When it comes to taking care of a newborn, there are certain essentials all new parents need to know, such as how to properly use a car seat, the facts surrounding vaccinations, or how to support a newborn's neck. Any pediatrician worth their salt should be able to answer all these newbie questions and provide all the important information to guide new parents to make the safest and most appropriate choices.
That being said, there are also things that many pediatricians choose not to tell first-time moms (and for good reason). Keep in mind that pediatricians often have to take a mom's state-of-mind into consideration before dropping some hard truths because new moms can be a little more emotional and scared than most.
Don't worry, there's a scientific reason for that.
"These mood swings are perfectly normal," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City. "After giving birth, women experience dramatic changes in hormone levels, which drastically affect their moods."
In other words, feelings of anxiety and insecurity are totally normal and most pediatricians recognize and understand that completely (particularly if they're a parent themselves). A first-time mom's emotional state could very well impact a doctor's decision on what they say (or don't say) during your child's visits, but they're not going to leave out any pertinent information that would affect the well-being of your child. If they do, FIND A NEW ONE!
Here are 20 things pediatricians might choose not to tell first-time moms.
20 Antibiotics Don't Always Work
Shh, don't tell moms, but antibiotics are usually overprescribed and aren't always necessary (but many doctors prescribe them anyway).
A University of Utah study concluded that about one-quarter of pediatric visits that led to antibiotics being prescribed were for respiratory conditions, for which they were not needed.
Why? Doctors claim that it's usually just an effort to appease the parents, who don't want to see their kid suffer and don't realize that the medication has no effect.
"There are times when it's absolutely appropriate to give the antibiotic when they have a bacterial infection, but for the majority of the patients we see with viral illnesses, it's not," says Bill Bush, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
19 We Don't Always Follow Our Own Advice
Every new parent has heard the drill. Limited screen time, no sweets before bedtime, no baby bottles in the bed, etc. The list of do's and don'ts for a first-time parent is long, and it's usually the well-meaning pediatrician doling out the advice. But do pediatricians always follow their own advice? NOPE. In an article for Chicago Parent, pediatricians confessed that they're often better pediatricians than parents.
"There are days when our 6-year-old gets more than his allotted two hours of screen time," says Dr. Amberly Brewer, a pediatrician, and mother of two. "As parents, we try to do the best for our children, but mistakes will happen."
So it's kind of a "Do as I say, not as I do" situation. Got it?
18 Prepare To Wait
Doctors are never going to tell new moms exactly how long they're going to be waiting at their office because it's probably going to be a while (so bring some toys and snacks).
So why the wait?
Doctors are paid by insurance for every patient they see according to why they see the patient and what procedures they perform (NOT by the amount of time they spend with the patient).
As a result, they will often schedule as many patients into their day as possible because more patients and more procedures equal more income. Sure, it's not what you want to hear, but it's the truth. Wait times are shorter for the first appointment in the morning (on Tuesday through Friday) or right after lunch.
17 Sometimes Babies Cry For No Reason
No pediatrician is going to say this to a stressed out first-time mom, but it's true. Sometimes babies cry their heads off for no clear reason and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it but wait it out. That's not exactly what a mother of a colicky baby wants to hear, so pediatricians will often recommend gripe water or gas drops (although both have been shown to be no more effective than placebo in studies).
Baby massage? Why not, go ahead and give it a try. White noise, a warm bath, baby wearing? Sure.
The reality is that pediatricians are pretty much down for whatever will make a panicky new parent feel better (and keep them from calling the office non-stop).
16 Some Babies Just Don't Sleep
New moms love to ask the pediatrician when their baby will finally "sleep through the night," but sometimes babies just won't (and there's no magic age when they will). Literally, everyone will give suggestions on how to make this happen and parents will eventually start to panic when nothing seems to work.
Have you tried Babywise? Have you tried swaddling? Are they eating enough solids? Have you put them on a schedule?
The questions keep coming but that baby still isn't sleeping for longer than 4 hours at a time! Relax, it's going to be okay. Sometimes we just have to wait it out. Sleep is a developmental thing and every child develops at their own pace.
15 Stop Scaring Your Kid
"I would never scare my child," parents say, without realizing they're doing it. As soon as a parent says "he doesn’t like it when you look in his ears," they're reminding their child of the last time and setting the doctor up for another failure.
Doctors suggest being a little more matter-of-fact: “It’s time for the doctor to look in your ears.”
New moms also scare their kids by simply being scared themselves. Children are always hyper-aware of their parents' moods and expressions, so if mom looks terrified about the shot then the child will be too.
14 You've Overreacting
I can clearly remember freaking out at the doctor's office one time because my daughter had a lot of unexplained bruises and was itching all over. After googling myself into a frenzy I had almost convinced myself that she had leukemia.
I can't even imagine what her pediatrician was thinking when I started explaining my google-inspired fears to them in the office, but it was probably something along the lines of...OMG, STOP. YOU'RE OVERREACTING.
By the way, I was indeed overreacting. She was totally fine. New moms freak out over absolutely everything. A rash seems like the end of the world and God help them if the baby's fever goes about 100 degrees or they have an ear infection. Don't worry, it gets easier.
13 Expensive Diapers Aren't Better
Buying expensive diapers might make you feel like a better parent, but most pediatricians wish everyone knew that it's totally not worth the extra money.
“There's no evidence to support expensive vs. cheaper diapers,” says Dr. Resham Batra, M.D., board-certified pediatrician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego, CA. “Any diaper is fine as long as it doesn't cause a rash in the baby."
In other words, if your baby's bottom is unaffected, there's no reason to switch from Luvs to Pampers. Don't be afraid to explore store brand options as well. Given that diapering a baby now takes about $1000/year for an average product, that's good news for parents everywhere.
12 You Probably Won't "Bounce Back"
A good pediatrician will always check-in with a brand new mom, but they're not always going to be 100% honest with them. The hard truth? It's not always going to get easier within the next few weeks, although most pediatricians won't have the heart to tell you that.
The so-called "fourth trimester" is real, and it's complete with baby blues (or for some, postpartum depression), exhaustion, and major physical, hormonal and emotional changes. Despite what the Kardashians like to project, not all moms just "bounce back" after labor and delivery.
As they say, if it took you nine months to grow your baby, you can expect it to take at least that long for your body to go back to normal.
11 Co-Sleeping Is Unsafe
Advocates of "attachment parenting" often co-sleep with their infants, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room sharing, not bed sharing. It is recommended that infants always sleep on a separate surface, such as a crib or bassinet, in order to decrease the risks of sleep-related deaths.
"We know that parents may [feel swamped] with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep," said Rachel Moon, MD, FAAP, lead author of the report.
"Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous."
10 Schedules Are Worthless
Pediatricians would like to remind moms that schedules are different than routines, but most new parents are dead-set on establishing a rigid baby schedule from the get-go.
So what's the difference? A routine is a customary or regular course of procedure (putting the child to bed after a bath and a feed, for example). A schedule, however, is a plan for performing work or achieving an objective, specifying the order and allotted time for each part. When we think of infant sleep, often parents believe that they need schedules in order to thrive.
The problem is, when it comes to babies there is no "one size fits all" approach. Instead of stressing yourself out with a schedule, just stick with reading your baby's cues in the beginning.
9 Breastfeeding Isn't As Easy As It Seems
For many moms, nursing isn’t as easy as all the pro-breastfeeding pamphlets at the doctor's office make it out to be.
“Although breastfeeding is natural, there tends to be about a six-week learning curve where mom and baby are getting comfortable with nursing,” says Britt Pegan, a La Leche League leader in Ottawa.
Another thing? Not every mom enjoys it, even after six weeks. I breastfed my son for three months before switching to formula because the process was exhausting and I was mentally and physically rundown.
Just the thought of getting up in the night and stressing out over a feeding made me a nervous wreck. Thankfully, formula is also a safe, healthy option (and in certain situations, your pediatrician may recommend it).
8 Your Child (Is Probably Not) Advanced
Did your child roll over at three months? Did they walk at 9 months? Were they talking in complete sentences before they were 2-years-old?
Clearly, you've got a genius on your hands! Just kidding, you probably don't.
"Gifted" and "advanced" have become some of the most tossed about words in the parenting universe, and doctors are getting pretty sick of it. The truth? The vast majority of children are not gifted and only 2-5% of kids actually are. Of those, only one in 100 is considered highly gifted. The chance that you're raising a prodigy is one to two in a million.
7 Stop Googling
Your kid gets some weird rash on Friday evening and you spend all weekend frantically googling for answers. By the time Monday rolls around you've already diagnosed your kid with at least five possible diseases and you're rushing them to the doctor's office in a panic.
Sound familiar? That's because it happens all the time (and doctors are sick of it).
While trusted sites like the American Academy of Pediatrics can have useful info, you can't diagnose your kid over the internet.
"I've been given websites to look up because a parent is pretty sure their child has X, Y, or Z disease," Dr. Bush says. "I'm always happy to look and get back to them, but a diagnosis is based on our medical evaluation."
6 There Is No "Well" Waiting Room
New moms will always head over to the "well" side of the waiting room, but studies show it doesn't actually make a difference. One study "very straightforwardly picked a bunch of kids who were coming in for well visits, into a large pediatric practice that had a single waiting room, and looked at the risk of illness starting within a week, and compared them to a group of kids from the same practice who had not come in during that time period, and found no difference in illness rates."
While contact between contagious and well children should be "minimized," the American Academy of Pediatrics does not endorse separate waiting rooms because germs are still everywhere (duh) and they don't heed the signs.
5 Get Your Newborn Out The House
Despite what many first time parents think, it's actually perfectly safe (and recommended) to take your newborn out in public after they're born. How else would parents of more than one child live their life?! Trips to the store, doctor's office, playground, and park are unavoidable!
Obviously, it's important to keep strangers from touching your baby, but babies need a daily dose of sunshine (vitamin D) and fresh air just as much as mama does! Re-connecting with the outside world also helps moms feel less isolated and is beneficial to anyone battling with post-partum depression or a case of the baby blues.
4 Development Charts Don't Really Matter
When I had my first child I remember stressing out so badly over the development charts at the pediatrician's office! I had to put a check mark next to everything she was doing and leave the things she wasn't doing blank, which only made me paranoid that she was "behind."
When would she start clapping? Was she underweight?
Don't worry, when it comes to development, doctors are only looking for kids that are either consistently waaaay ahead or consistently waaaaay behind. The weight charts are also based on the average size of children today (which is much heavier than in previous generations), so don't worry if your kid is in the 25th percentile for weight. They're doing just fine.
3 Give That Baby A Pacifier
Many new moms are scared to give their baby a pacifier for fear of confusing them. According to proponents, nip confusion occurs when a breastfeeding newborn is given a bottle or pacifier, which supposedly confuses the infant and causes them to pick up bad feeding habits.
Studies disagree, however. A Cochrane review of pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants looked at the three best available studies through 2012 and found no detrimental effect up to four months of age.
“Pacifiers are helpful, especially for babies who want to [nurse] all the time and need comfort,” says Dr. Resham Batra, M.D., board-certified pediatrician. “There is also some evidence a pacifier may help lower the risk of SIDS.”
2 Alternative Vaccination Schedules Are Pointless
Obviously, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children get vaccinated, but what about these "alternative vaccination schedules" that some parents are asking for? Even if parents agree that vaccines are a good thing, many are concerned about giving them all at the same time.
While your child's pediatrician might go along with it, they're secretly rolling their eyes at your unfounded paranoia.
"Very solid evidence exists that immunizations prevent many deadly and debilitating childhood diseases," Dr. Bush says. "The FDA requires any new combination of vaccines to prove equal effectiveness as if they were given on separate dates so we're not [overpowering] the immune system. When you start spreading them out, you put more kids at risk."
1 Fevers Aren't A Big Deal
Every new mom panics when their child develops a fever, but once they're out of the newborn stage, doctors do not consider fevers to be dangerous.
"It's a symptom like a runny nose, cough, or pain, part of the collection of information that helps us make decisions on what's the appropriate diagnosis and treatment," says Dr. Bill Bush, M.D. "It's very rare that a fever alarms us."
Also, keep in mind that a high temperature may indicate a serious illness in teens and adults, but not always in children 12 and under.
In the end, how your child is acting is much more important than the number on the thermometer.