Partnering With Your Pediatrician

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

MARCH 23, 2016

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One of the most important new relationships you will develop when you become a parent is the one you will form with your pediatrician. The partnership I have with my children's pediatrician now looks very different than when I first started out as a new mom.

Back then, I depended on my pediatrician to help me keep my son alive. He knew what he was doing (or at least I believed without question) and I hadn't a clue. Whatever he said, I took as gospel and did as he instructed, grateful for his wisdom and direction. There were many times I wished that he would just move into our house for the first 6 months of my son's life. He might have saved me a lot of unnecessary anxiety, and sleepless nights. Though in truth, I don’t think even he could have solved our newborn sleep issues.

As the months went by, my son grew from a tiny, vulnerable newborn into a heartier baby. And I grew too. I came to recognize and understand my son's temperament, and realize that I wasn't necessarily doing anything wrong, my son was just a bit more challenging than those lucky mommas with the "good baby." My son is an awesome kid, he was just an awful baby, and he didn't sleep (at least not for a while).

My well-meaning pediatrician instructed us on the tenants of sleep training outlined by Dr. Ferber in his famous book, "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems." Dr. Ferber is an expert in infant/child sleep and his techniques have helped countless parents sleep through the night. It's just that his approach was not a good match for my son's temperament and therein lied the conflict.

My pediatrician warned us that some babies get so worked up during the sleep training process that they actually throw up. He acknowledged that knowing my son's temperament, this may happen, but that we were to just clean him up and start the process again, by no means giving into his cries. Hearing this, I realized that this approach was no match for my temperament either. My husband and I had gone through a lot to bring this new baby home, and any method of crying it out to the point of puking was just not going to work for anyone in our family.

Couples come with all kinds of experiences that impact their parenting choices. Pediatricians would be wise to engage parents by listening and respecting parents these experiences and then discuss different options towards encouraging infant sleep.

I wish I could say that I handled this conflict around sleep by having an adult discussion with my pediatrician in which I asserted my own thoughts and feelings, but that's just not the truth. In truth, I lied. Yes, I did. I told my pediatrician that we were sleeping through the night just fine, when that was not at all close to what was happening. As my son was close to his first birthday, we moved to a new community, which was an easy excuse to leave that practice.

Perhaps it's because with a year under my belt, I was a more confident parent, or perhaps it was the interpersonal style of my new pediatrician, but from the start this relationship has felt more like a partnership. Typically, things are pretty straight forward but when they aren't, my pediatrician asks and listens to my input, and together we decide the best course of action to take.

So my advice, speak up if something doesn't feel right. Have a conversation. You might find that your pediatrician is open and appreciates your input, or you might not, and then you might decide that it's time to make a change. Whatever you do, don't lie.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.