In many cities in Japan, free public baby and toddler health checks are conducted.
All of these checks are conducted to see if the baby is in good health condition and has reached the developmental milestones. If there is any trouble with health or development, early detection is always best. It is not a test. It is to help the baby and the family. So I recommend everyone to go to these checks!
Guide to health check for babies in Japan
When the health check is conducted
The months and ages that are conducted will depend on the city, but in many places they happen at 1 month, 3 to 4 months, 6 – 7 months, 9 – 10 months, 12 months (1-year-old), 18 months (1.5 years old) and 36 months (3 years old). Some cities do not have all these. For example, in the city where I live, we don’t have the 6 – 7 month and the 12 months check up.
Health checks in Tokyo are at 3-4 months, 6-7 months, 9-10 months, 1.5 years old, and 3 years old.
Check the website of your local government for exact schedules and dates.
Fees for health check
The health checks that are conducted by the local government are free if you have applied for the Japanese public health insurance. If you do not have public health insurance, you should contact your local government.
You may take private health checks that are not conducted by the local government (eg. private hospitals), but these may cost fees. You should check with the hospital in advance.
How to apply for baby’s health check
For 1 month old checks, you will get notice from the hospital where you gave birth or the municipal office when you go hand in the birth certificate and other documents for your baby. You will have to make reservations, but all the steps and where to make reservations will be noticed.
For health checks after 3 months, you will get notices sent to your home with the date, time, and place of the check-up. What to bring and how to make reservations will all be given in that notice.
Type of group health checks for babies
There are two types of health checks for babies. One is a group check, where many babies will be taking the same check at the same time in the same place (such as at the municipal office hall).
Another type of check is an individual one, such as the ones that are conducted at the birth hospital.
I had my baby’s 1 month check individually at the university hospital where I gave birth. All my other checks occurred at the municipal office hall.
What is examined at the baby’s health check
First and foremost, the medical health of the baby is checked, such as body weight increase, height, internal troubles, sight, teeth development, and hearing. Also, they check the developmental milestones such as the ability to crawl, walk, communication skills, and verbal skills.
Not only do they see the baby’s development but the mental situation of the mom (or the dad) is checked too. If the mom is having too much stress or show signs of postbirth depression, then a counsellor, day cares, or other services will be recommended.
If health problem is detected at the check-up
If a health problem is detected or suggested during the check-up, the staff (usually the public health nurse) will give you recommendation on how to deal with the situation. If it is a medical issue, they will recommend you to go see the right doctor. If it is a mental developmental issue, they will notice you of supporting classes or public rehabilitation institutions.
My first daughter was slow with her verbal skills and could not complete her tasks at her 1.5 year old check-up. The public nurse told us about a free public supporting class that was open to 1.5-2 year olds with slow development. We attended that for almost a year, and it was a nice chance to meet other moms and keep me outside and not feel lonely. So, don’t be too worried if your child cannot complete everything at the health check!
Other notices you can get at the health check
Other information you can get at a baby’s health check are information for mommy-clubs, day cares, emergency medical aid, counselling services, how to start baby food, how to brush your baby’s teeth, how to start potty training, and so on.
1. My baby got sick on the day of the health check. What should I do?
It is common for babies and kids to get sick on a scheduled day. Don’t worry, it’s very normal. Just call the institution (municipal office, hospital etc) and ask for rescheduling. At some local governments, you may have to wait for a month for the next day of health check, but that is okay. Baby health checks are assumed to be within 1 to 3 months of the birthday.
2. My child couldn’t complete her tasks because she got too nervous at the health check. Will the doctor think she has a developmental delay?
It is perfectly normal for kids to be overwhelmed at unfamiliar places. Doctors are aware of that, and they can tell if the child is just nervous or actually showing signs of delay. The doctors are checking very subtle signs, not just the completeness of the tasks. Just tell them on how your child is at home, what she can do and what she can’t. Again, this is not a test to see if you baby is doing ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Be honest, and trust the doctors.