5 things your pediatrician wishes you would know

Your pediatrician is a valuable resource for you as you raise healthy kids, and forging a partnership with him or her is essential. But what should you know before you step foot into the doctor's office? Here are 5 things to consider:

1. Vaccinations are safe.

Despite there being no link between the MMR vaccine and autism, many parents still aren’t convinced that vaccines are safe. According to a recent survey published in Pediatrics, one in 10 parents said they followed an alternative vaccine schedule, yet there is no research that supports a different or delayed schedule has any benefit. “Science has advanced, vaccines are more sophisticated and safer than they were in the past and we know more about them,” according to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and author of Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Seattle Mama Doc Blog.

Swanson said the earlier you get your child vaccinated, the better, because you’re leaving him susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. What’s more, because not every vaccine is 100 percent effective, if your child isn’t vaccinated, not only could he be infected, he could infect a member of your family, a classmate or someone in the community even if that person was immunized.

2. Be prepared for visits.
Making the most out of well visits is important particularly because you won’t have much time. According to a recent study published in the Journal Watch Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, more than one-third of parents said they spent ten minutes or less with their pediatrician during their last well-child visit.

Decide what your goal is beforehand, make a list of questions in the order you want them answered, and tell your pediatrician what your concerns are at the beginning of the visit. If you have concerns about your child’s development, it’s important to bring them up because early intervention means better outcomes. “If something keeps you up at night, it’s absolutely worth asking,” Swanson said.

3. Healthy eating and exercise are non-negotiable.
With more than 30 percent of children in America considered overweight or obese, it’s an epidemic and something your pediatrician wants you to start thinking about as earlier as the toddler years. If your child is determined to be overweight or obese, it’s important to speak with your pediatrician about healthy foods, portion sizes, and increasing activity.  “Unless you start tackling these issues early, you are setting the stage for a lifetime of those issues,” according to Dr. Pamela (Gigi) Chawla, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

4. Call first.
It’s easy to Google your kid’s symptoms, but calling up your doc should be the first thing you do, according to Chawla who said many parents waste valuable time looking for answers when the pediatrician may have a completely different diagnosis or solution.  
The internet can be a great resource for information, but it’s important to determine who the author of the content is, what their credentials are, and if they have the appropriate training to give an opinion. If your doctor disagrees with the information you found, but you’re still not convinced she’s right, Swanson said it’s best to find a different pediatrician because she’s not effectively explaining it to you. “What the job of a great partner, is to explain the ‘why’ to a point that you don’t have any more questions,” she said.

5. Boundaries are best.
According to Chawla, many behavioral problems you ask your pediatrician about can be nipped in the bud early if you create boundaries starting when your child is a toddler. She says giving your child choices is fine “as long as there still are boundaries around the choices that you are offering.” By setting limitations and following through each time, your child will learn that she can’t have everything she wants and it’s a lesson that will carry through in school, social settings and throughout adulthood.

Julie Revelant is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, health, and women's issues and a mom. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com