During your baby’s first year, he’ll have multiple doctor’s office visits to track his health and development. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends check-ups during your baby’s first week and at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months old.
During his visits, your baby will probably have several tests, screenings, and assessments done to make sure he’s growing and developing. Fortunately, many of them are simple – and even fun – for your baby (he probably won’t even realize he’s being tested!).
Why is Testing Important for Babies?
Testing and assessments for any child are used to monitor all areas of development, such as social-emotional, motor, speech-language, cognitive, and self-care. When you detect delays early, you can get started with early intervention, which can help babies catch up to their peers with developmental milestones over time.
Recommended Tests for Babies: 0-12 Months
The following screenings are ones your baby will likely have during his first year. Most pediatricians and medical facilities treat them as part of routine care for his well-baby visits.
However, your baby’s pediatrician may have additional tests and assessments they like to use. They’ll also likely recommend further testing if they feel that any area of your baby’s development might be delayed in some way. In most cases, it’s a good idea to heed your pediatrician’s advice to rule out or catch delays early.
Newborn health screenings.
Before your baby leaves the hospital after birth, he’ll probably undergo numerous health screenings. Hospitals conduct these screenings for early detection of health problems, such as conditions that affect hormones, vision, hearing, digestion, metabolism, bones, and muscles. For most screenings, a simple blood test is all the medical team needs to spot an issue and order more tests if necessary.
Your pediatrician will likely continue conducting hearing, vision, and vital signs screenings at each well visit. Head circumference, length, weight, and blood pressure are crucial pieces of information to have throughout your baby’s development.
The AAP recommends that all babies receive a risk assessment for lead at 6, 9, and 12 months, with additional screenings through age 6. A risk assessment is a quick finger prick rather than a full blood test. Your baby will usually only need a blood lead level test if he shows a positive result on his risk assessment.
Sensory-motor, language, and cognitive tests.
These tests often happen during each of your baby’s well visits and are generally known as developmental monitoring. A pediatrician will conduct several exercises and activities appropriate for your baby’s age to make sure he’s meeting important milestones. The doctor may perform a more standardized assessment during or near your baby’s 9-month visit, often referred to as developmental screening.
Most tasks will be just what you’d expect to see at a routine checkup. For example, the doctor will make sure your baby can focus on objects at a short distance by 3 months. They might also try to get your baby to imitate sounds, like “Whoosh” and “Meow” at his 9-month well visit.
Social-emotional screenings can help doctors learn about any behavioral or mental issues that could delay social-emotional development. Some pediatricians begin screening for autism before 12 months if they see any warning signs.
Your pediatrician will take time during each well visit to ask you about your baby’s interactions with you and others, temperament, interests, and anything else related to his social-emotional development. The ASQ®:SE-2 is a standard screening tool for pediatricians to use to screen areas like self-care, self-regulation, and communication.
Choosing a pediatrician that focuses on each area of development at every well visit is beneficial for your baby. Be sure to find one that’s thorough, who validates and addresses your concerns, and makes you and your little one feel comfortable.