When people advocate researching medical topics, they're accused of not respecting their pediatrician's education and experience. Some people will even go as far to tell someone they're endangering their child for getting another opinion or not following a doctor's recommendations.
Assuming one doctor knows everything makes me cringe. Doctors are human and make mistakes. Some have personal biases, and for all you know, your pediatrician graduated at the very bottom of his class. Some, not all, of course. And what also makes me cringe is when we ignore doctors and totally put all the trust in Dr. Google. The key is getting to the middle ground. Arming yourself with knowledge with all the info out there from those who know and have been there. So how do you do that without losing your mind?
1. Get the right doctor for you. If you have a doctor who has incredibly different goals and beliefs from you, they likely aren't right for your family. You may even want to go for a family doctor (who often focus more on maintaining health than fixing problems) or a naturopathic doctor (if you're very into alternative medicine).
2. Don't leave everything up to your doctor. Before getting vaccines for your child, for example, ask for the inserts to the medication or ask which one they use and read the insert yourself online. Learn what the WHO says about a condition or the La Leche League says about breastfeeding, write things down, and present it to your doctor.
3. Discuss, don't be ordered. When you bring up concerns, your doctor should discuss them with you with respect for your opinion and desires, and try to find the medically reasonable solution that still respects your beliefs, if possible. Remember, they're not your boss -- you HIRED them for a consultation on YOUR child. They can tell you what they think you should do and why, but not order you to do anything.
4. Be open to correction. When you bring an article you read that raised concern, be open to being told that your research led you the wrong way. You shouldn't be scolded or treated badly; instead your doctor should appreciate your interest in your child's health and explain why your article isn't applicable, and then guide you the right direction, even provide more sources.
5. Know what their education entails. Most pediatricians are taught how to look for problems, and how to fix them. However, they're not always taught basic prevention, nutrition, or more. I ask for a referral to a specialist when a problem isn't part of common health issues. Breastfeeding issues? Trust a certified lactation consultant instead -- there's no required lactation class for peds. But do respect what their education did cover -- they worked hard for that knowledge.
6. Don't take opinion as fact. Your co-sleeping, use of time-outs, and whether or not you paint your boy's toenails pink is not only not your doctor's specialty, but also not their business. They shouldn't be trying to give you parenting advice (unless you ask) -- only medical advice.
7. Don't be afraid to disagree. If your doc tells you to stop co-sleeping and you don't want to, it's okay to tell them you're comfortable in your choice and don't want their advice there. If your doctor is telling you to flip your 1-year-old's car seat and you know that the AAP recommends NOT doing it until 2, it's worth even correcting your doctor, bringing the AAP's statement, and, if they're an AAP Fellow, reporting them.
Do you have a healthy balance between your own research and your pediatrician's knowledge?
Image via EraPhernalia Vintage/Flickr