Parenting is an exceptional and exciting experience. Thankfully, it is not a solo one. In addition to the cast of characters that will soon enter your life – your child’s eventual friends, teachers, etc. – your pediatrician is here to help you navigate the process of parenting.
The partnership between pediatrician and parent is so important that I recommend finding the right pediatrician and preparing for the first pediatric visit before your due date. Who is the “right” pediatrician? The decision is deeply personal, and it comes down to philosophy of care, education and accessibility.
Philosophy of Care
One of the most important questions to ask a potential pediatrician is about the doctor’s philosophy of care. Where does he or she stand on vaccines, circumcision, breast feeding, alternative medicine, antibiotics and the like?
Your pediatrician could potentially be your medical partner for the next 18 years. Agreeing on the fundamentals is a must. That’s not to say disagreements about care or strategy will never arise. When they do, it’s important to talk about them and ask the doctor for the facts and information associated with them. Your pediatrician should be someone you could talk to, someone who can explain the how and why things are done.
Another important question to ask during your initial interview with the pediatrician is how much education the doctor offers new parents. As a pediatrician, I feel as though education is the most important thing I do.
For example, at the newborn visit I like to go through breast feeding, how often to feed, what to expect in terms of wet diapers and stools. We also discuss how to calm down the baby (I prefer the Five S’s). I’ll talk to new parents about what things to watch out for, such as fever. We’ll go over umbilical care. Some of these things will have been covered in parenting class, but once the baby arrives, a lot of that training goes out the window. Repeating the information can be helpful.
Issues with babies tend to come up at inopportune times. It’s never 8 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. It’s more like midnight on Christmas Eve. That’s why it is important to find out what kind of access to care and information your pediatrician’s office can provide. Is there a phone line for those odd hours? Is there an on-call doctor in your pediatrician’s medical group?
You want a doctor who is personally invested in the wellbeing of your child and family, and part of that investment is ensuring that someone will be able to see you when you need to be seen.
Once you’ve chosen your pediatrician, you will hopefully feel more prepared for your baby’s arrival. The first office visit typically occurs three to five days after your baby is born. Before the first visit:
– Make sure to feed frequently, leaving no more than three hours in between feeds.
– Expect the baby to have one wet diaper for each day of life (one on day one, two on day two … etc.).
– Expect a drop in the baby’s birthweight for the first couple days.
– Make sure baby is sleeping on his or her back.
– Remember to practice good umbilical cord care. It’s important to let the umbilical cord dry out, so refrain from emersion bathing until the umbilical cord falls off (one or two weeks). Sponge bathing is fine.
With the weight of responsibility and the new information coming in, it’s easy to forget just how amazing being a parent is. You are part of the miracle of life, and you’re not alone. Raising a child is a team effort of parents, extended family, friends, doctors and nurses. It’s wonderful work, and we are all here to enjoy these triumphant endeavors together.