Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Going to the Doctor

Last week, a mom with a new baby sent us this question:

I have a question. My older daughter (nearly 4) is terrified of the doctor. Is there any way that I can prevent the same thing from happening to my baby? She gets fussy at the doctor's office too but she's too young to be scared ahead of time.

The timing of this question couldn’t be better because I took my daughter to the doctor twice last week. Going to the doctor can be a challenge for us for a few reasons. First, my daughter is a very active, very social, very independent little girl, so she doesn’t like to sit quietly in the waiting room. Second, because she was born 15 weeks early, she has been to the doctor many more times than the average 2-year-old. For the first year, she went to the doctor every month and was given shots at almost every visit. Even though she’s older now and only goes in every 3 months, she associates the doctor's office with the pain of getting a shot. As soon as her name is called, she goes from laughing and playing to screaming and leg-hugging.

Here are a few tips that the moms at the UC Davis Human Lactation Center have found useful during our many trips to the doctor with our children.

1. When scheduling your baby’s appointments, try to avoid times when your baby is likely to be tired or fussy. If the doctor visit delays or interrupts nap time, you can almost guarantee that your baby will be cranky. When you don’t have any other option, there are some things you can do to make the change in routine easier on you and your baby, like keeping stimulation low prior to the appointment. If you usually go to a play group or the park in the morning, it may be best to spend a quiet morning at home instead if you have an appointment in the afternoon.

2. Knowing what to expect before you arrive can help the appointment go more smoothly. For example, you may need to remove your baby’s clothes, so dressing her in something that is easy to get on and off can reduce some frustration. When possible, it may also be useful to bring someone else along to help you out. When we know that the appointment will be more challenging, I ask my husband to come too.

3. Once the appointment is over, you don’t need to rush out the door. If your baby is upset, take your time and help her to calm down before you begin getting her dressed and packing up the diaper bag. It will be easier for you and your baby if you comfort her immediately and worry about everything else when she feels better.

4. Your baby will feel safer with you nearby, so it may be helpful to hold your baby during the examination. When you aren’t able to hold your baby, or when the doctor asks you to help the baby stay still on the exam table, use your voice to soothe her. I used to sing the ABCs to keep my daughter calm.

5. For older infants and toddlers, performing the examination on you or on a favorite doll or stuffed animal is one way to show her that the doctor isn’t scary. We bring a stuffed monkey with us to our appointments and the when the doctor forgets to check monkey’s ears first, my daughter is quick to remind her!

6. Getting a toddler to sit still while someone looks in their nose/ears/mouth is like getting a pig to fly, it’s not impossible, but it does require a few tricks. One way to help your child stay still is to make it a game. For example, if your child likes to count you can say “let’s count to 5 and then the doctor will be done looking in your ear!” or if your child likes to make animal sounds you can ask her what a cow says, then a sheep, etc until the doctor is finished. When your child is older, you can ask her to see how long they can sit still while you time her.

7. Taking a baby to get shots feels awful, but it is something we have to do to make sure they are as healthy as possible. There isn’t much you can do to reduce the pain of the injection, but you can help when it is over. Of course, picking her up and using repetitive sounds or movements to soothe her will help. You can also nurse her or give her a pacifier (if you use one) because sucking is soothing to young babies.

8. Preschoolers and older children love rewards! When the appointment is over, reward your child with a little treat, like a sticker.

I hope these tips help make your trips to the pediatrician a little easier. If you have any other tips or tricks you’d like to share, please send us a comment.

Next time: More answers to your questions!

No comments:

Post a Comment