Your Pediatrician Is Not Your Boss

Christie Haskell

Often when something like car seat safety is brought up, you hear someone always say that their doctor told them to do the opposite of what the safety information says. Sometimes the recommendation is even illegal, and yet the mother uses "My doctor told me to" as her reason, and otherwise refuses to actually look at the facts being presented to her.

Why? This is something I've wondered over and over again. Why do we get a pediatrician and hand all our parenting rights over to them? Is there a magic power that says we choose our pediatrician and then must automatically obey their every wish and command?

Now, let me preface by saying that pediatricians all go through extensive schooling that is incredibly complicated and difficult, and I am grateful there are people who specialize in children's health care. But I don't think all pediatricians have ever taken a lactation class or a car seat class, yet they feel somehow qualified to give authoritative advice on such issues.

Think about this ... your dentist may know teeth, but they send you to an orthodontist for braces, right? Well your pediatrician may understand basic nutrition, but a lactation consultant is the person who actually understands breastfeeding -- after all, breastfeeding is mostly about YOUR body, not your baby's. But that's just one instance.

To help understand the problem I'm complaining about, here are things I have heard people say their pediatrician told them:

  • Forward-face a 10-month-old because his feet touched the seat.
  • Put chocolate syrup in a 5-month-old's formula to "make him like it" when the mom quit nursing.
  • Start a 3-month-old on solids because the baby was too big/too little/eating too much/not eating enough.
  • Make a woman pump after birth to "see if there's colostrum" before feeding it to the baby on a spoon and then allowing her to put the baby to the breast.
  • Tell a woman to pierce her baby's ears as a newborn to avoid the risk of a nickel allergy in the future.
  • Put a 2-month-old exclusively breastfed baby on a 3-hour eating schedule to see if it "cured" his reflux.
  • Load up an average-build 15-month-old with butter, heavy cream, and ice cream, not because he'd been losing weight or stopped gaining, but because the doctor said he was disproportionate.
  • Slap a 10-month-old's hand who touches an outlet, because "they do it just to mess with you."
  • Tell the mother that a 2-year-old who isn't using scissors yet will be stunted in kindergarten in small-motor control.

See what I mean? Yikes.

The point is, your pediatrician is not a child psychologist, a parenting expert, a lactation consultant, or a car seat technician (unless they have multiple specialties). If you have a specialty issue, see the specialist -- it's what THEY went to school for. Your job as a mother is to work with your pediatrician on medical issues, as their partner in your child's care. It is still your job though to become educated on the matter. No, you don't want to override your pediatrician's every comment with Dr. Google; however, it's great for you to be informed so you can talk to your doctor and other specialists about concerns.

You also need someone who either agrees with you on certain hot topics or at least can respect your choices -- it's key to find the right doctor.

And you want someone who is on top of their game. For example, the day after the AAP announced their official policy change that children should stay rear-facing until at least 2 years old instead of 1, my daughter had a doctor's appointment, and I took a print-out with me from the AAP -- but my doctor beat me to it, and the article was tacked in every exam room, and she made sure to mention it.

What's the worst advice you've ever gotten from a pediatrician?


Image via Lab2112/Flickr

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