Your baby's first developmental check takes place when they are 3 months old.
The public health nurse (PHN) or community medical doctor will carry out the following checks:
Your baby will get a physical examination. This means the PHN or community medical doctor will check your baby's:
- respiration (breathing)
- fontanelles (the soft spot on your baby’s head)
- palate (the roof of the mouth)
- abdomen (the belly area and the space between the chest and pelvis)
- limbs (arms and legs)
If your baby is a boy, the nurse will check their testicles (testes) to make sure they have moved down into the scrotum (this is called testicular descent).
The PHN or community medical doctor will check how alert your baby is, if they smile and other facial interactions. They will also ask you about your baby's alertness.
Posture and large movements
This is to check how your baby holds their body (posture) and how they make large movements.
Large movements (also called 'gross motor skills') are the movement and coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts.
The nurse will check if your baby lifts their head when lying face down and if they use their forearms (the part of the arm between the elbow and wrist) for support.
They will place your baby in a sitting position and look to see if their head hangs forward or backward. They will also see if your baby holds their head erect for several seconds and if their legs can take their weight.
The nurse will check how your baby uses their hands. The nurse will be looking to see if:
- their hands loosely open
- they are beginning to clasp and unclasp objects
- they respond to finger play
- they watch hands - both their own and the nurse's
The nurse will check to see if your baby can follow a moving object with their eyes. They will also check how the pupils in their eyes react to light.
They will also check to see if your baby has a lazy eye (also called 'amblyopia'). This is where one of the eyes is not developing properly and the brain starts to ignore input from the weaker eye.
Fine movements (also called 'fine motor skills') are the use of smaller muscles like the muscles in the hands and fingers.
The nurse will see if your baby will hold a rattle for a few seconds when placed in their hands.
Hearing and speech
The nurse will check if your baby:
- is startled when they hear loud sounds
- goes quiet or smiles when spoken to
- seems to recognise your voice and goes more quiet if crying
- increases or decreases their sucking behaviour in response to sound
- makes pleasure sounds like cooing
- cries differently for different needs
- smiles when they see you