Keeping your baby healthy
Your baby’s awfully cute! Now let’s make sure he’s healthy, too. If you don’t already have one, find a health care provider for your baby. This could be a pediatrician, a family physician or another kind of health care provider. Try to decide on and meet with a provider before your baby is born. Make sure you feel comfortable talking to him or her. Also make sure their office is in a place that you can get to easily.
During your baby’s first year, he’ll see her health care provider regularly for well baby visits. This is the medical care you get for your baby when he’s not sick. His checkups let the health care provider make sure your baby is growing and developing correctly. In the first year, your baby should get a checkup at:
- 2 weeks
- 1, 2, 4, 6 and 9 months
- 1 year
Take your baby for these checkups even if he’s doing great and isn’t sick.
Your baby gets vaccinations (immunizations) as part of well baby care. Vaccinations protect your baby from serious childhood diseases, like polio, chickenpox, mumps and the flu. Your baby should get vaccinations and boosters regularly, all the way through age 18.
Most common questions
How do vaccines work?
Tiny organisms (like viruses and bacteria) can attack your body and cause infections that make you sick. When you get an infection, your body makes special disease-fighting substances called antibodies to fight the organism. In many cases, once your body has made antibodies against an organism, you become immune to the infection it causes. Immune means you are protected against getting an infection. If you're immune to an infection, it means you can't get the infection.
Vaccines usually have a small amount or piece of the organism that causes an infection. The organisms used in vaccines are generally weakened or killed so they won’t make you sick. The vaccine causes your body to make antibodies against the organism. This allows you to become immune to an infection without getting sick first.
Some vaccines have a live but weakened organism. These are called live-virus vaccines. While live-virus vaccines are usually safe for most babies and adults, they’re not generally recommended for pregnant women.
See also: Vaccinations and pregnancy, Your baby’s vaccinations
When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
As soon as your baby's first tooth appears, start brushing with water. Later, when she is old enough to spit, introduce toothpaste. When you use toothpaste, make it a small (pea-sized) amount of a non-fluoride brand. Don't use a toothpaste with fluoride until your child is 2 years old, unless recommended by her dentist. Don't give her fluoride mouth rinses until she's 6. Start flossing as soon as two teeth start to touch each other.
So when should you actually take her to the dentist? The American Dental Association recommends that your baby get her first dental visit within 6 months of getting her first tooth and no later than her first birthday. The dentist checks the shape of your baby's mouth, teeth and gums and looks for signs of damage caused by thumb sucking. Maintaining dental health early can help protect your baby's teeth for a lifetime.