For most parents, taking the little one on a visit to their pediatrician can be a very educational time. After all, it’s an opportunity to learn about the things that are going on with the child’s body, as well as the best way to ensure that she’s as healthy as possible.
As much as we know our kids, an expert with knowledge of anatomy, physiology, health and disease can often shed light on things that we’ve always wondered about.
However, sometimes there are things that pediatricians can miss telling us. And this is not because it’s something not worth telling, but because of the assumption we already know about it. After all, we’ve been seeing doctors for quite some time now.
Surely we’ve been told about the basics of child care! Often, pediatricians regard these things as common knowledge, and therefore something they don’t need to reinforce.
To be fair, most of us have heard of these from health care professionals in some form or the other. However, it’s a whole other question whether we actually understand their importance or actually practice them.
With all the medical misconceptions spewing around the internet, after all, it’s probably worth reinforcing some solid scientific knowledge that is actually effective in keeping our kids healthy.
So if any of the things in the list strikes you as surprising, make sure to bring it up with the pediatrician. It’ll make for a great conversation to shed light on some of the misconceptions we may have about kids.
16 Care For The Cord
It can be a bit confusing for the parents of newborns to deal with that little stump which was once the umbilical cord. But cord care is pretty simple, once you get the hang of it. First of all, it must always be clean and dry. Make sure that poop or urine doesn’t get in contact with it. If it does get wet or dirty, clean it up sponge bath style and allow it to dry.
It’s important to remember that this cord is still connected to the little one’s circulatory system until it falls off. Any infection around this area could be serious and might spread easily, especially in newborns.
Consult the doctor immediately if the area around the cord is red, swollen or appears painful. Another red flag if the stump gives off a discharge, especially if it is purulent or foul-smelling. Some blood might be expected from the stump, but continuous bleeding is also a problem and could signal that the little one has a bleeding disorder.
15 No Pillows
The pediatrician might forget to tell the average parent not to put pillows or stuffed toys in the baby’s crib. In fact, pretty much the only thing that is needed there is a firm mattress. Basically, keep it Spartan when it comes to the crib. This is because very soft items in proximity can increase the baby’s risk of SIDS.
This is especially during the first few months, when the little one does not yet have enough neck strength to lift her head off the bed.
Because of this, it’s easy for her to end up face-down on a soft surface such as a pillow and not be able to move it. Essentially, her head gets burrowed into the pillow. Due to the nature of the pillow’s surface, it might end up covering her nose and mouth, which can make her unable to breathe. Definitely not a situation anyone would want for their little one!
14 Wash Those Hands
All medical professionals should practice good hygiene. They wash, sanitize and even sterilize between patients, knowing the dangers of spreading colds and flu. The average nurse or pediatrician, after all, will have washed her hands raw sometimes.
However, they do this so often that they sometimes forget that we ordinary mortals do not find this intuitive.
The truth is that proper hand washing is probably the single most effective thing that anyone can do to prevent the spread of those pesky microorganisms. Health care professionals expect that parents wash their hands before handling the baby or before handling any food that goes into the baby’s mouth.
Yes, breastfeeding included. The pediatrician may not say it, but she certainly expects all parents to be meticulous hand washers. Until the little one comes up with a case of diarrhea, that is, and it will be a necessity to reinforce the fact that good hygiene increases the chance of a healthy child.
13 Worry About Fevers
Of course, a fever can be nothing serious. A fever is, after all, one of the ways in which the body fights infection. In some cases, a rise in the little one’s temperature means that a microorganism has entered his body. But if it goes away after a day, the immune system was probably successful.
However, the pediatrician does expect parents to inform them right away for a fever if the little one is less than three months old. This is because prior to this age the little one’s immune system is still underdeveloped. She may therefore not experience any other symptom other than fever until it things get serious.
In older babies however, the best thing for the parents to do may depend on other symptoms. Fever that comes with difficulty breathing, a sore throat, a stiff neck or severe abdominal pain warrant a trip to the ER. For less serious symptoms such as a runny nose, the parents may want to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
12 Vaccines Are Important
Every good pediatrician expects each parent to take their child in for their vaccinations on schedule. But there is so much misinformation about vaccines going around that some parents don’t. It is important that pediatricians stress the importance of vaccines, as they save lives. The common infectious conditions they prevent are serious.
It’s hard to see this, considering that many of us have hardly ever seen a vaccine-preventable illness. It’s easy to believe that something can’t cause disability or death when we’re so far removed from them. But those who have seen the effects of these illnesses in places where vaccines are largely unavailable know just how important they are. There is, of course, a small risk of getting an adverse reaction to the vaccine. But the numbers and the risk for developing a complication from a vaccine-preventable illness is actually higher. If any parent has any doubt at all about the safety of vaccines, please talk to the doctor about these fears.
11 Walkers Aren’t A Good Idea
Some parents just love walkers, those handy contraptions that help the little one run around. But, just in case the pediatrician forgot to say, walkers are dangerous. So much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against getting one. The first reason that walkers are discouraged is because they increase the risk of accidents.
Babies using walkers can easily trip over an object on the ground and get injured. They also run the risk of falling down a flight of stairs or reach things that could potentially be dangerous.
Another reason is that studies consistently show that walkers don’t help babies learn to walk. In fact, they hinder this process because, since the little one can “stand” in her walker anyway, she’s not going to go through the process of developing leg strength by learning to stand. As a result, babies who use walkers actually learn to walk later than babies who don’t.
10 Parents Can’t Spoil With Love
Many parents leave their babies crying or withhold feedings to keep from spoiling them. While this may be justifiable if, for instance, the parent is trying to teach the baby a sleep pattern, the pediatrician would be appalled at the idea of spoiling an infant. It’s practically impossible to spoil a little one with the love and care that she needs.
On the contrary, not providing for her needs in infancy can lead to an insecure and mistrustful child, which makes her more likely to be more demanding later on.
Even when it comes to toddlers, pretty much the only way to spoil them is to give them bribes and to avoid discipline. Tantrums, needless to say, should be ignored. Other than that, parents shouldn’t worry about giving the little one things that she actually needs, such as food, clothing, love and attention. But, really, do attend to that crying baby.
9 The Right Temperature
It’s extremely important to keep the little one at the right temperature, especially at night time. Babies need to be comfortably warm at all times. Their thermoregulation mechanisms aren’t well-developed yet, and they have a large surface area so it’s easy for them to lose a lot of heat in a short period of time when left exposed.
Babies at too low or too high temperatures increase the little one’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
It’s therefore best to keep the little one adequately dressed depending on the environmental temperature. The best way to assess whether the little one needs more or less warmth is through touch. If the little one is warm and sweaty, try thinner and more breathable layers. If her limbs are cold to the touch, add thicker and more insulating layers.
It may be necessary to assess periodically, especially if she’s crying in the middle of the night, an indicator that she might be uncomfortable.
7 Tracking Developmental Milestones
Keeping track of developmental milestones is important. Sure, some kids may be early or late bloomers who get to these milestones at a different age from their peers, but otherwise have no problems. But it’s still important to make sure that these milestones do happen.
The pediatrician actually expects parents to report any developmental delays, so she can check whether there’s a possibility of a condition that affects development.
For instance, the absence of developmental milestones related to hearing, such as turning towards a noise, might indicate that the child has hearing problems. In some cases, the earlier this problem is treated, the better her chances of having normal hearing ability. Conditions such as autism can also be diagnosed in infancy based on certain milestones.
Of course, not all developmental delays are red flags. Sometimes they are simply due to other factors such as the baby being ill or if she was born premature. Nevertheless, it’s still important to inform the doctor about these milestones.
6 Oral Care Is important Regardless Of Age
Even before the little one’s first tooth pops up, cleaning out her mouth is extremely important. Stagnant milk or food particles in there can encourage the growth of microorganisms, which can result in infection or, at least, stinky breath. It’s best to clean the little one’s mouth, wiping all the surfaces of the tongue and gums, with a soft, damp cloth.
The doctor may also forget to tell this to the parent, but the little one should be taken to the dentist as soon as her first tooth appears or around her first birthday, whichever happens first. After all, good oral care is best started early on.
Despite this, dental hygiene is much overlooked, as it doesn’t usually present an immediate threat. But neglecting it on the long-term can result in dental caries or periodontal disease. This is not only uncomfortable for the little one, but it can also result in deformity.
5 Just Feed That Baby
Breastmilk is best for babies. Studies consistently show that breastmilk has better nutritional value than formula, and that it has a healthy amount of immune boosters that can keep the little one from getting infections early in life. This evidence is definitely hard to beat. So much so that pediatricians all over the world recommend breastfeeding for as long as possible.
The catch here is if it’s possible. Some women simply have a difficult time producing enough breastmilk. And in these cases, it’s pointless to let the baby starve until mom begins to produce enough milk. While this can be addressed by lactation consultants, some moms just can’t do it.
In addition, moms who are working may find it difficult to breastfeed consistently. Basically, if it’s feasible and the body is cooperating, breastfeed. Else, it’s perfectly fine and mom doesn’t have to beat herself up for having to use formula.
4 Care For Yourself Too
Pediatricians often focus on the baby’s problems because, well, that is their specialization. Many, however, realize after several meetings with the parent that the parent often neglects self-care. And this is a bit concerning, as it’s difficult to take care of another human being if the parent, himself or herself, is neglecting his or her own health.
Parenting the little one may be the priority, but if the pediatrician could look into mom and dad’s daily life, they’d probably advise them to eat well, get enough exercise, get enough rest and maybe get therapy if needed. After all, parenting is probably one of the most complex and demanding things that anyone can do.
And while many parents do a lot of self-sacrifice to getting it done right, if the sacrifice is unnecessary, preventable and detrimental to the parent’s health, it might not be worth it. If the baby could speak, we’re pretty sure that she’d agree. So take a babysitter or leave the kids with the grandparents every once in awhile for some self-care time. It’ll make anyone a better parent.
3 Clean From Front To Back
Every pediatrician might assume that all parents are pros at dealing with diapers. After all, it is they who have to do it round the clock! But there’s one piece of medical wisdom that doesn’t always get passed on to the parents: clean the baby’s bottom parts from front to back. That is, never wipe from the anus to the urinary meatus.
This is because poop, needless to say, potentially has thousands of bad microorganisms.
Wiping from back to front has the risk that these microorganisms will be introduced to the urinary tract. Since babies have such short urethras, this puts them at high risk of getting a urinary tract infection. So keep the strokes from the little one’s front to the back. Also, never reuse the baby wipe or cloth once it has gone over the anus.
Use a different part, or get a new one entirely if the front part needs additional cleaning.
2 Newborns Lose Weight
Many parents become alarmed that their little one loses weight once they get home from the hospital or birthing center. But it is expected for babies to lose somewhere between five to ten percent of their body weight during the first week of life. Unless there are other symptoms, such as an inability to feed or a fever, it’s nothing to worry about.
It’s just the baby’s adjusting to life outside the womb. After all, the outside world is colder and the little one actually has to make an effort to eat, after just passively receiving nutrients from her umbilical cord.
Typically, babies will regain all this weight within the next two weeks. Babies who are ill or were born premature, however, may take a little longer to do so. In any case, if the weight does not come back after three weeks, inform the pediatrician right away so she can screen for other problems.
1 Place Babies On Their Back
One of the best ways to reduce the little one’s risk for SIDS is to put her to sleep on her back. The exact reason to why this is so is a bit unclear. However, research does consistently show that back sleepers are far less likely to die of SIDS, the most common cause of infant death during the first year of life, than belly sleepers.
Some speculate that this is because the risk of the little one getting smothered in her own bed (due to the aforementioned inability to lift the neck we discussed during the point about pillows.) Others, however, think this is because this decreases the availability of oxygen where the baby’s mouth and nose are.
In any case, this is pretty much the safest sleeping position for infants under a year of age. Some babies, however, do favor sleeping on their belly to the point that they’ll roll over even when they were placed on their back. This is probably fine if it helps her sleep, however be sure to keep the little one monitored just in case!