As a parent, you can be the most important factor in helping your children stay healthy. Your knowledge of what is normal for your child and your intuition when something doesn’t seem right are key factors in advocating for your child’s health. So what can you do to help yourself be a better advocate? I say start by keeping really good records.
I think everyone – men, women and children – should have a binder to hold all of their medical information. It’s an invaluable resource to help you track back to the cause if something goes wrong with your health. You can read more about my binder system on EmpowHER.com.
The best time to start your baby’s binder is as soon as you know you are expecting. Journal the stages of your pregnancy and make note of everything – ordinary or not. If you have any tests done – like an amniocentesis – make sure you get the results and include them in the binder. Include all the details of the birth and don’t forget to record your baby’s blood type. If you have a video or pictures of the birth, put them in as well.
If you’re having trouble getting started, there are a variety of baby books – such as My Baby Trakker – that include space to record everything from your pregnancy, baby’s birth and beyond. The website myphr.com also has some great resources including a free form you can print out for your child’s binder to help you start getting organized.
You need this information to help you take care of your child’s health. But the binder can also be a wonderful gift that you are putting together now to share with your child when he or she grows up. I know from personal experience how much kids love to look back at the moment they were born. And we all love to read about ourselves. So include the fun and wacky details like how much weight mom gained and how long labor lasted. Your kids will thank you later, plus you’ll have the details recorded if anything shows up in your child’s health that could be tracked back to the moment of delivery or before.
If you already have children, you probably have a pediatrician you like. But if you are having your first child, don’t wait until the baby is born to look for a doctor. Finding the right pediatrician is one of the most important things you can do for your child’s health. Start by talking to friends and family in your area who have young children for recommendations.
Once you find a promising candidate, schedule your first appointment so you can meet with the doctor before your baby is born. That first appointment gives you a chance to see if you feel a rapport with the doctor. Think about the doctor’s communication style, office setup, hours and backup plan in case he or she is not available. Be sure to talk about after-hours care and what help will be available to you if your baby gets sick in the middle of the night.
Every parent knows that a good pediatrician is worth his or her weight in gold, which means the good ones may be booked up months in advance. So don’t put off making that first appointment. Once your baby is born, make sure you always follow through on recommended well-baby visits. And of course, keep all the records from every appointment and add them to your child’s health binder.
If you didn’t start keeping your baby’s records early on, don’t give up. Any information you can pull together now can be an asset to your child’s healthcare in the future. Ask the pediatrician’s office for copies of your child’s records. You might have to pay a little bit for the copies, but you will gain the security of knowing those details are at your fingertips any time you need them. You can’t always count on a doctor’s office to be open when you need to see the records. And if you or your doctor decides to relocate, you won’t be left without access to information you need.
As parents, we love to document all the milestones of our children’s lives. Your child’s health binder is another important layer to that documentation. And it is an excellent tool to help you be the best possible advocate for your child’s health.
Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness. In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.