In her defense, she had to endure quite a few doctor visits during her first year due to her reflux. Because of her high need nature, she is also much more sensitive and easily overwhelmed in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations.
We never had a visit without tears. They start rolling even when no shots are scheduled. And it has gotten worse every time.
At her 12 months appointment, things turned bad really fast. She was hysterical when she got her shots. She screamed and screeched and was holding on for dear life. It was heart-wrenching to watch and all I wanted to do was pick her up and run.
Last week, when Livi got sick, we were back at the doctor’s office for the first time, and while it certainly could have been worse, it was by no means an easy visit. Thankfully, this time she calmed down as soon as it was over.
Given how difficult these visits are for Livi, we have come up with a few strategies and ideas to make it easier for all of us. While she is now getting to an age where we can begin to explain things to her, most of the following tips can be used with younger toddlers and babies.
- Explore the room: once we are in the examining room, we show Livi around and talk to her about all that’s there to see. She especially likes the mirror and we take turns making silly faces for her. That always puts her at ease.
- Use a blanket: we usually bring one of her small blankets with us. Livi doesn’t really have a lovey or a blankie, but putting a familiar (light) blanket around her once she’s undressed, always calms her down.
- Bring a toy or book: At times, we have to wait for a little while until the doctor shows up. Reading a book to Livi or looking at the pictures together keeps her occupied and calms her down.
- Ask the doctor not to wear her typical white lab coat: This is actually something our pediatrician does on her own with smaller children. It seems to help Livi to see her in street clothes as opposed to the unfamiliar coat. The coat may also eventually be associated with shots and unpleasant doctor visits. We have asked other doctors to do the same and most of them were happy to do it.
- If possible, bring the other parent to the appointment: With few exceptions, my husband has always made the time to come along for Livi’s doctor appointments. It makes things so much easier with little ones. One of us can hold Livi while the other one entertains and distracts her. This way, she can always see one of us and it is especially useful during examinations and when she gets shots.
- Sing a song: When Livi gets really uncomfortable, I sing one of her favorite songs. Granted, I never planned on singing children’s songs in front of another adult, but it works and that’s all that matters.
- Blow (lightly) into her face: This is actually something a friend suggested. When her kids get their shots, she lightly blows into their faces and distracts them from what’s happening. It doesn’t work with Livi (she gets mad when I try it), but it might work for you.
- Do something special after the visit: We either bring along a snack or a favorite toy, go for a walk or stop for a snack on the way home. When Livi is actually sick, we go straight back home but we have a small new toy or book waiting for. This is something our parents did with us and we both still remember how comforting it felt.
Does your child dread going to the doctor? What do you do to make a doctor’s visit easier? Do you do something your parents did when you were a child?