I Don’t Want to be THAT Mom

Dear Mamas,

I’m the single mom of a recently adopted, beautiful 4 month-old baby girl. I’m slightly older (42) and never had children before, so sometimes I feel like a total idiot about the whole parenting thing.

My specific dilemma is this: how do I know when it’s appropriate to put in a call to her pediatrician when I have a question?

Marina recently had her 4 month check which, as you know, comes with a bunch of different vaccinations. Afterwards, she seemed feverish and fussy for a few days and I called a couple times to ask for suggestions. By the 2nd call the office staff seemed annoyed and reluctant to pass on my concerns to the doctor. I ended up figuring it out on my own, but felt like I was left hanging without the support I would have liked.

Is this normal and to be expected? How do I know when it’s okay to call or not to call? I don’t want to be THAT mom, but how am I supposed to know what’s serious and what’s not? It feels weird to rely on the internet. Isn’t the doctor supposed to know about my baby?

Your advice is greatly appreciated. I just need some guidelines.

Thank you —



Dear Janelle,

Congratulations on your new bundle! You’re heading out on a terrific adventure, and little Marina is more than lucky to have you as her mom.

You say you’re unsure about your skills in the parenting department, but it sounds like your instincts are right on target. Every new mom learns as she goes, and that includes info about baby’s wellness and what to expect after routine immunizations. There are no silly questions. You must be able to count on the staff and doc to offer support and information when you need it — that’s a critical part of their job.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of having a good working relationship with the health team taking care of your child, including feeling free to call on them when needed. Small problems that may seem trivial can become big problems that are serious, and we depend on experts to know the difference.

If you need information about how your car is running, call your mechanic. Questions about taxes are directed to your accountant. The last thing you need is to deal with attitude on the other end. Ditto for your child’s doctor and office staff.

That said, there are some guidelines to help you decide how urgently you need to make contact. Most minor problems can be handled during office hours, and you should never hesitate to call between 8 and 5. If you don’t get an immediate response, expect a call back by the end of the day. A good rule of thumb: If baby is acting, eating, and drinking normally (and by that I mean normal for her), it can wait a bit.

Some problems can’t wait. Small children can go from sick to very sick quickly, and it’s important to recognize the warning signs.

Contact the doc immediately, day or night, if:

  • Baby is less than 8 weeks old and has a rectal temp over 100.4 F.
  • Baby is listless, lethargic, or sleepy at a normally wakeful time, with or without fever.
  • Baby is wheezing or breathing faster or harder than usual.
  • Baby falls from bed or table height and appears hurt.
  • Baby has a dark rash over trunk that doesn’t pale when pressed.
  • Baby is vomiting repeatedly and can’t keep down any fluids.
  • You see blood in the diaper.
  • Anytime you are alarmed. Trust your gut.

Call 911 day or night if: 

  • There is loss of consciousness for any reason.
  • Baby has a seizure, with or without fever.
  • Baby develops hives over body with swelling around the mouth or noisy breathing (allergic reaction).
  • Baby is breathing irregularly.
  • Baby is unresponsive.
  • You suspect baby has ingested poison or medication.                                          First call POISON CONTROL: 800 222 1222 


Your primary job is to keep your daughter safe, healthy and happy. If you occasionally have to ruffle a few feathers to do that, so be it. One of the great things about being a mom is the new ways you’ll get in touch with your inner Mama Bear.

If your current pediatrician isn’t a comfortable fit ask your friends, other moms, women you know for recommendations. Interview them first and look for someone who shares your parenting views and feels right. An educated consumer is our best customer.

Good luck!

~the Mamas


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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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One response to “I Don’t Want to be THAT Mom”

  1. Megan

    The guidelines you provided are exaclty what we heard from our pediatrician — and they’re good to follow.

    In Janelle’s case, if she hasn’t been with baby Marina since birth, she might need a couple weeks to learn her baby’s habits, understand what’s normal, and observe normal fussiness (versus potential fussiness due to immunizations.) Hopefully the pediatrician explained possible common side effects of the immunizations too.

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