The importance of developmental follow-up in babies

Disorders occurring during early life (including prenatal period) can cause long-standing serious effects that are reflected in the child's development.

Journal of Neonatology

Author: Phatak Arun, Prof. & Head
Department of Pediatrics, KGP Children Hospital, Vadodara, 390 018

Man is characterized by exceptionally long prenatal development and post-natal immaturity. After surviving the most dangerous period of 40 weeks of prenatal life, the human baby, at birth, is still a singularly unfinished product, totally dependent on others for survival. Over the next 18 years, the baby grows physically, matures physiologically and acquires psychomotor and psychosocial skills necessary for fulfilling the expectations of the society. Disorders occurring during early life (including prenatal period) can cause long-standing serious effects that are reflected in the child's development. Growth and Development is a sensitive index of the child's health and its regular follow-up is imperative for timely institution of preventive and corrective measures for any aberrations. In this paper, the discussion is restricted to the psychomotor and psychosocial development of infants.

It is the duty of every pediatrician to answer one question with respect to every child seen - “Is the child normal for his age, sex, race and community?” Growth and development is the very basis of pediatrics that distinguishes it from adult medicine. Yet it is one of the neglected topics in pediatric teaching and practice. Many consultants print the weight charts on the patient carried files/booklets. Unfortunately most of these remain blank. The least that a general pediatrician could do is to assess the growth and development of every child irrespective of the complaints for which the child is brought. This should include weight, head circumference and developmental screening. It takes only a few minutes to do this but will go a long way in detecting developmental delays early and timely introduction of intervention programmes.