Why I Don’t Take My Children to Well Baby Visits

When my oldest daughter, Hesperus, was a baby, I dutifully took her to “Well Baby” doctor visits.

We lived in Atlanta, Georgia, a city known for its searing summers, ice cold sweet tea, streets named after peaches, and harried doctors.

I would take my healthy baby into a waiting room full of sick people at the appointed time. Then Hesperus and I would wait, and wait, and wait.

After a wait time of at least 20 minutes and sometimes as much as an hour or more, the doctor would spend about three minutes with us.

When Hesperus was six months old, we went for a Well Baby visit. It was her nap time and by then she was used to napping in her crib in a quiet room in the dark. The doctor was running late that day and made us wait for an hour and fifteen minutes. So Hesperus did what I often feel like doing when I am in a doctor’s waiting room: she started howling. She howled and howled and howled.

By the time we went to see the doctor, my daughter’s face was beet red and her eyes were swollen from crying.

“I think Miss Hesperus has an ear infection,” the doctor said, looking into her ears.

The doctor prescribed me antibiotics for my baby’s ear infection. And drops “for the pain.”

Only, Hesperus wasn’t in pain. She wasn’t sick. She didn’t have an ear infection.

She was crying because she was tired. She was crying because doctors in America do not have the decency to stick to their schedules.

I was such an insecure and naive new mom that I stayed at the clinic for another hour to get the prescription filled. By that time, Baby Hesperus was happy again, sitting on the ground gurgling at strangers.

We drove home. She slept so soundly in the car that she didn’t wake when I brought her inside. I had recently bought Robert Mendelsohn’s, How To Raise A Healthy Child in Spite of Your Doctor. Mendelsohn claims that ear infections are one of the most overtreated illnesses in America and that if a child is crying his eardrums may look red and a doctor may mistakenly think he has a severe infection.

My baby did not have an ear infection. She was the victim of an incompetent medical system and an inept doctor.

That was the last “Well Baby” visit I have ever taken a child to.

What about you? Do you take your baby to the doctor regularly? Are you made to wait for inappropriate amounts of time? Have your kids been struggling with ear infections? Do you have other ways to treat them or do you rely on antibiotics? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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16 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Take My Children to Well Baby Visits”

  1. Parallel to the well-baby visit is the check-up. Two friends, a teacher and a physician, were at my house one day when the teacher said he should come see the physician for a good check-up. “What’s wrong with you?” asked the doc. “Well nothing I know of,” the teacher replied. “Then my fancy machines and I aren’t likely to find anything wrong either. Check-ups are mainly a way for family doctors to pad out their incomes when you don’t need them.” The rest of us were pretty shocked, but it makes sense. This friend practices by treating everybody regadless of their ability to pay, was raised communist, and is content to live a very modest working-class lifestyle even as an MD. He can’t stand tricks of the trade to make more money, nor those who practice medicine to get rich rather than to help whomever needs care.

  2. Here’s what I sent to grandparents, etc after our last well baby visit; in other words, you’re right, save for the shots (I do vaccinate, some) I agree unnecessary (the assistant had never met any of the kids besides Saskia before the visit b/c in the year she’d worked there, we’d never visited…). That said, in order not to use a doctor, like many other services, you have to be observant & savvy enough to do other things to be sure your cihild’s helathy & generally well & many people are not; I don’t mean that unkindly, at all. Think just for one example how many babies never spend time on their tummies. Get juice in a bottle. You know? What you are choosing really works for people like you (& me). There are many people whose babies benefit from adult eyes seeing their kids. Even harried & over-medicalized ones.

    My update went out with a picture & the doting loved ones were pleased but would that I had another baby (I won’t) I’d so take a page from your book here & skip a ton of unnecessary visits. We are our ped’s darlings, funnily enough, because the kids basically never need any medical care. Hmm. (& she thinks they are smart & that I’m a paragon of relaxed/tuned in mother–ah!).

    Dear Ones,

    No surprise here: Saskia had her eighteen-month check-up late last week & was pronounced both healthy & thriving by Nora Hanke, our kind pediatrician, who was impressed with Saskia’s language & her physical prowess.

    Poor Saskia remembered the office, though & was NOT at all pleased to have anyone poke her (Hep B/Hib, one in each thigh). Otherwise, she was cheery & happy to play in a new place (the paper roll on the exam table, that’s really a cool item).

    The Stats:

    weight 19 lbs 12 oz (third percentile) (note: that’s not really on the charts but remains consistent for her)

    length 30 inches (tenth percentile)

    head circumference 46.8 cm (58th percentile)

    In general, Saskia is a very BUSY toddler these days. She enjoys playing outside & inside (& with her brothers & her pals Arella & Amartya). The words are now coming in pairs: “Shoes on,” “Down stairs,” & of course, “Ice-uh cre-eam” (which, she has discovered is awfully tasty). Yesterday, we were picking blueberries together & she’s good at picking (& eating) the berries & enjoyed wandering between me & Ezekiel & friends… it was a mini-party’s worth of blueberry pickers & eaters.

    Sending love,

    .-= Sarah Buttenwieser´s last blog ..Winter’s Fare =-.

  3. Our clinic sometimes has us waiting 15 minutes or more. We are lucky, though, because there’s an outdoor area where my kids love to play. I would not, though, miss a well baby visit. I love my pediatrician, a 73-year-old man I have enormous respect and affection for. He is warm and calm and has seen it all. I love the feeling after well-baby visits and annual checkups that someone has double checked my kids’ hearts and lungs and reflexes and spines and kidneys and other systems I can only guess at. My daughter was diagnosed with asthma this fall and my son was recently diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. In both those cases, my kids’ health was guarded by a system that has been helpful and supportive and very reassuring for me. My pediatrician is a voice of reason and a source of affirmation and a willing ear my kids feel comfortable talking to. I love the man! If I could take my guys to the clinic more often I probably would! I only wish everyone could have as positive an experience at the doctor’s office as we do!

  4. I actually love our group of doctors. However, we do often have to wait a year and a day and occasionally my daughter picks up a cold from the collective toys. But, I have to say our doctor is very patient and is very generous with his time (generally the wait is because he doesn’t rush his patients). He talks, he reassures, he informs and he’s gentle. Of course, my daughter treats him like he’s an ax murderer because she hates getting vaccinated, but he’s always there to answer questions. In my daughter’s two years, they’ve never thought she had an ear infection if she was cranky and they are loath to prescribe antibiotics. Just a little tylenol is there’s a fever and a teaspoon of honey if there’s a cough.
    .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Tasty Treat: Molasses Cookies =-.

  5. i sometimes wonder if the annual checkup is at all useful. one time gg’s stuffy nose was diagnosed with allergy. we took a 1 month course of allergy meds. the stuffy nose comes and goes, and i’m not sure if it’s allery. i’m not a doctor.

  6. Doctors I’ve had contact with refuse to keep you as a patent if you don’t come for well visits and check ups. So we go, in order to have medical care available when we need it.

  7. My kids have had terrible pediatricians and good ones. But I’m not ready to throw out the whole idea based on a few harried, overworked docs. It’s hard to find a doc that’s really willing to work with you–and then it seems just when you do your insurance drops her practice. The best doc my children ever had was a nurse practitioner. She taught me–and any other patients who were interested–how to use an otoscope to evaluate our own kids for ear infections. Her push to empower patients was refreshing.
    .-= Kristen J. Gough´s last blog ..3 Kid-friendly New Year

  8. I still go to them, but we go to a nurse practitioner and I do it more for me than for her. The nurse has given me tons of great parenting advice. Now that my daughter is 5, it’s just a once a year visit, so it’s not a big deal. I do remember the frequent baby visits, and they seem to only be set up that way so they can get all of those shots. Honestly not a lot goes wrong with kids that parents don’t already know about before the kid gets to the doctor.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..How to Accept Defeat, Part 3 =-.

  9. When my children were little I dutifully took them to their well-baby visits, if nothing to reassure me that they were healthy and on track. I’m sure if I had learned to trust my instincts (like you bravely do) I could have avoided these visits. I do remember always dreading those visits, though, because the wait was always so long and invariably there were lots of sick kids in the office (my doctor separated the waiting areas into “sick” and “well”, but I’m sure the germs make their way in, anyhow…)

  10. I admire what a good relationship you have with your doctor, Kimberly (and with the OB team that delivered your children, as per a comment on a previous post). I wish we could all have such competent, kind, and compassionate care. When we were in Atlanta we went to an HMO. Unfortunately, when HMOs are responsible for health care and when a person is sent to a different doctor every time and when that doctor is pressured to schedule back-to-back appointments and to spend as little time as possible with each patient, these proscribed, almost mandatory, “Well Baby” visits are doing little, if anything, to promote a baby’s health. But it is so good to know that other Americans have been having more positive experiences in our health care system than we were.

  11. Well baby/child visits have proven to be such a cost for our house, time wise and financially. After diligently sticking to the recommended schedule for Nagali and Devi, Wayne and I decided to forgo the visits after the birth our daughter, Tara, and concentrate on well child living. From what you have written about your family and lifestyle I can see our house is much like yours: healthy foods, exercise, positive socialization, and teaching our children the need to care for themselves by resting when they are weary, and staying clear of situations that will expose them to preventable harm. Of course, our pediatrician is gentle, thoughtful, and we can count on her to assist in an emergency, but it is not necessary to schedule a well child visit.
    .-= Carmen Ortega´s last blog ..Mushroom Tea =-.

  12. We have experience with well-baby visits in 2 countries. In the USA we had a wonderful pediatrician who had completely separate floors for well & sick babies, and was remarkably on-time for both well & sick visits. He also kept us very calm about our very above-average-sized baby who wasn’t meeting any of the traditional milestones “on time” – our baby was simply too darn big to roll over, sit up, etc.

    In Israel, where we had our 2nd baby, the well-baby clinics are run by the government. ONLY well-babies are allowed in them, and they handle all of the weight/height tracking, parenting counseling, vaccinations, etc. This means that every person, regardless of socioeconomic level and awareness of nutrition/healthy living/etc. gets the same support. On the other hand, because it is a gov’t service, the nurses are strictly by the book, and sometimes the book doesn’t exactly fit each and every baby’s or parent’s needs. So you really have to take what they say sometimes with a gigantic grain of salt. And interestingly, we have seen that in the Israeli system, they are much more interventionist, probably as a result of how the system is set up (a gov’t nurse sure doesn’t want to get in trouble for not noticing a potential problem…). For example, when we tell people that our oldest child didn’t walk until he was almost 2 years old, they are in shock that he wasn’t already in physical therapy by then (the best thing he did to strengthen his muscles to catch up to his size was swimming, which he started a few years later). But his pediatrician was convinced that he would walk when he was ready, saw steady progress on all the various elements that he felt were important, and let us raise him in a calm and loving environment without doing any unnecessary interventions. And sure enough, one day he woke up, and walked from his room to the living room without stumbling once.

    So, long and short of it is that I think parents need to make wise choices for their children, and if you have a dr. who is not respectful of what you and your child needs, then switching to a new doctor may be in order. Having a medical professional you trust that you can consult about your child’s growth and health is incredibly important, and well-baby visits is just one part of that.

  13. After reading this, I feel quite a bit better. I’ve always been of the opinion that the well-baby check-ups are a little bit unnecessary. Especially since my doctor “prescribed” a book that has given me all the info I need. I have to be careful, though, because these days it seems that if you don’t bring your baby to the doctor for every expected visit, it’s tantamount to child abuse. I’m afraid to tell anyone that I don’t take my baby to the doctor unless something is truly wrong (when he had a sudden skin infection, for example). He’s had a couple minor colds with no fever or anything. I don’t need the peace of mind that comes with these visits because, my boyfriend and I trust our own, or at least one anothers’, instincts.

  14. I absolutely agree. The general public doesn’t realize what a mafia the medical / insurance fields can be. Doesn’t anyone have any common sense any more? Our family members have always used common sense in regard to doctor visits, for example we go when the child is seriously sick. It has been working for 3 generations now. We’re all doing great. We absolutely go to the doctor when necessary, but not when we’re perfectly fine. My father is a veterinarian. We have passed his wisdom down through the years.

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