Is your pediatrician right for you and your baby?
When I was little, my pediatrician was my mom’s aunt, Lola Bongie. My mom took pride in how none of her four children was ever confined in a hospital, and attributed it to Lola Bongie’s expertise.
We were all delivered normally, and formula-fed; drugs like paracetamol were used frequently as a preventative measure before vaccinations; antibiotics were the first line of defense; and vitamins were a daily staple. Megadoses of vitamin C warded off the flu.
With the exception of our normal birth, all of these practices are now considered questionable and even dangerous by today’s childcare standards. Of course, the bugs of before have mutated, and the Internet has made both parents and pediatricians increasingly informed on the latest strides in science.
No one else in our family followed in Lola Bongie’s footsteps, so when I was about seven months pregnant, I asked friends for recommendations to other pediatricians. My husband and I shortlisted three, and requested to meet each of them.
What you need to ask
Given the various schools of thought regarding children’s healthcare, it was important to find the right fit. Thanks to various websites on parenting like parents.com, we came ready with questions. We asked each of them:
If they would be there at birth;
What fees we should expect (upon birth, regular consultation and how often this will be);
How long they have been in practice;
What their childcare philosophy is (their views on breast-feeding, circumcision, alternative medicine, vaccinations, sleep and discipline);
Who covers for them when they’re away;
How long a typical checkup lasts (ideally, at least 20 minutes);
How after-hours emergencies and questions are handled;
If we could text/call/e-mail them directly;
If they make house calls
Visiting their offices also allowed us to see if they mixed sick babies with well babies in the waiting room, the efficiency and demeanor of their staff, and how they are with other parents and children.
We also asked if they had children. Some parents may find it ideal if their doctor has children of the same sex as their child, or even if the doctor has the same sex as the child, so that in the future, the child can ask his/her own questions. Some also find it comforting to choose someone much older for his/her wealth of experience.
We also met a homeopathic pediatrician, and while we were initially very interested in the idea, we chose a single male doctor—an excellent communicator who answered our questions patiently and efficiently, and flexibly aligned our desire for administering natural healing remedies before clinical cures.
Being tech-savvy meant he was easily accessible to us, and being single gave the impression that he has more time and focus on his patients, and less of the know-it-all stance of a typical parent.
Moms Anne and Kris (not their real names) committed to a homeopathic approach. “When I was about to give birth to my first baby, I asked my OB if she could recommend a pedia. She asked me if I wanted a conventional one or one who’s homeopathic or ‘natural.’ So I did some research on homeopathic medicine. I decided to go for the natural route,” said Anne, 35.
Kris, 34, learned about homeopathic medicine from fellow participants in a childbirth class and seminars she attended. “We originally had a Western medicine pedia who is supportive of natural ways, but I wanted a pedia who can also give me the homeopathic medicines I would need. I chose homeopathic medicine over Western medicine because I believe that natural is best,” said Kris.
“I felt that natural and organic is much better, and this has been my route (or at least, I try) for food, medicine and other products we use,” Anne added.
While Anne and her husband do not go to a homeopathic doctor themselves, they do try to use homeopath solutions for their cough and colds. “Mostly, we take traditional meds, maybe because we’re so used to it and healing is faster,” she admitted.
Kris and her husband go to a homeopath. “But we seldom do,” qualified Kris, “because we don’t have much health problems so far, thank God!”
What is a typical checkup like in a homeopathic pediatrician’s clinic? “The diagnosis is done by asking about the child’s history, lifestyle, tracing what happened a few days ago, listening to vitals and physical analysis,” Kris said.
Anne added, “It’s similar to a regular pedia: checking the child’s weight, temperature, listening to his heart, lungs, checking his throat, ears.”
There are differences between administering homeopathic cures and Western ones. Anne explained, “For homeopath meds, you have to take it more often, in small doses (such as five drops every two hours), depending on the meds and the sickness. There are also different homeopath meds you can take together. Some come in liquid form, others in powder form. Adults can get some in tablet form at Healthy Options.”
As for the usual childhood ailments like fever, colds, flu and diarrhea, parents who subscribe to homeopathic medicine have to be keenly attuned to their child. “It depends on each child’s body constitution,” Kris explained. “For example, one child may be able to withstand a fever of 40 degrees Celsius, but another child will suffer a convulsion at 39 degrees. So each child is treated differently by observing and feeling their needs.”
She added: “Homeo cures’ dosage is low; they need to be taken every two to four hours. For colds and flu, if it’s something that will go away, we just rest and let the body heal itself. But be cautious with children less than two years old, because their bodies are not that strong yet.”
How can we compare the efficacy of homeopathic medicine with that of Western medicine?
“Homeo cures take longer to take effect, but it gets the job done,” said Anne. “My kids, who are four and five years old, are healthy, and have taken antibiotics only once or twice since they were born. They have never taken any cough, cold or flu syrups. My youngest used to have a bad case of asthma when he was younger, but he overcame it completely using homeopathic meds only.”
Kris added, “Western meds act really fast, but you are not giving your body a chance to heal itself, as what God has designed our body to do. Our bodies are amazing; that’s why homeo meds only help our immune system to work with our body to hasten healing.”
Homeopathic doctors still consider antibiotics and other Western medicines, should the situation arise. “But this is the last resort, only if the case is really bad,” Anne clarified.
“If a fever is caused by an infection, and if the infection is too advanced already, we do resort to antibiotics,” said Kris. “But if it can be helped by the fever, we endure it and ease the discomfort of the child. When my one-year-old son had pneumonia, he was hospitalized and was on antibiotics. When my four-year-old had amoebiasis, he was also given antibiotics since he was in a lot of pain already. But while on antibiotics, we still used other homeo meds on the side to make his healing faster.”
Anne has learned to handle comments from friends and relatives who do not share her childcare philosophy. “I get that a lot, but I do not get offended. I politely listen to their comments. After all, I might still learn a thing or two from them. I just say I will look into it if they suggest I do otherwise. But at the end of the day, I stand by my choice, for as long as it’s good for my children.”
What would moms Anne and Kris like others to know about their choice? “They should give it a try. You can’t go wrong with natural,” said Anne. “Homeopathic medicine is very common in Europe. You will find a lot of homeopathic meds in any drugstore.”
An advocate of self-learning, Kris cautioned: “I can’t suggest the homeo route if they are not masipag and passionate about reading, research and seeking out help, because otherwise, that can be dangerous. You need to be properly educated about homeopathy. It will also depend on how natural you want to be. I always seek help from doctors, friends, seminars and books to stay informed.
“Also, you really have to be in tune with your kids. It’s a lifestyle; you can’t say you want to try homeo and natural stuff if you feed them junk food and leave them in front of the TV, not teach them how to take care of their health. I supplement my child’s diet with green smoothies and I make sure he gets lots of sunshine and open space to run and play.”
Parenting is a constant struggle for balance; my husband and I may not always agree on what to do when our son is sick, but I always keep in mind that we both want what’s best for him. That is why choosing a pediatrician that best fits your family’s lifestyle and childcare philosophy is significant.