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When family expectations differ from your doctor’s advice, what’s a new parent to do?

October 20, 2015

Written by Lisandra Perez, MD

A new baby is one of the most beautiful things we can experience, but being a new parent can be scary, too. With that bundle of joy comes a bundle of advice that new parents must sort through.

So how do you handle all of the new information and what do you do when Grandma’s advice conflicts with what your pediatrician is telling you?

Here are a few examples that may sound familiar to you:

What Grandma says: Put the baby to sleep on his belly so that if he has a spit-up he won’t choke on it.

What the pediatrician says: Put the baby on his back to sleep to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The reason grandma is saying this is because before 1996 babies were put on their sides or bellies to sleep. However, since that time studies have shown that babies who sleep on their backs have a much lower chance of dying from SIDS. Other recommendations include no co-sleeping with Mommy, Daddy or siblings and no extra bedding or toys in the baby’s crib.

Pediatricians have changed their recommendations over the years because medical science has improved and shown us better ways to protect and care for young children.

What Grandma says: The baby is two months old now. You should put some cereal in the baby’s bottle to prevent spit-ups and keep the baby sleeping longer through the night.

What the pediatrician says: Cereals are not recommended in babies younger than four months of age.

Pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age. A baby’s digestive system can’t digest cereal well enough until they are about six months old. Other reasons to wait to give cereal are that giving cereal before an infant is developmentally ready can increase the chances of an infant gagging, choking or accidentally inhaling food into their lungs. Exposure to solid foods before four months of age can also increase the chances of developing food allergies.

What Grandma says: You must circumcise your little boy OR you should definitely not circumcise your little boy.

What the pediatrician says: It is completely up to you as parents to make this decision, as it is an elective procedure.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has said that circumcision has potential benefits as well as risks. Due to the potential medical benefits outweighing the risks, the procedure is available for those who choose to have it done on their male infants. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend routine circumcision for all male infants. Since having the procedure done is not critical to the infant’s health, the decision for this elective procedure is left up to the parents to make with help from their pediatrician.

How does one mediate between Grandma’s advice and the pediatrician’s advice without hurting anyone’s feelings?

First of all, remember that this new baby is now your responsibility and with that comes the privilege to stand your ground and make the best informed decisions you can make. You don’t need others approval to know you are doing the best for your baby. You can always listen and be amicable, but this does not require that you follow all of your family’s advice.

Much has changed since grandma was a new mom, and a gentle correction with the new recommendations goes a long way. Not only is it an educational opportunity but it also keeps a positive environment. If no matter what you do the unsolicited advice keeps coming, set time apart to sit down and discuss the situation as a family. Acknowledge their desire to help, but let them know you would like to try a different way.

Sometimes it is also helpful to explain why the doctor is recommending certain things. If Grandma knows that putting baby to sleep on his back can prevent a tragic outcome, she may be more accepting. If you aren’t sure why your pediatrician recommends certain things, ask about it and discuss it with your doctor.

Most of all, enjoy the wonder of being a parent and make your own decisions. Appreciate those around you love your child and who, above all, want to help and take part in the joy.