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family doctor

Baby at the doctor

Photo by tandemracer

One of the biggest concerns we’re hearing from expectant vegan parents is about finding a supportive pediatrician and family doctor – it seems to be hard enough to find someone for ourselves, so what about small children? We turned this over to the Council of Vegan Parents: how did they find a veg-friendly pediatrician, or what did they do if they found themselves stuck with someone who isn’t supportive?

Here’s the good news: not a single Council member responded with a horror story – at least, not one that they didn’t get out of. Everyone has a doctor and/or pediatrician that they’re happy with, and it didn’t seem like it took any Herculaen efforts to achieve this.

The Council had the following advice, and as always, when I say “advice” I’m referring to the opinions and experiences collected here, and this isn’t official medical counsel, blah blah blah, though saying “consult your health care professional” in a post about finding a health care professional seems confusing. Anyway, here’s what we’ve got for you this week:

Doctor or Pediatrician? Some people in our panel skipped the pediatrician stage altogether and just went for a family practice physician that could be a resource for the whole family. The consensus seems to be that pediatricians can be more critical of parents and tend to schedule in shorter appointments, but that might just be the sampling from our responses.

Know what matters to you. There’s still a bit of “residual awe” around the doctor profession in some parts, and some of you might have a subconscious sense that you’re lucky to even be talking to one. Remember that the doctor isn’t accepting you, you’re accepting the doctor. It’s OK to ask questions, and many of our Council members interviewed three or four doctors before finding one they liked.

Diet really isn’t that big an issue. Most questions our Council members have been getting about diet are the kinds of questions that the doctor asks all parents, not just the vegan ones. As long as your children are hitting their growth targets and seem healthy overall, diet might not come up much in discussions anyway.

Be assertive. If you tell your potential doctor that you’d “like” to raise your children vegan, or that it’d be your “ideal” scenario, then you’re leaving the door open for animal product recommendations. If you’re a vegan family, say so and make it clear that it’s not up for discussion.

Accept that the doctor might not be vegan or vegetarian, and frankly, might not know that much about nutrition in general. A vegan doctor is of course ideal, but they’re pretty rare still. The amount of actual nutrition training in medical school still seems to be fairly low, but if your doctor is open to the idea of veganism and has access to a good nutritionist, you’ll probably do OK.

You can switch doctors later. If things start out simple enough but then you start getting recommendations that don’t sound right, you can always change doctors again. That said, it’s important to listen – if your doctor says that you need to feed your kids milk, that’s one thing, but if every doctor tells you that a diet that’s 95% ketchup is a horrible idea, well, they might not be the ones with a problem…

Don’t hide your veganism. Hiding anything that might be relevant to your family’s health is pretty foolish really, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to come up once your child learns to talk… 🙂

So where do you find doctors to interview? Apparently, the phone book was a great start for a lot of our Council members (or Yelp, in this decade.) If you’re lucky enough to get a referral/recommendation from friends, especially vegan friends, then that’s great, but simple phone calls to names in a list can work out fine.

Thanks to Amy, Sarah, Kim, Rebecca, Kristie, Jo, Celeste, Steph and Julie for their help on this one!

Related: Vaccines and your vegan family

(Photo credit: tandemracer)