Taking Baby to the Doctor

It's Okay to Ask Questions

From Google to Grandma, most parents get an eyeful and an earful of conflicting advice about their baby's health. And it can be intimidating to ask your pediatrician about a controversial topic -- whether it's the safety of shots or when a sick baby really needs antibiotics -- especially if you think the two of you might disagree.

"I'd heard all these scary reports about mercury in shots," says Jamie Hennessy, of Nashville, "but I was afraid that if I brought it up to my baby's doctor, he'd think I was a troublemaker or kick me out of the practice or something."

You may be pleasantly surprised by how open your doctor is to discussing your concerns -- and by the information you learn. For instance, mercury is no longer used as a preservative in most childhood vaccines, although some versions of the flu vaccine still contain it, says Dr. Sears, author of The Vaccine Book (Little, Brown, and Company). If this is a concern, you can simply ask your doctor for a thimerosal-free version (call ahead of your next appointment in case this version isn't kept on hand).

Hopefully you've found a doctor with whom you share similar philosophies on the issues that are most important to you, but realize you probably won't see eye to eye on everything, Dr. Jana says. "It's crucial that you have trust in your doctor," she adds, but don't take it personally if you have a difference of opinion on something, whether it's when to start solids or how long your baby should sleep.

Talking to your child's doctor about your concerns gives the pediatrician an opportunity to share his medical perspective -- which is why you've hired him, after all. Just because your pediatrician doesn't agree with you on every decision doesn't mean he thinks you're a bad parent, Dr. Jana says.

The bottom line? Your child's pediatrician won't be insulted if you do some of your own research and it brings up concerns. "Parents deserve to have answers to their questions, and there are plenty of pediatricians who love hearing questions from parents," Dr. Greene says. If your doctor dismisses your questions or won't take your concerns into account -- or if you simply can't find common ground on some of the big issues -- it may be time to look for a new pediatrician.

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