A Guide to Your First Pediatrician Appointment

first pediatrician appointment first pediatrician appointment

Approved by the What’s Up Moms Medical Advisory Board

By the time a new mother stumbles into the pediatrician’s office with her days-old baby, one would assume she is a doctor-visit pro. After all, pregnancy involves somewhere between 8 and infinity trips to the OB, plus a couple of days in a hospital. How, then, is it possible that those early pediatrician visits can be so stressful and overwhelming??

Answer: hormones and lack of sleep.

The end!

Truly, though, even the best-prepared mothers find themselves embarrassingly late to these appointments, unprepared with questions, unable to retain info, and… eventually covered in their baby’s bodily fluids.

Here, then, is a list of survival tactics for those first few visits to your pediatrician, who, with any luck, will be a long-term source of both care and comfort.

Don’t Go It Alone! If at all possible, bring someone with you in addition to your baby – like your husband, your mother, or a friend. Because even new moms who think they’re fairly awake and ‘with it’ aren’t – much like people who have had five or six tequila shots think they’re as hilarious as they are good at dancing. So best to be driven, rather than drive, and best to have someone else there to help with things as small as paying for parking and as large as reminding you to ask the doctor the burning questions you have about pacifier brands. Plus, that person will help you remember actual strings of words that the doctor says. So that’s a bonus.

Timing Is Everything. Leave more time to get ready and to get there than you think you need. Getting out of the house takes 15 times longer with a baby than it does without, even for the most organized parent. Account for a last-minute diaper blowouts, losing your keys, spilling your coffee, having to pee, realizing you’ve bled through your maternity leggings and needing to change, losing your keys again, forgetting your phone, a massive spit-up, spilling your new cup of coffee, and quietly crying over each and every one of those things.

Pack Wisely. Pack a diaper bag and bring it with you into the doctor’s office. This may seem obvious, but I forgot this at my very first appointment and then felt very, very stupid when I realized I needed to take the baby’s diaper off for him to be weighed… and had no clean one to change him into. (In fairness to myself, I’d brought it but – of course – left it in the car. With my cell phone and coffee.) Pack diapers, wipes, an extra outfit or two and pacifiers. If your baby is formula fed, add a bottle; if you’re breastfeeding, be prepared to do it in the waiting room and/or the office. Sometimes there’s a wait or your baby chooses the worst possible time to be starving.

Prepare to Answer. Be ready to answer questions. How often does your baby eat? For how long does he eat or how much is he eating? When was the last time he ate? How often does he pee/poop? When was the last time he peed/pooped? Many new moms keep a written log of all these things; I didn’t, but even if I had, I would’ve forgotten it/spilled coffee on it/left it in the car. Try not to.

Prepare to Ask. Bring in a list of questions for your doctor. You think you’ll remember your questions since you think them to yourself dozens of times each day, but you won’t. Put the list in the diaper bag and don’t leave the diaper bag in the car. (See #1 to ensure this is possible.) Questions that in the bright daylight of a doctor’s office seem stupid are all-consuming and overwhelming in the middle of night when you’re alone with the baby. So don’t lose your nerve. Ask, with your head held high — this is what your doctor is for, this is your precious time with him or her, and nothing is better for your baby than a reassured, calm mother.

Pay Attention to Your Gut. I learned to love going to my pediatrician, even though my newborns were always kind of jaundiced and mangy and gassy and gross, because she constantly told me that whichever baby I’d brought in was “gorgeous,” “perfect,” and “fabulous.” She told me I was doing a terrific job even when I was consumed with self-doubt. She told me I looked great, even though I once noticed in her office that I had a soiled wipe stuck to my thigh. In short, she cared for me as well as for my baby, knowing that in many ways I needed her more than my newborns did. By contrast, I have had friends whose pediatricians made them feel judged, anxious and inadequate. It would be hard to find a city or town with only one available pediatrician; if yours doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, find one who does. It will be one of the best decisions you make.

Now go print this list…and hand it to someone who has slept more than four uninterrupted hours and can therefore read.

Alice Leiter is a recovering lawyer living in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children. Her hobbies include making fun of her family on Instagram, watching Bravo, and worrying that people are mad at her. She hates when grown women call her “Mama.” Reach her at alice@aliceleiter.com.