When I was growing up, I almost never went to the doctor. Yearly physical examinations were not routinely recommended, and there were relatively few vaccines given outside of infancy.
Fast forward several years, and with the emphasis on preventive medicine for good health maintenance, it is now recommended that children have a dozen check-up visits in the first three years and then annual physicals with the pediatrician every year thereafter.
There are many
more vaccines available now to protect children, along with periodic tests to look for anemia, lead poisoning, vision problems and more spread out among various well-child visits. Add to that the fact that young children typically get sick around eight to 10 times per year, and you and your child can expect a familiar relationship with your pediatrician for some time to come.
It makes sense, therefore, to find a pediatrician who will be your guide and partner when it comes to your child's well-being. Start considering different health care providers for your baby by asking friends, family members and neighbors for recommendations. Obstetricians and the nurses in labor and delivery and the newborn nurseries, many of whom interact with area pediatricians on a regular basis, may also know which ones are the most skilled and have the best bedside manner.
"Your child's doctor should be your sounding board when it comes to making sense of medical information."
If possible, try to meet with your desired pediatrician(s) in the second or third trimester of pregnancy so that you may find a doctor with a good fit for your family's style and needs. Talk about your plans for breastfeeding, medication use and immunizations, and discuss concerns or questions with your pediatrician to make sure he or she will be a supportive partner as well as a knowledgeable resource.
Your child's doctor should be your sounding board when it comes to making sense of medical information. If you have questions about something you've heard about or read, be sure to ask your pediatrician to help put the information into the context of your own child's health. Since many parents turn to the internet these days for further reading material, you can also ask your doctor for recommendations for favorite health websites so you can go straight to a reliable source.
It's particularly important to find
trustworthy information about vaccinations. Parents should ask their pediatrician about any concerns they have, and be sure any websites they look to are credible and evidence-based. Some suggestions on how to find trustworthy vaccine information online:
Look for .gov sites. Governmental sources are credible and reliable. A couple great resources are
medlineplus.gov and cdc.gov vaccines.
Visit medical specialty and non-profit organization pages. Professional associations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics
www.healthychildren.org as well as sites devoted to immunization information (such as immunize.org) are accurate and reliable sources.
Check into a hospital site.
One site with extensive information is
www.chop.edu, but many hospitals offer credible web resources. You may wish to check out a local medical center's site first.
Consider the source. Before getting too concerned about something you read online, consider who authors the site. Some organizations and individuals can look official but may not really provide trustworthy information.
Strength in numbers. If several websites give the same medical information, there's an increased chance that it's credible. Also check that there are multiple physician reviewers and that the information has been verified for accuracy recently.
Parenting advice has never been in short supply. In our digital age, it's more plentiful than ever before. When sorting through it all and deciding which advice to heed, never hesitate to ask your child's pediatrician for help.
Editor's note: This is third in a series of "AAP Voices" blog posts highlighting the importance of vaccine-preventable diseases during 2016 National Infant Immunization Week.
Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Atlanta, medical editor-in-chief of HealthyChildren.org, and co-author of
Heading Home with Your Newborn and