What's Up, Baby Doc?
How to create a working relationship with your pediatrician
If you’ve just had your baby or are nearing your due date, you’ve probably already done the hard work of choosing a pediatrician. Now it’s time to think about how you will forge a working relationship with her.
It’s an important point: You’re likely to be in closer contact with your pediatrician than with many of your oldest friends. And you’ll rely on her to manage everything from your infant’s immunization schedule to your own anxieties about keeping your baby healthy and happy. You’ll need to hone your communication skills to ensure the support you require from this new relationship. Here’s how to get the most out of each visit.
Know your expectations:
Don’t wait until your drive to the first appointment to think about your expectations, says San Francisco pediatrician Mary Piel, M.D. If you approach your doctor with clarity about what matters most—whether it’s minimal use of antibiotics, detailed explanations of your baby’s development or plenty of hand-holding—you’ll have the best chance of getting the advice you need.
It’s useful to gauge at the start your pediatrician’s style and approach. Some situations may require greater patience or a shift in behavior on your part: If her style is relaxed and casual, you may need to be especially assertive in raising concerns. If you have an old-fashioned doctor who is conservative about medical treatment, you may need to push hard for alternative therapies you may want to try. And if your pediatrician is family-focused, don’t be taken aback if she brings up questions about your postpartum blues.
It’s also important to ask about your doctor’s views on commonly contentious issues during your first few visits. This way, you’ll know when you can anticipate challenges. Topics to talk about as soon as possible include:
- Breastfeeding: How essential is it? When should you wean? Is there a lactation consultant in the office?
- Sleeping arrangements: Is a family bed accepted or frowned upon?
- Antibiotics: Are they prescribed at the first sign of sickness, or are they used more selectively?
- Immunizations: Would it be acceptable to postpone some inoculations?
- Alternative medicine: Are non-traditional treatments such as herbs and massage considered?
Create a dynamic partnership
Don’t always look for hard-and-fast answers from your pediatrician; instead, seek a relationship in which you feel comfortable discussing issues. Keep in mind, too, that every one of your questions is valid, says Michael Rosenbaum, M.D., associate professor of clinical pediatrics and clinical medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Don’t hold back for fear of appearing neurotic.
“I tell all of my patients that you have to be willing to ask your pediatrician things you’d be embarrassed to ask your own mother,” Rosenbaum says. “Speak up, whether it’s about how to take a rectal temperature or care for the circumcision wound, or for tips on potty training.”