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Quitting Time: How to dump your family’s pediatrician

Quitting Time

How to dump your family’s pediatrician.

by Kate Tuttle

October 7, 2009

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Amy, a mother of two in St. Louis, chose a pediatrician recommended by her midwife, a woman who routinely appeared on her city’s top doctor lists, a local star who donates her free time to overseas medical service. Other mothers on the playground would express their envy at Amy’s having snagged such a prestigious doctor. But prestige doesn’t translate into bedside manner, and in the office the woman was difficult – when Amy could get an appointment in her jam-packed schedule. “I found her brusque and told myself she was ‘no-nonsense,’” Amy said. “She was sometimes rude and I told myself she was ‘direct’.”

“At first I liked it that she asked intrusive questions, because they were aimed at my husband: did he help with the baby? Did he do the dishes?” said Amy. “But when she quizzed me about my child-rearing, her manner left me feeling guilty and ashamed. I lied about co-sleeping; I could just tell from the way she asked that she frowned upon it.”

Three Bad Reasons to Quit (But Good Reasons to Talk)

You and the doctor disagree – respectfully – about a single parenting topic

Reasonable people can differ about when to introduce solids, or whether to use time-outs. If she’s a good doctor overall, ignore behavioral advice (just as if she were your mother-in-law).

The pediatrician doesn’t do what you ask

Your child has a fever and the doctor won’t prescribe antibiotics? Well, she went to medical school and you didn’t – can you admit she may be right? (On the overuse of antibiotics, she almost certainly is.)

The office is chaotic

Face it: pediatric offices, especially those that are popular and well established, are busy places. If you’re facing long wait times or a tough time booking appointments, be persistent but polite.

Sometimes the communication problems between doctor and parent go beyond ego-bruising. “Our first pediatrician was short with us,” said Valerie, a Boston mother of two, “just her manner, I think now.” The doctor made negative comments about breastfeeding and accused her newborn daughter of “testing” her by crying at the breast, but the worst, Valerie said, was when she prescribed Zantac for a fussy infant, even though she told the parents that the baby “didn’t need it.” There’s nothing a nervous first-time parent likes less than confusing medical advice: who wants to give their baby a medicine she doesn’t need? Valerie found a new pediatrician soon afterward.

Madeline, a California mother of three, ditched her kids’ first doc for a couple of good reasons: the aforementioned fat baby warnings (which veered into uncomfortable territory when her older daughter, naturally slim, was relentlessly praised for her body shape in front of both kids) and another common complaint: sneak attacks with the immunization needle.

“My older one hates shots, screams and screams, even now,” said Madeline. “She turns pale, you can feel her heart beating, it’s awful.” Despite multiple pleading that the doctor keep both mother and daughter posted on the need for any shots at the girl’s six-year-old checkup, this pediatrician and her nurse bum-rushed the pair and gave the shot without warning. “Of course, she’s crying and screaming and it all happened so fast I was stunned! That’s NOT how we do things at home,” said Madeline, who says the family is happy with their new doctor.

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