WHILE it is certainly true that untold millions of infants have grown to healthy manhood and womanhood without being seen by doctors except in sickness, nevertheless, the only way to be absolutely sure that your baby is thriving in his early years is to have him checked regularly. For these checks you can take the baby to a public well-baby clinic or to a physician of your own choosing, either a family doctor or a pediatrician. Pediatricians are doctors who have undergone specialized training in the care of children.
The usual practice is to take the baby for a check once a month in the early months and then at intervals of three months through the second year. At these regular visits the baby will be weighed and measured and thoroughly inspected for all the signs that indicate normal development. He will receive a series of inoculations according to a schedule based on worldwide experience in the protection of children from communicable diseases.
In a small minority of cases the examination will reveal some abnormality, either of development or disease. The doctor will prescribe treatment or make recommendations regarding further investigation of the condition. Both he and the nurse will answer the mother’s questions, not just about medical matters, but about all the day-to-day problems of caring for an infant. One great benefit from these regular visits is the security they can give to a young mother. When the doctor pronounces the infant to be in good health, he is at the same time relieving those groundless anxieties that trouble so many inexperienced parents. If the mother will ask questions, the regular visit can also be a source of education for her.
She should never be hesitant for fear of sounding ignorant or stupid. The doctor and his nurse will have heard almost all of the questions before and nine times out of ten will be understanding and sympathetic in their answers. Finding a doctor to look after the baby may take some time but it should not be difficult. There is no problem, of course, if the family doctor attended the mother through pregnancy and delivery—he prob-ably will undertake supervision of the baby’s health too.
Or the mother’s obstetrician can recommend a pediatrician. The names of pediatricians can also be obtained at hospitals, from the local medical society, or from a medical school if there happens to be one in the community. In prepaid health care plans such as Kaiser. parents have the choice among the physicians on the staff. Information about well-baby clinics or child health centers can be obtained at the hospital where the baby was delivered, from city or county health departments. or from the Visiting Nurse Association. The various social service agencies listed in telephone directories would either have information on such matters or would be able to refer you to a responsible source.
A person living in a remote rural area could write to the state health department for information about visiting nurses, baby clinics, and health centers of various kinds. Nowadays it is not unusual for an obstetrician to suggest that his pregnant patient pay a prenatal visit to the pediatrician or general practitioner she has in mind for her baby. This is not yet a general practice or perhaps even a common one, but in some sections of the United States more and more parents are taking advantage of the idea. Some weeks before the expected arrival of the baby, they telephone the pediatrician to introduce themselves and ask whether he will be able to take on the care of the baby, beginning while the mother and child are still at the hospital.
If the pediatrician is one who encourages this approach, he will probably suggest a get-acquainted visit at his office. He will want to see not just the mother alone, but both parents. Considering how important this professional relationship will be, it is unfortunate if not enough thought is given to the selection of a pediatrician. If the parents are newcomers in a town or city or even in a big city neighborhood, they often have little or no information to go on The new another may still be groggy from the delivery room when she is called upon to make the decision. Obviously, it would be better for all concerned if the parents could have a little time to study the decision, free of pressure, and in a relatively relaxed condition.