Advice Column, Baby, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby

Baby’s first visit to the doctor

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Diana Du Plessis on behalf of Philips Mother and Child Division

It’s only natural for parents to worry about their baby’s health – they seem so fragile and as new parents, you are likely to panic about every cry, rash or change in behaviour. However, many niggles are a natural part of baby’s development and can be treated at home and as you become more experienced, you get to you know your baby better – enabling you to understand their cries and needs – where the anxiety somewhat settles and you become more adept in dealing with minor ailments.

Many of the problems experienced in the early months are usually related to the baby adjusting to the new environment. Their skin might be flaky or there may be skin blotches that look unsightly. They will also be vulnerable to minor infections such as eye infections and thrush and, although it is a common occurrence, it will without a doubt worry you. In fact, it is a given that your baby will become unwell with at least one minor illness in the first year of life and you might find it difficult to assess if they need to be taken to the doctor.

A rule of thumb is:

  • They are crying more or different than usual
  • Not taking his/her feeds
  • Generally seem “off” – lethargic, restless or irritable for example.

* See Symptom Checklist

If you suspect that something is wrong, make a note of what symptoms you observed and contact your medical practitioner or clinic sister urgently as young babies can become very ill, quickly. Trust your instincts, especially in the first months.

Finding the right doctor

It is not necessary to take your baby to the paediatrician every time they seem ill. Your GP is well trained to manage all general symptoms, however, it is always better to choose a person who is experienced with babies and who can relate to children. If your doctor seems insensitive to the needs of the child, you may want to consider a different doctor. Ask family or friends with children who they trust – word of mouth goes a long way!

Some medical centres make a real effort to accommodate mothers with young children and offer toys and books, while others do not (let this be a subtle clue to you) and as such, it might be necessary to pack your own toys and some clean clothes (if nausea is a symptom).

Whatever the case, it is essential to feel comfortable and confident about who treats your baby. Ensure that the practitioner you choose is qualified and registered with the appropriate professional organisations. Ask the practitioner or receptionist about her training and number of years in practice. Trust your intuition – if you don’t like or feel confident with the practitioner you have chosen, or if the baby doesn’t seem settled with him or her, go elsewhere.

Meeting the doctor 

If you haven’t met the doctor yet, you might feel anxious, but at the onset, tell him who you are and what you do/did before you had the baby. Make it clear that you will be with your baby throughout the consultation – this is especially essential when the child is bigger and able to understand. What’s more it’s important to keep your baby on your lap, facing the doctor, so that they feel safe and not suddenly confronted with a stranger touching them. Do not hand your baby over to the doctor without telling them you are there – make eye contact so that your baby can always see you.

To ensure you get the best out of the visit, here are some tips:

  • Have a note ready with your baby’s symptoms or some of you your concerns.
  • Don’t be scared to tell them about the home remedies you used. Rather be open and honest, as some remedies may interfere with the treatment that the doctor prescribes.
  • Don’t worry if you feel you are being dramatic. Babies rely on their mother to identify problems. If you are concerned about a possible contact with measles, mention it to the doctor, they don’t have X-ray vision after all.

Remember, it’s not always necessary to go to a medical practitioner. Many of the first illnesses can be diagnosed and treated effectively by a good clinic sister. However, do not hesitate to obtain medical help and support if you think your baby or child is sick.  Prevention or early management of small problems is much better than reactive courses.

It’s natural to worry as a parent but often times a few adjustments can help the minor ailment experienced. Having said that however, it’s essential that you watch your baby, their reactions to food, their weight and of course if they are in any pain or discomfort to ensure you can consult your medical practitioner to ensure your baby’s start is a healthy, happy one.


Symptom Checklist

Fever (over 37,5 C) Monitor 4-6 hourly

Diarrhea (very runny or watery stools & mucus)

Vomiting (more than twice in 24 hours)

Rashes (that do not resolve untreated within 24 hours)

Sore throat & fever

Earache & fever

Swollen glands (which often indicate the beginning of an infection)

Coughing if prolonged or accompanied by mild shortness of breath & a reddened or blue face.

Eyes (reddened or pink or a mucus or pus discharge)

Headache & neck stiffness

General irritability and crying with a constant need for attention

Abdominal pain (especially in the right lower abdomen)

Shortness of breath (especially if your child is asthmatic)

Burning on urination

Passing mucus in the stool

Joint pain especially if accompanied by fever

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