For first-time parents, having a baby can be one of the most exciting – and challenging – times in their lives. To make the transition into parenthood as smooth as possible, enlist the help of your pediatrician. Jason Hefner, M.D., a pediatrician with Piedmont Physicians Group, offers tips for how to choose the right doctor for your family as well as how to make the most of your office visits.
For those expecting a baby, Dr. Hefner recommends searching for a pediatrician during the second trimester of pregnancy.
“Discuss it with your friends and family and find out who’s recommended in your community,” he says. “This gives you a couple months to do meet and greets. Almost all pediatric offices have that option before the baby is born.”
When selecting a doctor for your new baby, make sure his or her personality and goals fit with your family.
“It is important to have the same philosophy of care and communicate well,” says Dr. Hefner.
Babies who are healthy and breastfed typically need to have their first pediatrician visit at one week of age for a weight check. If they are bottle fed, doctors will often schedule the first appointment at two weeks of age.
“The first checkup is to ensure their weight is increasing appropriately and that they’re growing well.”
Important things to be aware of at home
It’s normal to be concerned when your infant cries, but there are several things you can do to help keep them healthy and safe.
“What concerns us most about new babies is the potential for SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome],” he says. “We recommend the baby sleep on his or her back for the first six months.”
New parents should also be cognizant of their baby’s temperature if they are being fussy for an extended period of time. Above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a fever in infants.
“If your baby is ever fussing to the point where you can’t calm them down, that’s not normal,” says Dr. Hefner. “We look for the ‘three F’s’ – poor feeding, fussy and fever.”
He also recommends limiting the number of visitors in your home for the first two months of your baby’s life while he or she builds an immune system.
“We always say, ‘Let family members love from a distance,’” says Dr. Hefner.
If you or someone else needs to hold or touch the baby, wash your hands first.
“Keep them at home and away from others, especially those with a cough or cold, as much as you can the first couple months of life,” he says.
Preparing for your pediatrician visit
The number one mistake Dr. Hefner says new parents make is that they don’t ask enough questions.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions because every child is different,” he explains. “Parents are often worried that they’re going to bother their pediatrician, but there are no dumb questions. If you don’t know the answer, you need to ask.”
Not only are questions encouraged, but your pediatrician likely expects to get a lot of phone calls from you during the first few months of your child’s life, especially with a first child.
When preparing for your baby’s first doctor’s appointment, be sure to bring hospital paperwork and a list of questions for the doctor.
“Most new parents are so tired that they totally forget their questions,” said Dr. Hefner.
Finally, remember that as a new parent, you’re learning as you go.
“Every child is a new experience and is different. As long as you love your child, things will be fine,” says Dr. Hefner. “Just love them – that’s the secret. You’ll make mistakes long the way, but that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – we all make them as parents.”
To find a physician near you, visit Piedmont.org.