From the time your baby is born through his or her teen years, plan to spend some quality time at the pediatrician's (a doctor who specializes in children) office—even when your child is perfectly healthy.

You should schedule a well-child visit for your baby shortly after birth and plan for more visits every few months during your baby's first 15 months of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends checkups by 1 month of age, and at:

  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • 15 months

"These frequent visits are a great window into your child's development during a period of rapid growth," says Dr. Jim Guyn, Regence executive medical director for quality and accountable health care. "If there are potential issues, we can spot them early."

Checkups are a great time to talk with your doctor about what to expect as your baby grows. You should ask any questions you have about your child's health—anything from nutrition to sleep problems, toilet training, social issues, home safety and discipline. During these visits, you can also get your baby the appropriate immunizations to help prevent illness—and to keep others from getting sick.

"As a family practice physician for 30 years, I've seen many times the impact of having current immunizations or not having them," says Dr. Guyn. "With the rise of pertussis [whooping cough], which can be deadly in young children, these regular visits are especially important to get all immunizations on schedule."

As a parent, you know your child best, so make the most of your visits to the pediatrician. Here are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Pick a pediatrician for your child early on.
  • Schedule your checkups well in advance.
  • Bring a list of questions or concerns.
  • Talk to other people who take care of your child, such as grandparents, siblings or day care workers, to see if they have noticed any problems.
  • Bring a list of medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and vitamins or herbal supplements your child is taking.
  • Bring along a toy or book. It can help calm your child if he or she gets scared or worried.

Preventive screenings, such as well-child visits, are generally covered 100 percent by your health insurance when you visit a doctor in your network. (Use Find a doctor to find a doctor in your network.)