Mother and Baby

The Red Book: Everything you need to know

Section: Baby Health
The Red Book: Everything you need to know

The Red Book is an invaluable record of your child’s development and can be used in lots of useful ways. 

In the first few years of your baby’s life, his whirlwind schedule of immunisations, weigh-ins, routine reviews and screenings is documented in his Personal Child Health Record, commonly referred
to as the ‘Red Book’. This Red Book contains all the developmental information you need to know.

You should take it with you to every appointment with your GP, clinic or health advisor, so medics can record details of your child’s weight, height, vaccinations and other important health information. It will record your child’s health and development until he is five.

But the Red Book can be used in many other useful ways too…

Get more from routine check-ups

The Red Book provides a list of milestones and suggests topics you might want to discuss at routine reviews. Read these before your appointment, consider how your child is doing, and ask nursery staff for a second opinion. 

‘Jot down any queries in the book, so you can discuss them,’ says Dr Helen Bedford, chair of the Personal Child Health Records group, the body responsible for the Red Book.

Take your Red Book to non-routine GP appointments too. ‘When you’ve got a poorly child, it can be hard to remember everything a doctor advises,’ Dr Helen says. ‘Ask them to write it down in your book to refer to later.’

Take your Red Book on holiday

It will hopefully never happen, but you might end up in A&E, whether it’s with a Lego brick stuck up a tiny nostril or a rash that clears up as soon as you make it into the consultant’s room. 

‘The hospital might not be able to access your child’s records or contact your GP,’ says Dr Helen. ‘Your Red Book could provide key information, from special needs or allergies to immunisations and growth charts.’

Plan vaccinations

Talking of holidays… The Red Book’s immunisations guide can do more than remind you when to book appointments for vaccinations and record which ones he’s had and when. 

Your baby may feel under the weather or have a sore arm for a few days following a vaccination, so use this information to plan other events and ensure an upcoming jab that he’s due doesn’t precede a holiday or your return to work. 

Share information with other carers

If and when you choose to use childcare, share the book with your little one’s nursery key worker or childminder. ‘They can better support your child and his individual development if they are aware of how he is hitting milestones,’ says Dr Helen.

See how tall your child might grow

In 2009, the Red Book was updated to incorporate new growth charts that refer to both breast-fed and bottle-fed babies. With your baby’s weight and size plotted on the charts, you’ll have a gauge of how your tot is growing in comparison to the average child.

These growth charts can predict how tall your child will eventually grow to. ‘Track the curve of the line your child is currently following to get a pretty reliable estimate of how tall he will be as an adult,’ says Dr Helen.

Record your child’s development history

The Red Book includes space where you can record your baby’s milestones: the age he first rolls over, sits with support and without, crawls, stands and takes his first steps. It’s important to fill this in, as it could be useful if any problems crop up in the future. 

‘If medical professionals have any concerns about development later on, you might be asked questions like, “When did he say his first word?” It’s very useful if you can answer accurately,’ says Dr Helen. 

Note down any illnesses, accidents and things being ‘not quite right’ too. In the unlikely event of a problem later on, it will be useful for medical staff to look back over this history.

Create a long-term immunisation record

‘I still use my children’s Red Books to record their immunisations, even though they’re teenagers’ says Helen. ‘It’s brilliantly useful to have a central record – and some employers require an immunisation history.’

Make a memory book

Don’t forget to show your Red Book to the most important person of all: your child. When he turns 18, put the Red Book in a box with his first blanket, shoes and hospital bracelet. One day he’ll read through it and realise what an amazing job you did of taking care of him.


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