Parents take their newborns to the pediatrician six times during the first year of life. But the baby isn’t the only one receiving a checkup during these visits.
Before medical school I double-majored in biology and psychology, and it’s that second major that I find myself leaning on most during well-child visits. From mothers coping with post-partum depression to parents who feel hollowed out by the difficult-to-interpret cries of their infants, pediatricians attend to parents as much as their babies.
And that’s good.
A healthy parent makes for a healthy baby. So don’t be afraid to ask questions: Checkups are the perfect time to check in with your own concerns, questions and anxieties. A pediatrician who takes the time to talk with you can be a good sounding board for parenting decisions (to sleep train, or not to sleep train, ask us the question). And we are an experienced resource for parents struggling with common and uncommon issues related to your child.
Crying: The biggest stressor for new parents in the first few months is that they don’t know what their crying baby wants or needs. I talk with parents about reflux, colic and gas and help parents get their babies comfortable and soothed. New babies are just getting adjusted to life outside the womb. With love and patience, they’ll transition into happy babies – and turn you into a parenting expert along the way.
Eating: Parents are often concerned that their newborn is not eating enough. As long as the baby has gotten back to their birthweight by 2 weeks, they’re doing fine. If they’ve dipped below 10% of their birthweight, we can discuss pumping or supplementing. The important thing to remember about feeding is that if you have a question, ask it. Pediatrician are here to help your baby grow healthy and strong.
Sleeping: This is a topic that inspires passionate debate. Some parents believe that a baby can be sleep trained after just a few months. Others are uninterested in sleep training even after a few years. Co-sleeping, naps in strollers, mechanical swings. We have heard every question and can help you navigate the contradictions and confusion with evidenced-based advice that makes the most sense for you and your family.
Fever: Despite advances in thermometers, a fever has to be measured rectally in a baby in order to get an accurate reading. For babies 1 month or younger, a fever of 100.4 or above is serious. Take your baby to the doctor to rule out meningitis. After 2 months, a fever of 100.4 or above is worrisome, but not necessarily urgent. Call your doctor, but know that the immunizations your child receives will protect them from truly dangerous illnesses.
Development: The baby books and websites tell you the stats: By 2- to 4-week a baby should lift his head, look at faces and follow moving objects with his eyes. By 2 months, he should smile and coo. What these resources don’t tell you is that there is wiggle room for reaching milestones. While many babies roll over by 4 months, it’s OK if your baby isn’t. There’s time to catch up. Your pediatrician will conduct detailed developmental assessments at 9- and 18-months to help you rule out autism and other concerns.
As your partner in your child’s health, your pediatrician is not only looking out for your baby’s wellbeing, but for yours. Be sure to come prepared with questions you might have and allow each of these checkups to serve as a “check in.”
Babies don’t come with instruction manuals – but at least they come with a devoted team that is here to help.