Many parents rely on phone calls with their pediatricians to supplement office visits. Find out how to make the most of these conversations.

Increasingly, parents and pediatricians are communicating over the telephone. While there'll certainly be many occasions when you must bring your baby to your doctor's office-for both routine checkups and illnesses-many childhood maladies can be diagnosed over the phone if the parent is prepared with the necessary information. It also helps to understand how your pediatrician's office is run and what you can expect from the people you deal with there.

Realize, too, that many doctors must field several calls an hour, even on weekends if they happen to be the one in the practice on duty. To help speed things up, receptionists or answering service personnel are often trained to get preliminary information so they can help the doctor determine whom to call back first. It's up to you, however, to communicate whether the situation is an emergency, something that can wait a few hours, or a nonurgent question that the doctor can discuss with you when he or she is less busy and free to talk.

In any case, there are certain pieces of information you must convey-regardless of whom you are speaking to. This information includes your baby's name and age (no matter how well you know the pediatrician, he or she probably will not recall if your little one is 6 or 8 or 10 months old), a one- or two-sentence description of the illness (it's a good idea to have your findings written down so that you don't forget anything when you talk to the doctor), and a phone number at which you can be reached (if you will be at that number for only a limited amount of time, let the person know that).

Most physicians realize that it's a frightening event for parents when their baby gets sick. Don't be afraid to ask whether you're worrying too much-or not enough-and always err on the side of caution. Doctors encourage parents to use their intuition, and the more experience you have with your baby, the easier and more natural that will become, and the calmer you'll be.

Have Fun With Baby's Development

Tool TimeSometime soon (in the next three months), your baby will get interested in using objects as tools. He no longer wants to know only what things are, but also how to use them. Give him an assortment of items to choose from-blocks, balls, rattles. He'll probably pick one up in each hand, turn them over, bang them together, then drop them to see what kind of noise they make.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.