A few weeks have passed since baby’s arrival home. He looks happy, swaddled and smells so sweet. Everything appears to be going, well considering the fact that everything has drastically changed. Baby’s first pediatric appointment is quickly approaching. As adults, we have been to the doctor’s office so many times that we know what to expect from the check-in; all the paperwork, poking and prodding. This is just a quick check-up and considering everything seems to be going well, we do not fret. We swaddle like a rock star and we are total bosses when it comes to changing diapers—not too tight, not too loose.
Although, we were confident in the comfort of our own homes, stepping into the pediatrician’s office for the first time can generate unanticipated anxiety.
Our minds begin to fill up with questions and concerns, based on the inundation of information that is being tossed into our psyches. No matter how much we prepare, there are some things that will occur that will just plain terrify us. However, if we are prepared for the unexpected, and can anticipate a few things, we may be able to decrease our anxiety and build the confidence needed to power through this appointment and advocate when the little ones need us to.
15 Vaccination Saturation
We thought this was a quick wellness visit. Now the doctor and nurses are discussing vaccinations! Bottom line here is: do your research and advocate for yourself. Some first visits will want to administer multiple vaccinations and some will wait until the one-month checkup to start a vaccination series. Some hospitals will provide the first series of a Hepatitis B vaccination before the baby leaves the hospital. If this is not the case, the doctor may provide one at this visit. Ask these questions when booking the first appointment so that you know what to expect.
Ultimately, you can use this visit to ask lots of questions and get as much information about vaccinations as possible, including the series, the timelines, etc. Ask to read the full insert that comes with the vaccine—some of which are 30 to 60 pages long compared to the two-page leaflet doctors often provide. These inserts detail the results of clinical trials, as well as the entire range of side effects, from injection site soreness and lethargy to seizures, brain swelling, and SIDS.
Being prepared is one of the most important parts of being a parent. Also, listening to our guts is something we must do as parents. If we have debated and decided, based upon facts, that we do not want a particular vaccination for our baby, then this is the time we need to advocate for ourselves, our baby and our beliefs.
14 To Cut Or Not To Cut—That Is The Question!
These days, it is very common for baby boys to be left intact. Parents are choosing not to circumcise their babies more and more. Only around half of baby boys born in the U.S. are circumcised today, and the rate continues to fall.
As a result, baby bits are developing in a more natural way. One real fear is pediatricians not knowing how to care for their tiny uncircumcised patients. Many parents have this fear and have seen this firsthand, their baby boys’ private regions being injured by forcible retraction. How horrifying is this!?
For parents who have decided not to circumcise their little guy, it is of utmost importance to learn and educate other caregivers on how to care for and clean the area. Forcible retraction can lead to infection, injury and all sorts of other health complications. Ultimately, we are the advocates and regardless of our choices, we can be ready to watch for a pediatrician who may not understand or respect our choices.
13 Weight Worries
Many babies may initially lose a bit of weight the first couple of weeks after birth. It takes time for little ones to grow and process all of the nutrients being provided on such a regular basis. This first checkup may bring about a small weight loss which can spread intense fear that something is wrong with our baby and feelings of inadequacy.
Ultimately, at the time of a first checkup, babies are just beginning to develop a feeding routine. They may need supplemental formula feedings. There may be problems with latching that are causing challenges in on-demand breastfeeding. A healthy worry about weight is fine, as long as it does not consume us to obsession. Remember that the frequent monthly checkups are constantly monitoring for any medical concerns.
12 Paranoia About The #2's
Poop happens. Pediatricians will ask all about it. Pooping, how often, what color and what consistency are all topics that you may not have thought could be discussed. After a baby is born, all modesty is off the table. Potty talk is normal. No two individuals are perfectly alike so if a doctor is concerned that your description of baby’s poop is not “normal,” take it with a grain of salt.
It is normal to wonder how often our baby should be pooping and if it’s too watery or too dark. Similar to adults, babies benefit greatly from being “regular.” Even if our baby is not pooping according to the way that a pediatrician thinks is most normal, remember that we will see the signs of constipation and we know in our guts when something is wrong or for lack of a better pun, “smells” a little off. Poo happens and poo varies.
11 Pressed & Stretched
Mommy instincts and reflexes go wild as our babies are pressed and stretched in all different directions. One of the things that parents don’t anticipate during the first checkup is when the doctor puts his hands around our baby’s neck. It’s normal to check for development in all aspects of an infant, including a baby’s neck and hips.
Pediatricians will often manipulate babies in ways that we may deem a little odd, in order to assess their gross motor development and overall body structure. Fight the instinct to lunge at the pediatrician and trust the method behind the seeming madness.
10 Prepare For Percentiles
“Are you calling my baby fat?!” This is a thought that many parents have had, especially when provided with numbers that correspond with percentiles. Pediatricians, just as our adult doctors use body index measurements on us, measure babies according to percentiles and measure against typical peers.
There are a few things to remember in regard to this percentile stuff. No two bodies are exactly alike and there can be infants in all percentiles who are equally healthy. On this first pediatrician visit, we can be a bit thrown off guard when the doctor starts spouting numbers and percentages in relation to our precious little butterball. When we are prepared for this, we can be better able to take it for what it is: a universal measuring tool that sometimes is quite flawed.
9 Judgment May Happen
As we bound into our first checkup, we are excited to show off our bundles of joy. Parents can do everything they deem to be “right” and best for the baby. For example, many new moms try to breastfeed, but find that it is not as easy as the books make it sound. There are latching problems or production issues. Parents may have to switch or supplement with formula, or even try lactating cookies.
As soon as the F-word (Formula!) comes out of a parent’s mouth, there is a risk for judgment. Judgments come from doctors, nurses, other parents, medical assistants and front desk personnel. Everyone has an opinion. Opinions about eating and sleeping habits vary widely. If we can prepare ourselves with confidence, and we know in our guts that we are making the best decisions for our new addition, then we can protect ourselves from the hurt of judgment from others.
8 Paperwork Party
Sometimes we forget that this is the very first appointment for our newborn. We have been seeing doctors all of our lives, but this is the first time we may be meeting our pediatrician. This is the first time our pediatrician is meeting our infant and learning about where he may have come from. This can be something we forget.
What this means is that there will be tons of paperwork for parents. Parents medical histories will need to be provided as form after form of medical history is released, and detail after detail is listed and checked and signed and reviewed. Doctors need to know if there are any genetic predispositions or concerns and any conditions that run in the family. Not only do they need to know about our tiny little humans, but also about ourselves as well. The intakes are intense.
Being prepared in this instance is key. We can sometimes request forms and paperwork to be mailed or emailed to us before our appointment so that we have time to fill it out properly and efficiently. Sometimes, the forms are long and grueling and essentially draining. We are now trying to keep a baby alive, being able to work on this over time can help. Then, all we have to worry about is showing up to the appointment with our questions ahead of time. New parents are often shocked by just how much paperwork they need to fill out!
7 The Pediatrician Struggle Is Real
When we meet our baby’s pediatrician for the first time, we may be shocked. We may actually really love the doctor or think he may benefit from a vacation. Fortunately, most of us live in an area where there are many pediatricians to choose from and where second opinions are often encouraged. Yelp and Google review your pediatrician beforehand.
Our child’s pediatrician may be filled with knowledge from years of classes and residencies and even more years of experience. However, not every family and pediatrician mix well together.
There may be cultural conflicts, or a parent may feel she is not being heard. She may feel like she is being judged for a choice she has made and is making. The most important thing is to be open to the fact that if things do not go well, and one feels that this relationship is not open and effective, one has a right to change pediatricians.
6 The Cry That Never Seems To End
Picture it. You have been stripped down and are now being placed on a slice of scratchy sandpaper. You are really cold. You have never been to this place before and these lights are so bright. You have been used to a dark and cozy womb for the last nine or so months. You wonder where your clothing has gone and when a nurturing boob will be back to feed you.
Seems a bit silly, I know. But the vulnerability that a tiny infant feels before being subjected to a checkup is real. The struggle is real. The cold is really real! Our babies will cry. Depending upon temperament, our babies may cry a lot! It may seem like the screaming will never, ever end. It will, though. Stay strong.
Many parents find that by putting themselves in the position of their new baby, they have a little more strength and patience for the crying that never seems to end at the pediatrician’s office.
5 What About Mom's Wellness?
There’s all this talk about baby, baby, baby. (Insert Jan Brady’s voice here when she mockingly says, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!!”) Moms generally get lost in the shuffle here. We think that our new baby’s doctor will ask about us–if we’ve slept or if we have been plotting to bring our baby to the fire station.
We wonder if we have postpartum depression, if our feelings are normal and if the doctor would recommend some resources for us. We are shocked that sometimes our wellness and sanity go overlooked. It may not be on purpose, but sometimes there’s so much ground to cover regarding the new star in town–our baby.
However, occasionally the opposite can happen. Sometimes the doctor asks a lot of questions and we get terrified that the doctor thinks we are bad parents. We wonder if the pediatrician believes us when we say that we have not thought about leaving our baby at the fire station in a pretty basket, or that we have not experienced any majorly sad emotions as of yet.
We sometimes are on such autopilot caring for our new little nugget that we don’t even know how we are feeling, which can stir yet another whole set of emotions. Know that parents have resources available to us in mom support groups, parent Facebook pages, and local playgroups. Sometimes we just have to be our own advocates for ourselves, too.
4 Discussing SIDS
This is terrifying in and of itself. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can and does happen. When the pediatrician brings up this subject, we are sickened and saddened. Parents can sometimes be doing all of the “right” and recommended things in terms of baby’s care, sleep and safety. And yet, sometimes, it still happens.
Just as suddenly as our baby seemed to come into our worlds, discussions of SIDS flirt with the idea that our baby can be snatched away even quicker. This is a great example of one of those television public service advertisements: “The more you know…” Try to think of this discussion as purely educational, as it likely is. The more you know about what SIDS is and how to prevent it, the safer you will be.
3 The Risk Of Getting Sick
Besides daycare, the pediatrician’s office is similar to a giant, evolving petri dish. Children breed germs in ways that scientists envy in their work. It’s true that babies must develop and nurture their immune systems. And, in order to do that, they must be exposed to germs. However, it can be startling when we bring our baby into the pediatrician’s office only a few weeks after he slid out of our safe womb, only to be hacked on by little Johnny while dodging his flying boogers.
Being prepared is key to dealing with the terrifying thought of our newborn coming down with the flu on his second week on Earth. Know that babies get sick. Understand that although the pediatrician’s office is likely riddled with the peskiest of germs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that sickness is around the corner. Look at it from the perspective of building a solid immune system. This is much less terrifying.
2 Tummy Time Can Begin Right Away
Full-term babies can begin tummy time right away. Although it’s generally recommended to begin within a few months of birth, and definitely by three or four months, babies can never begin their gross motor skill development and muscle strengthening too early. When a pediatrician begins to discuss this subject, sometimes parents can become nervous. They think, “My baby can’t even hold her head up! How will she be able to practice tummy time?”
Babies can be gently propped up using a Boppy or our laps while being supervised. They can be encouraged to look up and make eye contact with caregivers from a tummy time perspective. This is not to say that a newborn needs hours of tummy time a day. The doctor will discuss appropriate time frames, positions, etc. This is another way to help foster infant growth and development from an early age.
1 The Manhandling, Poking And Prodding
There is so much poking and prodding when a newborn is attending a checkup, especially the first one. As a parent observes and tries to comfort her baby, the pediatrician is clinically performing an assessment. The baby is stretched and pulled and pushed in odd directions, while the doctor checks for muscle tone, development, skin tone, motor skills, and reflexes.
This can be startling for a parent, especially for a new parent who has never had a first-time checkup before. Our minds are swirling with questions and we want to ensure that we are addressing all of the concerns we wrote down. This, we think, is just about the last straw. It appears the doctor is going to break our baby!
It is important to remind ourselves that babies are resilient and as long as all of the poking, prodding and manhandling are appropriate to the goals of assessing growth and development of our peanut thus far, then all is good.