Taking your precious babies to the doctor can be a harrowing experience, but with a little preparation, it can go as smoothly as a baby’s bottom. Here are some tips for getting your children, and yourself, ready for your next visit:
1) Prepare your children in advance by reading books about going to the doctor, so they know what to expect. This is especially important for toddlers, who are old enough to remember prior visits involving shots, but is also good for babies and older children. Try to do this far in advance of any appointment, such as having a regular bedtime story about visiting the doctor, so your child considers it a regular thing. If your child loves a certain character, e.g. Elmo or Dora, read them a book involving that character’s visit to the doctor. Otherwise, I recommend books like the The Complete Book of First Experiences (Usborne First Experiences) series.
2) Get a doctor play set and have your child practice using the stethoscope, otoscope (ear light), and other tools on their family members and stuffed animals.
3) If your child has a “luvvy” (special blanket or toy to make them feel comfortable), be sure to bring it with you to the visit, even if they only use it in bed at home. This will help comfort them.
4) For young children, bring a doll, so the physician can check the doll first, lessening the fear the child may have about the medical tools. You can also have the doctor check mommy or daddy first, but in my experience children are comforted more by having their doll checked then their parents.
5) Bring snacks and drinks. You never know if you will have to wait a while for the doctor to see you, or just sit and wait for a test result. Sugar has been found to be a natural pain reliever in babies, and I find that breast milk or formula for babies, juice or a lollipop for toddlers, calms them down faster than anything else after shots. One caveat- do not let them eat/drink during the visit, especially if they will have their throat checked, as the food pieces can get in the way of the doctor having a good look, and can interfere with tests, like the one for strep throat.
6) Bring diapers, wipes and baggies for soiled items (these are good things to have in your bag at all times, prior to potty training). You can not rely on your pediatrician having the size or brand of diapers your child uses on hand. Wipes come in handy for many things, not just cleaning little butts, and the pediatrician visit often brings out the snot, spit-up, and other fun stuff. Help the next patient have a more pleasant experience by placing any soiled items in a sealed bag, so the room does not smell bad. An extra baggy also comes in handy for soiled clothes and toys.
7) Dress your child appropriately, and bring a blanket. Clothes that are easiest to remove or lift-up are best. No need to go with anything fancy. You should also bring a small blanket to cover your baby, since they will likely have their clothes removed for vitals signs (measuring) by the nurse, and you don’t put them back on until after the physician has checked your child. If you have an older child, at least have them remove any jackets and tight or complicated clothing.
8) Bring ANY MEDICATION you have given your child, even if your doctor prescribed it, it is herbal, or over-the-counter. This is the best way to avoid diagnosis and medication errors.
9) Entertainment. Quiet books, reusable stickers, or even movies on your phone are a good way to keep children quiet while waiting for the physician or nurse. These can also be good tools for calming children down if they get upset.
10) Don’t forget a list of questions to ask the doctor, so you make sure to get the most out of your visit. You may also want a paper and pen to write down any diagnoses or instructions, so you don’t forget how much ibuprofen you’re supposed to give when your toddler wakes up screaming at 3am. If your doctor has not brought it up, you may want to ask them what do if your child worsens, and when to return.
11) If you need a copy of vaccination records or school forms, contact the office in advance, and do not forget your paperwork! You should also bring your insurance card (if you have one and expect the insurance to cover your visit) each time.
12) When possible, try to schedule your visits for the first time slot of any shift, so that you can avoid a possible wait if the office gets backed up. You should also try to schedule visits for the middle of the week, or early afternoon, as Mondays, Fridays, weekends, and evenings tend to be the busiest times in the office. Alternatively, you may want to try the last appointment of the day. This will have the greatest chance of having to wait, but then neither you nor the physician feels rushed.
13) Give yourself an extra 15 to 30 minutes to get to the appointment, find parking (or deal with public transportation delays), and complete any forms.
14) Finally, try to relax! When you have a positive attitude, your child will feel better too J
Have any tips of your own? Please put them in the comments!
Dr. Cigal Shaham is a pediatrician with Roxbury Pediatrics in Beverly Hills. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and worked at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles before obtaining her M.D. from the Ben-Gurion University Medical School for International Health in Collaboration with Columbia University Medical Center. She is active in the Los Angeles Pediatric Society, sits on the Health Advisory Board for Early Head Start, gives talks to pre-school mom groups, and Blogs at www.mommedicine.blogspot.com and Pins at www.pinterest.com/motek42.