Why I Lied to My Baby’s Pediatrician

Photo: Veer / The Bump Photo: Veer / The Bump

I don’t condone lying. Honesty is always the best policy, right?  Weeeell, I may have been fudging a few things lately… um… to our pediatrician. I know, I know, I’m a terrible mom. Or so I thought — until I talked to other moms who admitted to telling a few little white lies to their pediatricians too. Then I thought, why? Why did I feel that I couldn’t be honest with the one person I’ve elected to care for our child’s medical needs?

I’m as familiar with the conventional wisdom as the next momma when it comes to baby care. I did have the standard nine months to prepare, after all. On top of that, I got all the little baggies full of pamphlets, brochures, samples and free magazine subscriptions from the moment my pee stick said “Yay!” Each little piece of propaganda fit together in an all-encompassing guide on how to take care of an infant. I plowed through them all. I could have recited proper sleep schedules, feeding schedules and techniques by age and rank. The problem? Baby’s don’t always go by the book.

At our very first appointment, our pediatrician used a lot of the phrase, “He should be […]” and “He needs to be […].” By the time we left, I felt certain I had all the instructions I needed to put this little guy together… er …wait. He was already assembled — I’d already spent nine months doing that. So wait, how long should his nap intervals be?  Black and tar-like. Yeah, that was it. No, that’s poo color. What was the nap thing?  “Hon! Where’d you put those napping instructions?” The point is, I left feeling like I had a set of instructions that had to be followed precisely or the world would surely self-destruct.

Fast forward:  Our son, despite our best efforts (honestly!) to have him sleep in the bassinet beside our bed, would not sleep. He just wouldn’t. I’m not talking normal-newborn-waking-up-in-the-night stuff. I’m talking would. not. sleep. After a week or so, we decided to try co-sleeping. It was fabulous (and has been ever since). It was a personal choice, made with careful consideration, and it worked for our family.

What does this have to do with lies and deceit?

Enter lie #1:

Doc: “How is he sleeping?”
Me: “Great!  I can’t complain at all.”
Doc: “Sleeping through the night? On his back?”
Me: “Yep.” (All true so far!)
Doc: “Where does he sleep?”
Me: [oh, $%#@] “In his bassinet next to the bed.”
Doc: “Good, good.”

I knew what the pediatrician wanted to hear, so I just blurted it out like I was playing Catch Phrase after too many glasses of wine. I felt like I had a giant neon “liar” sign blinking from my forehead, but he moved on to feeding.

Doc: “How often is he nursing?”
Me: [damn, this test is hard!] “Uh, every hour and a half maybe?”
Doc: “Ok, mom you’re spoiling him.  He should be eating every 3-4 hours at three months. He’s a snacker.”
Me: “Oh.”

Here’s the thing: By month three, I’d stopped tracking and charting every last feeding, poo color, and nap time down to the second. We’d already had a routine that felt natural and everyone was happy. Besides, I didn’t think you could really “spoil” a 3-month old. At our 6-month appointment, my husband and I were both there. Thankfully the feeding intervals didn’t come up that time, because I was prepared to lie again. Then, the questions started flying before I realized… I’d forgotten to brief my husband on my little ruse.

Doc: “Where is he sleeping.”
Husband: “In bed with us.”
Me: [Noooooooo!]

There may have been a nervous laugh or two as I sheepishly concurred (red-faced and pit-stained by now) with what my husband had so easily disclosed: the truth. And guess what? The world did not self-destruct. Our pediatrician did not bite me. But I still left questioning my position on co-sleeping, feeding times, and a lot of other things. Then I realized, our way was working just fine. I was getting all in a tither over things that didn’t really need fixing. Medically, our son was actually ahead of the game. The doc had even complimented his advanced motor skills. It was the expectation that was killing me — expectations set by by all the “should be’s” and “need to be’s”. I didn’t want to be scolded or judged, so I lied.

Should I have told the truth from the beginning? Probably. Are expectations placed upon new parents sometimes such that we feel the need to fib? Definitely.

Are you guilty of telling white lies to your doctor?

Plus, more from The Bump:

Baby Milestones: What Baby Will Do When

Infant Development

10 Weird But Totally Normal Things About Your Newborn