By now you’ve probably come to know your pediatrician or family doctor fairly well. There are — after all — nine well visits between birth and the third birthday. And that’s to say nothing of the mysterious rashes, first colds, earaches and bumped heads.
I spoke with local pediatrician Ilene Moore of Southside Medical Clinic in Minneapolis about all things tots and docs:
How do we know we have the right doctor? The right clinic?
What if my child’s afraid of the doctor?
What if I disagree with my child’s physician?
How do I make sure visits run smoothly?
The right fit
People change doctors for a variety of reasons. They relocate. They develop a more defined parenting philosophy as their baby ages. Their doctor quits! (Mine was AMAZING, but shocked me when she quit clinic life to do in-home Botox.)
If you’re knee-deep in the toddler years and need to establish care with a new physician, start by making a list of candidates based on location, online reviews and the 411 from your friends. Then feel them out! Tour the clinic, interview the on-call nurse, schedule an appointment. The right fit is out there and no decision is forever.
Said Moore: “Most pediatricians are trained to deal with most childhood personalities — more likely there’s a chemistry (or not) between doctor and parent. If a parent wants medications readily prescribed or doesn’t choose to vaccinate or needs a lot of support, they may or may not be ideal patients for certain docs.”
I personally favor the vastly underrated family practitioner, because health concerns and questions bleed from parent to child and sibling to sibling. One-stop shopping. Think about it.
For babies, being pulled away from the parent — only to be, however gently, prodded and poked can be scary. Babies tend to freak out at the doctor, but it’s the same sort of fear they express with anything unfamiliar.
Toddler fear is also very normal. The cognition alone makes the prodding and poking more than just a diversion in the routine. They learn to anticipate the ear probe, the gag reflex, the shot.
Advised Moore: “Reading books about going to the doctor, giving a child a toy medical kit and talking about it in advance can help.”
You’re the expert, actually
There may come a time when you disagree with your doctor. Maybe it’s a gut feeling. Maybe it’s something you’ve researched on the side. Whatever the reason, talk about it as soon as possible and avoid proceeding with said recommendation until you feel comfortable.
Most doctors are wonderful, giving and highly skilled, but YOU are the parent of your children. You’re with them every day. You know what they can tolerate and what constitutes “acting a little off.” A good doc will respect this and appreciate your input.
“Let your doctor explain their reasons,” Moore said. “Explain why you disagree. If it is a recommendation that fundamentally differs with your belief system, and conversation has reached an impasse, then you may need to think about finding another doctor.”
Making the most of it
Positive interactions with medical professionals at an early age can lead to positive health care interactions in adulthood. Being an advocate for one’s own health and wellness is an important life skill. You, as parents, have the power to make each visit to the doctor healthy and productive.
My personal advice is to take it seriously. Don’t rush it at the doc! Carve out the time and make it sacred. Ask questions — even at a well checkup. Be present. I so admire my own family physician for always starting things off with, “What’s been going on? How do you feel? How are you sleeping? How are you managing stress?” Like an auto mechanic considers every part of the car, a doctor should consider the WHOLE person — mental, emotional, physical, genetic and so on.
Jen Wittes lives in St. Paul and is a mother of two. Send questions or comments to [email protected].