German Well Baby Visits

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - withaBabyWe’ve been trudging off to the pediatrician an awful lot these past few weeks.  But, thank God it hasn’t been for illness.  Nope, it’s been time for all the boys to get their check ups!

I’m not quite acclimated yet to the German well baby visit schedule.  But, I seem to have lived here long enough to forget the American schedule.  Either that or I’m totally sleep deprived.  Yeah, let’s not go there.

Waiting rooms at the pediatrician are much like the US, only with more wooden toys.

Waiting rooms at the pediatrician are much like in America, only with more wooden toys.

The typical visits that a baby will have to the pediatrician in the US are at birth, 2-3 days, and 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months (yep, I had to look that up).  In Germany, it’s slightly different.  Big Foot also got an examination at birth and at 2-3 days, but then he is supposed to go at 6 weeks, 4 months, 7 months, and 12 months.  These visits are labeled with the letter U and then a number, starting with U1 and going up.

Exam rooms are much the same as in the US.

Exam rooms are much the same as in the US.

What was most surprising to me, however, was not the frequency of the visits but what the doctor does (or doesn’t do) at the check-up.

I’m almost certain that the midwife or obstetrician – and not a pediatrician – performed Big Foot’s U1 check after the birth.  And, I know for sure that his hearing was not checked at the hospital.  In fact, it wasn’t checked until 6 weeks!

Pediatric Ultrasound machine.

Pediatric Ultrasound machine.

Even more strange than watching your little tiny baby have a hearing monitor shoved in his ear is watching him get an ultrasound of his hips.  It’s quite routine for babies here to get 1 or 2 hip ultrasounds in the first few months of life.  The pediatrician has a machine right there in the exam room, and performs the test himself.  He explained to me why they do this, but honestly I completely forgot since Big Foot’s sockets were normal.

Baby exams take place on this changing table underneath a heat lamp.  The scale is old skool - not digital.

Baby exams take place on this changing table underneath a heat lamp. The scale is old skool – not digital.

Immunizations don’t start until the 4-month visit.  Babies in Germany get huge combination shots with 6 or 7 diseases all rolled into one.  I asked about separating these whoppers into smaller bite-sized doses.  No dice.  It’s just not possible.

Don't forget to wash your hands!  The bathroom has a child-sized sink and potty.

Don’t forget to wash your hands! The bathroom has a child-sized sink and potty.

Germany doesn’t require all school children to be vaccinated like in the US.  As such, doctors are usually open to changing the schedule if the parent desires, but one should not expect to get away without an earful of why that decision is completely and utterly stupid.

Shot records are detailed in a little yellow immunization booklet called an Impfpass.  This is to be kept with the child’s check-up records which just happen to also be bound up in a yellow book.  Surprise, surprise, just like the Mutterpass, all these documents are the responsibility of the parent.  I must remember to take the booklets with me for every well baby/well child visit and any extra trips we make to do catch-up immunizations.  Geez, way to give a parent one.more.thing.to.do.

At each checkup, I’ve received safety pamphlets to keep with my child’s records.  The pages are filled with little pictures illustrating the dangers of having a child in your house.  Don’t put furniture in front of the window.  Put your cleaning products out of reach.  Look both ways before you cross the road.  Don’t carry a baby and a hot beverage.  Be careful when cooking and the children are around.  Don’t tie a pacifier around a baby’s neck with a string.  And on and on these little booklets go.  We get one every.single.time.

The one thing that I don’t get a lot of are questions about my children’s development.  At Big Foot’s last check (4 months), the doctor didn’t ask me anything about sleeping.  Or eating.  Or fussiness.  Or general temperament.  Or if he could roll over.  Or do jumping jacks.

The pediatrician did ask how it was going.  I said, um, okay, and tried to talk to him about how Big Foot doesn’t sleep well at night.  He brushed me off and merely said, “It’s an adaptation issue.”  I protested that the other two didn’t have “adaptation issues.”  He then smiled his aren’t-you-such-a-dumb-little-American smile and replied, “Well, 1 out of every 3 babies has it, and he’s your third.”  No other questions.  No other answers.  Mystery solved.  “Adaptation issues.”  Case closed.

On the plus side, I don’t pay anything for my boys to go to the doctor.  Ever.  Not for well visits, not for sick visits, not for shots, not for tests, not even for after hours urgent care or ER visits.

So even though our pediatrician is a piece of work (and he’s our second one in two years so I’m not keen on trying another), at least the coverage is very good.  Now if I can just keep our trips to his office to a minimum – and the kindergarten sickies at bay, I’ll be one happy mama.Signature-Marigold

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