Your Child's Pediatrician
Doctors are trained to diagnose disease and use pharmaceutical drugs, and that’s how they practice. They are not formally trained in health or nutrition, so asking your pediatrician for advice on either nutrition or health—meaning how to keep your child as healthy as possible—will probably be useless unless your doctor has been self-taught. If you’ve educated yourself in these matters it’s likely that you’ll know as much or more about them than your child’s doctor. Nor are doctors educated about natural parenting or natural lifestyles—the benefits of sleeping with your baby versus having your baby “cry it out” in a crib, or the benefits of carrying your baby in a wrap, sling, or other soft carrier versus leaving the baby in a hard plastic baby-containing contraption.
Doctors may say things that are not scientifically justified. It’s fascinating that so many long-held beliefs in pediatrics are ultimately refuted by carefully done studies.
Doctors may be advising based on their own opinion or prejudice. They may be prescribing out of routine, convenience, or habit. They might be telling you what they think you want to hear, even if they internally disagree. Their decisions may be affected by the dictates of insurance companies, drug companies, or state and federal governments.
You might have been told something by a doctor that betrays your own intuition. Rather than adhering unquestioningly to a doctor’s authority, question it. In that way you are taking active responsibility for your child’s health.
The most valuable pediatrician is the one who understands you and your child, who doesn’t push the use of ineffective and potentially harmful drug treatments, and who respects your efforts to build and nurture your child’s body and spirit your way. In an age of “modern medicine,” where there’s a pill for every malady and a name for every human condition, we can’t lose the ability to take care of ourselves and our families
Some aspects of contemporary medicine have done more harm than good, and while it can be daunting for you to even think about doubting the advice of a medical professional or any expert, you ultimately are in charge. You are not ignorant. You are not helpless. You have good instincts, and so does your baby. Beyond instinct, you can educate yourself to raise your child in the best possible way.
Doctors trained in traditional Western medicine who have studied for years and have a degree need not be authoritarian. They can still respect your point of view and be open if you wish to discuss alternative ideas. While your pediatrician is likely competent in issues of illness, injury, and emergency care, he or she might not be as well-versed in breastfeeding, co-sleeping, natural remedies, and behavioral issues. It’s not hard to find qualified pediatricians who are well trained at the best institutions and stay on top of the latest research and trends in medicine. The challenge is to find a doctor who is not totally bound to tradition. An enlightened pediatrician knows when to prescribe medicine and, more importantly, when not to. A truly empathetic pediatrician will listen to your concerns thoughtfully and sympathize with you when appropriate, but will always, above all else, be your child’s advocate.
When your child is sick, the pediatrician should tell you what is truly the best course of action, which might be nothing more than measures to make your child more comfortable while nature takes its course. Similarly, during well-child visits your pediatrician should be offering mainly encouragement and support—noting that your baby is doing exactly what he or she should be doing at that particular stage. Confidence in your pediatrician comes from having one who listens to you, genuinely cares about your child, and will do everything possible that’s in keeping with your own beliefs about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. Chances are that if you feel comfortable talking openly and freely to your pediatrician, then eventually your child will feel the same way.