YOUR PEDIATRICIAN IS NOT A GOD. THEY WORK FOR YOU. REMEMBER THAT.
I am so grateful for the access to medical support and expertise I am gained throughout the years. Especially since my entire family is made up of different medical professionals. With that being said, I gratefully utilise my paediatrician when I decide their medical knowledge and access to medication would be advantageous for my child.
This is not a piece speaking out against paediatricians. This is written to empower you within the relationship with your paediatrician.
There seems to be some confusion where parents (often young and alone) walk into the exam room, offering their baby at the feet of their pediatric deity. Unquestioning acceptance of every word out of their mouth as The Word of MD, going to the paediatrician seeking approval for parenting decisions, accepting the advice of paediatricians on topics beyond their scope, and asking permission are all mistakes parents make that distort the reality of the relationship and perpetuate a grossly skewed power differential.
SO, WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
The problem is that it invalidates and denies your wisdom and your voice. It leads to you being herded into parenting choices that you might know are unsuitable for your baby. As a parent, it is your job to do your research (any moderately intelligent adult can read the same studies and literature to which doctors have access on any particular issue) and combine that with your expert knowledge of your baby. Your paediatrician’s advice is just one voice in this internal conversation. And the weight of that voice varies depending on the topic of that conversation.
YOU ARE YOUR CHILD’S BIGGEST ADVOCATE! THAT INCLUDES MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
Parents frequently seek out the advice of paediatricians, and paediatricians often offer unsolicited advice on topics beyond their scope. The scope of a paediatrician includes all of the things on which she has been thoroughly trained as a paediatrician. For example, did you know that paediatricians receive virtually no training on breastfeeding? Mind-blowing, right?! Medical issues should be within the paediatrician’s scope. If your kid has an allergy or cold/fever, it is lovely to elicit the help of their paediatrician. However, there’s plenty of people who have been huddled by the opinions and advice of paediatricians simply because they believe they can give it.
THEIR ADVICE IS A RECOMMENDATION! NOT THE FINAL SAY – YOU HAVE THE FINAL SAY!
Non-medical aspects of nighttime parenting (how your baby sleeps), for example, would also fall under this category. A surprisingly great deal of parenting advice from paediatrician to parent is based on personal experiences and preferences, not medical training. My recommended response filter is: “Based on what
“By 8 weeks, you should cease all night feedings. He no longer needs that, and you are setting up bad habits. He is capable of sleeping through the night.”
“Based on what.”
“Well … he just doesn’t need it”
“So you don’t have actual medical science to support those recommendations? Do you have specific breastfeeding or nighttime parenting training that informs that recommendation, or is it just your personal opinion?
As your child’s parent, you need to know that all of the decisions regarding your child are YOURS to make (unless you are harming your child, in which case any mandated report would be required to intervene (doctor, therapist, teacher, etc.)). In a conversation about shots, I explained in a class full of parents and their infants that you can hold and breastfeed your babies when they get a shot, and they’ll hardly notice. One mom jumped up and exclaimed,” “I asked if I could do that, and they said no” Stop asking permission to parent your child! “I’m going to nurse him while he gets the shot” If you are confident, they will usually go along. Now, if you have a nurse who tries to protest, you can follow this script to give you the backing confidence you need.
“No, he has to be pinned to the table. It’s our policy.”
“It’s no different for you, but if you feel you lack the experience to competently inject a baby in this position, let’s have a more experienced nurse give him his shot.”
“I’ll have to go speak with the doctor””
“Please, thank you.”
They will often come back with a more experienced nurse who can happily demonstrate how to give a shot with the baby in arms.
One common form of this disempowerment is when a pediatric office tells you, “It’s our policy” Bullshit! When you hear this, you should see a big red flag. It’s like your parent telling you,” “Because I said so” If you believe something that is “policy” to not be in your child’s best interest, respectfully ask the paediatrician to explain (and back up) their concerns. You can make suggestions to mitigate these concerns. Using the above example, you could secure your baby’s leg with your free hand, ensuring no movement, or you could sit on the table if they prefer the height.
You don’t need to be intimidated by your paediatrician. After asking about using a modified vaccine schedule and being told,” “No, that is against our policy”, one mom confessed,” “Who am I to question someone who went to school for this stuff” Who are you? You are her parent! You are her lifelong advocate and the one ultimately responsible for her wellbeing. You should carefully consider, research, and weigh every decision, choosing a conscious and well-informed course of action. Your paediatrician will walk out of that room after 5 minutes with your child and not give her another thought. You will take that baby home. By all means, use your paediatrician for that expertise. Ask her why that is the policy and gather any other information you can from her that you feel would help you in your decision-making process, and then YOU make the decision. If your decision is not compatible with this pediatric office, it is time to find another one.
Ultimately, you have to remember that your paediatrician works for you. They are not a god, beyond question. They are a resource for you in the care of your baby. When you walk into that office, you set the tone for your relationship with your pediatric office. I am courteous, respectful, informed, and assertive. If I am there, I am seeking wisdom but not offering my baby up at his discretion. I will be the one nursing that baby that night. I will be the one holding her hand 5 years later. I will be the one watching him launch into his own life as an adult. And I will be confident that I gave him every advantage at a healthy, happy life by advocating for her best interest at every step along the way.