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How to Get the Most From Your Pediatrician

Nice and Comfy

Help your kids feel comfortable. Trying to examine a screaming patient is difficult for everyone, so it's best if you can prepare your child for her visit to the doctor. This way, the doctor will be able to make the best use of his time while you're in the office. To help ease her mind, if she's old enough, read a book about going to the doctor or role-play with her favorite doll or stuffed animal. (You can even try bringing it along to the appointment, and ask the pediatrician if he might first give Mr. Teddy Bear a quick checkup.) Once there, greet the doctor with enthusiasm. Mothers mirror the state of their world to their kids, so if you're apprehensive, your child is likely to be too (this includes babies)! If he clings to you like a little koala bear at the first sight of the doctor, immediately put on your happy face and, rather than reinforcing his fear by holding him tighter, loosen your grip. If from previous experience you know what settles your child best, by all means, let your pediatrician know. Even little things may help ease her tension. For instance, "Lauren, really enjoys the exam better if she sits on my lap," or "Tommy would like to listen to his heartbeat."

Tell it like it is. Like any relationship, the one between you and your doctor may not always be perfect. But you don't necessarily need to find a new pediatrician the second something she does (or doesn't do) bothers you. If you want more from your doctor than she's giving, let her know. A longtime patient of mine once wrote me a letter telling me she felt rushed during her baby's exam. After reading it, I realized that since she seemed like such an experienced mother, I'd assumed she didn't require that much time with me. I was wrong, and the fact that she cared enough to speak her mind motivated me to be more attentive to her needs.
One of the most common complaints that I hear from patients who've transferred to our practice is, "I liked my child's pediatrician, but we just didn't agree on parenting styles." If you have a doctor whose medical advice you trust, you might stick with him, and try to explain to him why your chosen parenting method works for you. Point out how well your child is growing and how well-behaved she is, and let him know that you've researched your choices thoroughly. Once he understands how important a particular issue is to you, and he sees how healthy your child is, he may very well come to understand your perspective  -- or at least accept it.

Build healthy lives. Don't assume that whatever's troubling your child can be remedied with a prescription for antibiotics; a doctor who relies too much on pills probably isn't your best choice. Of course there are times when antibiotics are necessary or are the best treatment option, but feel free to ask whether there's an alternative.

Use the opportunity of well-baby visits to talk about things like nutrition, mental health, family exercise, and hygiene, and ask the doctor to help you develop a personalized health plan for your child  -- specific day-to-day ways to care for her unique body, with its unique strengths and challenges, be they colic, asthma, food allergies, or obesity. Update him on each visit about how the plan is going, and whether you've seen any improvements in your child's health.

As I stroll around my office, I'm constantly reminded of the many children I've had the privilege of caring for. But what comes to mind just as often is the parents. Their confidence in me, and in their children and their own parenting skills, has helped keep me on my toes. I wouldn't want it any other way  -- and neither should you.