic or homeopathic doctor would be a better fit. Many parents use chiropractors as their “primary” doctors (although we technically don’t, our kids do see our chiropractor far more often than any other doctor! Daniel is convinced every doctor he sees must be a chiropractor and he climbs on the table and lies face down, waiting for his adjustment).
If you aren’t incredibly attached to the idea of well-child visits (remember: if you are not vaccinating and your child has no health problems, there is no reason why you have to do them. If you can weigh and measure your child at home and check the milestone charts, you are doing the majority of it. I truly believe your instincts would tell you when something was wrong and then, you could choose to seek medical care), skip them.
So, the ultimate answer — Should you do well child visits? Entirely depends on you. Do you have a doctor you trust? Do you want to do them? Do you, for any reason, need to do them? It’s up to you. But hopefully this post has shed some light on questions you might ask before making that decision.
Do you do well-child visits? Why or why not?
This is a really timely post for me. We don't do well-child visits (we have done one a few days after birth with each kid, and we did a couple with the first baby), and I was just feeling slightly guilty about that. Luckily, we don't have any health issues with any of the kids, and aside from a brief stomach bug or cold, none of my kids has ever been really sick (I mean, alarmingly sick, or anything I felt a doctor needed to handle). I'm not sure why I feel guilty; I think just general mom-guilt for skipping something that most people I know deem very important. I do weigh and measure the kids–they're growing well. I check developmental milestones–they're meeting them. I have, on a few occasions, asked an opinion of a friend who is a speech and language pathologist about my son's speech. She assured me it is normal for his age. We use natural remedies when our kids are sick, with great efficacy. So I don't think the guilt I'm feeling means I need to act on it by going for well-child visits.
Another great way to find a doctor (how we've found pediatricians in both places we've lived) is to ask your midwife, if you do home births. We've gotten great recommendations both times and have been very happy to have like-minded doctors who suggest natural remedies first and who are vaccine-flexible. We are moving to a new city this summer, and we will have decent insurance for the first time since we've had kids. I'll probably take all three kids to the pediatrician for a well-child visit once just to establish a relationship and make sure I like him/her, and then we'll wait until we need to go the next time!
I wish I had this info when I had my kids! I would have done things so much differently. The pediatricians I took my kids to were primarily vaccine/drug pushers. My youngest has autism and early screening failed until we pressed the issue at age 5. I am a firm believer that the current allopathic system has its priorities in the wrong place! Thanks for this article … I hope it helps all the newer mommies to make wise decisions 😉
Yours posts are SOOOO pertinent to us these days! I am so glad that I found your site, as I am often sending your posts to my hubbs to read (it's hard to get him to read the 'health' stuff that I research for our family).
I just had our 5th baby (our 2nd home birth) 3 weeks ago and I have been tossing the idea of a well-visit around in my head. While our family doc is more flexible and naturally minded than our previous pediatricians have been, I just don't feel the need to take my infant out to expose her to the world (or to his suggestion that I vaccinate – he nevers pushes, only suggests) just to develop a realtionship or see that she is healthy (a fact that I already know). I DO feel that he is open enough for us to be honest with (he is always available for calls too) so I think that we may end up taking her in in a few months, once the viral season is behind us.
Thx for adressing these topics!
I have a completely unrelated question, but one that I would love a further explanation about. As I have been delving into the naturopath, real food world I have seen frequently that people talk about going to chiropractors for adjustments, even with their very young children. I don't necessarily think anything is wrong with this, but I just wonder about the whys and hows. I guess I'm wondering what is significant about chiropractors. Does that make sense? I'd love a blog post to answer! I did a search on the blog, but didn't find anything. If you've written about this, could you point me in the right direction? I'm truly interested. But, to be fully honest, which I think is important, my husband is a current physical therapist who really has issues with *some* chiropractors. So I am genuinely curious!
I'll talk to my chiropractor friends and see if I can't get one of them to post on it!
Thanks! I really appreciate that. I've seen it mentioned on so many natural/real food blogs…but then no explanation as to the 'whys' of chiropractic care. So I would truly appreciate that!
This is so funny you should post this today because I brought my 15 month home from the doctor today for her well visit and I thought, why am I taking her? Every time I go I have to fight, I mean discuss, with the doctor why we don't do all the immunizations. He said, she is due for the Hep A vaccine today and I said, why does she need it. On the paper his nurse gave me said
"Who should get this vaccine: .
Men who have sex with other men.
Persons who use street drugs.
Persons with chronic liver disease.
Persons who are treated with clotting factor concentrates.
Persons who work with HAV-infected primates or who work with HAV in research laboratories."
I said, "She doesn't do any of these things, so why does she need the vaccine." His answer really was: "It is recommended for her age."
I feel like I wasted the day. Every visit is like this. So, I think this post comes at the right time for me.
I'm not particularly keen on well visits because I worry about the vax talk…again. The nurse practitioner I see if okay with "parent's choice" but I loathe dealing with the nurses. I waited 2 weeks to take my little one to the ped since we had a homebirth. I read some place that it is a good idea to take them to well visits so that medical neglect could never be used against me in the event the non-vaxing became an issue. I did the 3 mo and 6 mo visit, but skipped the 9 mo since I had no concerns and she wasn't sick. I plan to do the 1yr. Not sure after that.
I have been taking splenda for several months. Just lately I realized that the moles on arms and especially legs had increased.By a sudden impulse while visiting my doctor for something else I showed the increased moles to him on one leg. He pointed out that two of the moles did not look good, he sent one small part of one of them to the lab and it came back as pre- cancerous. Both moles have been removed since. No more splenda for me. sserer sserer – mulberry handbags.
I completely agree to this post, in fact my kids have not been to well-child visits for many months. However, in the back of my mind is the worry like Michele voiced that somehow, us not taking our kids to the doctor could be used against us at some point. I have read a few stories about kids getting taken away from their parents for not vaccinating, and we don’t vaccinate; I wonder if not taking them to the doctor could also be viewed as “dangerous” by the government or CPS. I wish things were back in simpler times when mothers didn’t have to worry about getting their children taken away from them for doing what they felt was right in terms of their child’s care and well-being. Yes, of course there are mothers out there who are not fit to be parents, however, there should not be hard-and-fast rules for everyone because of the few (percentage-wise) who have caused harm to their children because of neglect or refusing necessary medical care.
So true. My second child never went for a visit to the doctor. I brought my first a few times when he was sick. But, in time, we learned to care both our children at home. Never had anything big happening. I think going to the doctor actually makes kids more sick (personal opinion). When I stopped my first son from going to the doctor (2 years ago) he is much more healthier now (total homeopathy). I’m sure the drugs he took that the doctor prescribed made him sicker (okay, the symptoms seem to stop, but then came again… again… again…).
Do any of you feel that you could potentially suffer negative consequences for avoiding wellness checks? I’ve had such a hard time with them and Medicaid has been impeding me from getting the health my daughter deserves. And, now that we self pay we get a lot of double talk from the doctor I go to now (tell me one thing at an appointment and another when I’m gone not to mention I can’t get a call back to save my life! I don’t want to sound cynical but, I’m pretty concerned it has to do with how I look and that every doctor will look at us the same way. I would love to do everything at home (my daughter hasn’t even gotten so much as a cough or a cold yet) but, I’m afraid I will somehow be punished for this.
Looking for a fresh opinion on the subject because I’m a sahm who literally has all of 2 people to confide in.
I’d say this is timely for me, too. Our Dr. pushed vaccines a lot with my first child. Now, they are only suggested. I stopped taking my daughter as much and seemed to do the yearly check up. With my son, it was basically the same. I didn’t take him as often. In November last year, I got a letter from the “High Risk Management” department of our insurance co. They were concerned that he had NEVER been to the Dr. in the last two years. I seriously thought he had! So I took him in December to get them off my back. He hasn’t been seriously ill enough to take him in and my mommy brain thought he had gotten a check up. It was very concerning to get a letter like that! It made me feel like a neglectful mom but I keep a close watch over both of my kids and their health.
I came here looking for reassurance from other parents that do not go to WBV. I did not have a home and my son is now a little over 2 years old. I have strong feelings about vaccines, I don’t feel comfortable or agree with them right now. I have not taken him to re doc after the 2nd visit. He has had a cold but I was always able to maintain his health at home. He is healthy, smart, happy and thriving! I personally didn’t feel the need to see a doc unless there was a major concern and thank God he has been healthy since birth. I don’t want to be pressured about vax, have nothing against parents who do participate in them. Reading this post has made me feel much better about the care I am providing for my son. I have been with him every single day of his life and think that’s the best care I can give him.