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Paediatr Child Health. 2009 May-Jun; 14(5): 333–334.
PMCID: PMC2706637

You and your child’s doctor

When your baby is born, you will start taking him to see a paediatrician (www.caringforkids.cps.ca/healthy-bodies/Paediatricians.htm) or family doctor for his ongoing health care. As your child grows and develops, you’ll likely turn to your child’s doctor – and sometimes other health care providers such as a public health nurse – with questions or concerns.

SHOULD MY CHILD SEE A PAEDIATRICIAN OR A FAMILY DOCTOR?

Paediatricians and family doctors both provide care for babies, children and adolescents. They do routine care (check-ups, immunizations, and so on) and see children when they are sick. In some cities and towns, all routine care is provided by a family doctor, while in other places, children see paediatricians for their regular care.

HOW DO I FIND A DOCTOR?

Word of mouth:

Ask friends and family members with children about their paediatricians.

Provincial colleges:

Each province has a college of physicians and surgeons, which grants licenses to doctors to practice. Many of the colleges have referral services to help people find doctors (www.caringforkids.cps.ca/resources/FindADoctor.htm) accepting new patients.

WHAT WILL MY CHILD’S DOCTOR DO?

  • Keep track of your child’s health, growth and development.
  • Diagnose, explain and treat minor to more serious illnesses.
  • Provide information and answer questions you may have.
  • Send you to other health professionals when an illness or condition may need special expertise.

WHEN SHOULD I TAKE MY CHILD FOR A FIRST DOCTOR’S VISIT?

Babies are usually checked by a health care provider within the first week of going home from the hospital. At this first visit your health care provider will:

  • Weigh your baby and measure your baby’s length and head circumference.
  • Check on how feeding is going for you and your baby.
  • Do a general health exam.
  • Ask how the family is adjusting to the new baby.
  • Complete any screening tests that were not done at the hospital.

This first visit doesn’t have to be with your regular paediatrician or family doctor. Sometimes it is done by a doctor at the hospital where you gave birth, your midwife or a public health nurse. It can be done at home, in the office or in a hospital clinic. If your baby doesn’t see her regular doctor at this visit, it will happen soon after.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM A VISIT TO MY CHILD’S DOCTOR?

“Well-baby” or “well-child” visits are a lot like your annual check-ups, but focus on your child’s age and stage of development.

Your baby’s first visit to the doctor is usually by 2 months. Regular visits will follow at 4, 6, 9, 12 and 18 months, 2 years, and then once every year until 5 years of age. When your child is 5 years old, she will see her doctor every 1 or 2 years until she is 18 years old.

A well-baby/child visit usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes. Your doctor and her staff will:

  • Check your child’s weight, height and head circumference.
  • Discuss your child’s eating habits and answer any questions about nutrition.
  • Provide advice about safety and other issues related to your child’s age and abilities – for example, when to switch to a forward-facing car seat.
  • Ask about your child’s social and emotional development, such as learning words. When your child gets older, this is a good time to discuss any learning problems in school and any social or emotional issues. You might also want to discuss any problems that are happening at home.
  • Do a physical exam – looking at eyes and ears.
  • Give your child recommended vaccines (www.caringforkids.cps.ca/immunization/VaccinationChild.htm).

Older children and adolescents may be seen without a parent or guardian in the room for part of the visit.

If you have questions or concerns that could take longer than the regular 15-minute visit, let them know when you schedule the appointment. That way, enough time can be scheduled to answer your concerns.

HOW CAN I MAKE THE MOST OF OUR VISIT TO THE DOCTOR?

  • Keep a list of any concerns you have. Bring it with you so you remember to discuss them at your visit.
  • Record any symptoms your child may be having. All symptoms are important when talking about health issues.
  • Involve your child in the visit – before and during. Talk to him about it before you go so he knows what to expect. If he is old enough, ask him to tell you and the doctor how he is feeling.

HOW CAN I MAKE THE VISIT EASIER FOR MY CHILD?

  • Schedule visits at a time when your child isn’t usually napping.
  • Use a toy doctor’s kit to teach your young child about all the things the doctor will do when you visit. Or bring along a favourite “buddy,” a stuffed animal or doll who gets an exam along with your child. This might help her feel more comfortable when it comes time for the real thing.
  • Young children may find it difficult to sit still in a doctor’s waiting room. Bring a couple of books, a favourite toy and a snack to help keep your child busy and happy during the wait.
  • If your child is older, explain why she is visiting the doctor. Use simple, easy-to-understand language. If it is for a regular check-up, explain that all children see a doctor, and that the doctor checks how he is growing and developing. Be honest about what your child can expect from the exam.
  • Tell your older child or adolescent that he can see the doctor without you in the room. This might help him feel more comfortable talking with the doctor.

WHAT DO I DO BETWEEN DOCTOR’S VISITS?

If you have any questions about your child’s health between regular office visits, call your doctor’s office. Your doctor’s receptionist or nurse will be able to help you with minor problems and decide if you need to see the doctor.

Most provinces have health phone lines where you can speak to a registered nurse about general health information. Nurses can help you assess your child’s symptoms and decide your best first step.

For more information:

Reviewed by the CPS Public Educations Subcommittee and the Community Paediatrics Committee.

Footnotes

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your physician.

All Canadian Paediatric Society documents are reviewed, revised or retired as needed on a regular basis. Please consult the Caring for Kids Web site (www.caringforkids.cps.ca) for the current version. May be reproduced without permission and shared with patients and their families.


Articles from Paediatrics & Child Health are provided here courtesy of Pulsus Group