Northwest Arkansas mom has questions for pediatrician

By April Wallace, nwaMotherlode contributing writer and local mama

I’ve never had so many burning questions in my life than my first baby’s first year of life. And that’s saying something, since my profession is as a reporter. It’s my job to have questions.

Dr. Rachel MacLeod, a pediatrician at Mercy Clinic in Bentonville (on I Street), graciously emailed me back and forth to answer many of those questions even though she, too, has both a toddler and a baby at home.

Dr. Rachel MacLeod, Mercy Clinic, Bentonville, Ark.

MacLeod attended medical school in Grenada at St. George’s University School of Medicine and earned her undergraduate degree in Biological Engineering from the University of Arkansas. She moved to New Jersey for her third and fourth years of medical school, and stayed for residency at Jersey Shore University Medical Center because she met her husband Rob there. Rachel and Rob finished residency at different hospitals in 2015. Then she started her private practice near Princeton, New Jersey while he did a fellowship in Philadelphia. They both moved to Arkansas (with their 2-week-old daughter) after the completion of his fellowship, and Rob is now an orthopedic surgeon for Ozark Orthopedics. MacLeod and her husband have two precious girls, Camryn (3) and Callie (8 months). 

By now most of us know that as long as COVID-19 is a threat, staying home as much as possible, keeping surfaces clean and washing our hands fastidiously are ways to keep our family safe. Would you add anything to that for families with babies amid the spread of corona virus?

It pains me to say this, but I would include the advice to keep kissing to a minimum with those sweet babies. 🙁

New parents are notorious for calling the doctor for every little thing, but in your opinion what are some times that we absolutely should call in?

I just love new parents. 🙂 For new parents, everything can be so concerning. They’re getting lots of different information online or from other family members.

Answering all the first-time parent questions is actually my favorite part of the job, and I try to let my patients know they can call for anything. If I can ease their mind, then that just makes my day. I had a lot of questions as a new mom and I was already a pediatrician!

I was lucky to have partners that were/are very supportive with all the mommy questions. Call for anything! This is why we’re here!

Everybody loves to buy the latest baby products and it seems like there’s always at least one trendy “must-have” item out there. Are there any popular items that are actually either dangerous or that you would strongly advise against? (And why…)

Teething necklaces: there’s no evidence they work and they are a choking risk.

Dockatot: it’s not safe for sleeping, although it claims it’s breathable material.

Rock n Play: it got recalled.

Walkers

Winter jackets in car seats: parents won’t be able to get the harness tight enough. If there is an accident, the baby can easily get thrown out.

Crib bumpers: they’re cute, but are not safe for sleeping.

I spent the first few months of my first child’s life terrified of SIDS. Is there anything we can do to help prevent it? What do we actually know about it?

I could write a whole article about this. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome IS terrifying! It is the sudden unexpected and unexplained death of a baby. We don’t always know why it happens.

What we do know is there are ways to keep your baby less vulnerable, such as have them sleep on their back, don’t let them overheat; baby should sleep alone on a firm mattress (with NOTHING in the bed) and avoid smoking around the baby. There are several others as well, but I’ll stop there. Always ask your pediatrician for advice on how to keep your baby healthy and safe.

Is there a recommended age that your baby should be before taking them out with you on a jog? I assume that if your stroller has a reclining back, you can take them before they gain head/neck control.

A safe age would be 6 months. Usually babies have good head control at this age. I wouldn’t recommend a jogging stroller until then.

What do you tell mothers who seem to be sacrificing their sleep and sanity (to the point that it’s affecting their whole life and not improving) just to continue breastfeeding their baby or babies?

This is a tough subject with lots of differing opinions. I’ll be completely honest, here’s what I tell my moms in similar situations:

Breastmilk is the best food for newborn babies, hands down. However, I feel very strongly about how mothers are feeling. I have seen moms push themselves to complete exhaustion because they think they will somehow ‘fail’ their baby if they stop breastfeeding. (Mommy guilt is real!) I try my best to have moms understand that a happy and healthy mommy will make a happy and healthy baby—no matter if they get breastmilk or formula.

Breastfeeding does not come easy to a lot of women and that is OK! We have wonderful lactation nurses to help with breastfeeding problems, but even still sometimes it doesn’t work out. Your baby will be fine and loved and healthy and happy and go to college or be able to get a job when they get older! 🙂 I’ll end this by saying, ‘Mommas, you got this. Reach out for help when you need it.’

What should we tell family, friends and other people who are worried our babies are too small or too big, those kinds of concerns? Should the average family have a baby scale and use it on a regular basis (if so, could you please explain why)?

Oooh, you are getting some good questions here!

I get this a lot. Parents are concerned because friends’ or family members’ babies are bigger or smaller or can do something before their baby. First off, always ask your pediatrician if you are concerned about something. But I always like to reiterate not to compare babies! They all grow and develop differently.

Usually if a baby follows his or her own growth curve, I am not concerned. Now, that may mean one baby is on the 80th percentile (like my 3 year old) and another baby might be on the 15th percentile (like my 8 month old). They are both very happy and healthy babies and from the exact same parents. Genetics can be a funny thing. 🙂

How often in the first year should we be bathing our baby?

Every few days should be enough.

All the baby books remind us that babies tend to meet milestones at such a variety of stages, but it’s hard as parents not to be overly watchful of these. Which ones are actually important and how big is that average range for meeting most of them?

Milestones mean a lot! However, I think the most important thing to remember about milestones is that babies don’t all follow the book. Sometimes that is concerning and sometimes it is not. Your pediatrician should be able to tell the difference, so talk to them if you have any questions.

Dr. Rachel MacLeod is a physician at the Mercy Clinic in Bentonville at the I Street location. To make an appointment, parents may call 479-636-9234, which is the main phone number for all Mercy pediatric offices. Once parents have a MyMercy patient portal set up, it’s easy to make appointments through that without even having to call.

April Wallace is a stepmom to one smart, funny teenager, mama to two beautiful and curious baby boys and wife to a very kind and generous man. She spent the past decade as a news reporter, sometimes lifestyle writer, and recently left her job at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to be with her babies while they’re still babies. When she gets a few minutes to herself, April loves to run local trails and read fiction. For more of April’s posts on pregnancy, babies and toddlers, click here.

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