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“My Child Is Too Thin, Please Give Some Medicine To Put On Weight”: Is the Most Common Request Made By Mums, Says Dr Ninad Hebbalkar

“My Child Is Too Thin, Please Give Some Medicine To Put On Weight”: Is the Most Common Request Made By Mums, Says Dr Ninad Hebbalkar

7 Jul 2022 | 9 min Read

Manisha Pradhan

Author | 74 Articles

Paediatric and Newborn Specialist, Dr Ninad Hebbalkar believes there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the world through the eyes of a child. He says that his biggest reward as a paediatrician is the laughter and joy when a child recovers from an illness.

In an interesting conversation with Dr Ninand Hebbar, we discuss his daily life as a paediatrician, the most asked questions by new mothers, vaccinations for children and more. 

About Being A Paediatrician

Why did you choose to be a  Paediatrician?

‘Choose the work you like and you never have to work another day in life,’ is what I believe in. Being a paediatrician is pretty exciting. Paediatric is a very challenging subject and it is also the most evolving branch of medicine. For example, the beliefs and concepts which were prevalent ten years ago no longer hold ground. 

The concepts in paediatrics are changing constantly and one has to always be on his toes to be updated with the recent advances. Hence it is a very active and dynamic subject where there is never a dull moment.

How long have you been practising?

Isn’t it what they say, that time flies well? All of a sudden. I have realised that I have been practising for the last 25 years.

What does your typical day look like?

In my day-to-day practice, I have to attend my outpatient department twice a day. It usually spreads over three hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening. I also attend emergencies that are not as often, but once in a while.

I take rounds of the admitted patients, apart from this I also visit maternity homes to attend the normal deliveries and caesarean sections. So some days it’s pretty hectic, and other days are laid back. I always feel that there is never ever a perfect day on a given day. Either there are too many patients, or too less I guess that’s the dilemma most doctors working in private has to face

Dr Ninand Hebbalkarf says that If you are taking your child for a vaccination you need to tell your child the truth

FAQs By New Mums

What are the most asked questions by new mums?

The most asked question in most of the paediatrician’s clinics is either ‘My child does not eat,’ or ‘My child is too thin please give him medicine to put on the weight.’ Well, there are many reasons why mothers feel that their children do not eat. it’s more often than not we end up comparing a child’s appetite with our own, hence the huge disparity. 

Otherwise also in our society, unfortunately, a child’s well-being is judged by his size rather than the activity. Then the parents end up comparing their child with their neighbour’s child but one needs to understand that the weight of the children depends on how the parents were during their childhood. 

Also in certain joint families, the mother is pushed to overfeed the child no matter how healthy he or she is. Finally, all I would like to say is that a very healthy-looking child in terms of weight might not be healthy at all judging the child on activity would be a much better gross way to assess the child. Last but not least breastfeeding the child is important and it matters.

Can you suggest to new mums how they should prepare or calm their child before a doctor visit or vaccine?

No matter how old the child is they do understand most of the things going around, so my suggestion is while taking your child to the doctor you should always be honest enough to explain to her/him where you are going and the reason for the visit to the doctor. That will mentally prepare the child for the visit to the clinic or hospital and will help to calm her/him down. 

If you are taking your child for a vaccination you need to tell your child the truth while explaining why the injection is necessary, to make him stronger to fight infections. In my personal experience, parents often tend to scare their children by saying things like ‘You better eat or the doctor will give you an injection,’ or  ‘You better sleep or the doctor will give you an injection,’ and so forth. This is something they should avoid doing.

Dr Ninad Hebbalkar says his biggest reward as a paediatrician is the laughter and joy when a child recovers from an illness.

About Vaccinations, Antibiotics And Alternate Medicines For Kids

What are your thoughts about vaccinations, antibiotics, alternative medicines, bottle feeding, and sleep patterns for kids?

The lockdown was tough on every one of us not only on the health front but in every aspect. One very important thing that the lockdown has taught us is that vaccination is very important to survive, not only for children but adults as well. 

Whenever parents ask me about the vaccination I have one standard answer there are about 20 vaccine-preventable diseases please vaccinate against all of them. The common concern most parents have about vaccinations is that there are so many vaccines, is it going to be heavy on the child? 

In fact, our immune system is capable of handling lakhs and millions of antigens every day, so I do not think adding 20 more antigens is a matter of concern. As far as antibiotics are concerned they can be a boon in a responsible person’s hand and a curse in an irresponsible person’s hand.  

In other words, antibiotics should be prescribed only when needed in a proper dose with a proper diagnosis. Lots of parents start antibiotics on their own which is absolutely wrong. Also in my day-to-day practice, I find some parents forcing me to write antibiotics because they feel that the child will get better only with the antibiotics which is totally a myth.

In fact, improper prescription of antibiotics with inadequate dosage and duration can cause resistance in the bugs in the community and can lead to resistant infections. So my advice will be to get a proper prescription for the antibiotics from the doctor and please do not start antibiotics on your own.

As far as alternative medicine is concerned, my experience is not commendable but I have seen coupla e of my patients getting admitted for taking alternative medicines. My sincere advice to the parents would be to be extremely cautious before venturing into alternative medicines, for the simple fact that allopathic medicines are backed up with lots of documented research.

I have a strict protocol of no bottle-feeding to the child, simply because there are many disadvantages like recurrent infections, tooth decay and iron deficiency. Where breastfeeding is not possible it is always advisable to feed with a katori and a spoon which is very economical as well.

Children happen to thrive and grow up on a certain rhythm and routine. It is very important to have good discipline as far as a daily routine is concerned they should get up at the proper time have their food at a proper time play at a proper time study at all proper times and sleep at a proper time. 

One needs to maintain good sleep hygiene, by which I mean no noise, comfortable temperature, and no lights. Keep your child away from passive screen time 

Dr Ninad Hebbalkar
Routine check-ups for a child depend on the age of the child, says Dr Ninad Hebbalkar

About Routine Check-Ups And Immunity Building Tips For Kids

How often should kids get a routine checkup?

The routine check-up for your child will depend on the age of your child. A newborn child needs to be taken more care of than an older child, hence an infant will need more visits to the doctor than a toddler or a preschool child.

Any tips for building a child’s immunity?

To develop good immunity one should:

  • Develop good habits like exclusive breastfeeding, ensuring complete vaccination, serving well-balanced food, with special stress on seasonal fruits
  • Avoid junk foods or aerated drinks or juices.
  • Imbibing good hygiene habits like bathing every day, and washing their feet and hands especially before eating. 
  • Encouraging them to take part in physical activities, especially outdoor games. 

Today we live in a world where everything is being sanitised and sterilised do you think that makes a child’s immune system weak? 

The theory that being sanitised and sterilised weakens the immune system holds no scientific evidence that it is dangerous to your immune system. This belief called the hygiene hypothesis where the kids get exposed to more viruses, bacteria and other pathogens early in life to build stronger immune systems is highly debatable. Theoretically, it makes sense but practically there is no evidence. There are many other factors which are not related to hygiene. 

What is the most satisfying thing about your job?

I am very happy being a paediatrician for many reasons. One, for my working place, has a very playful atmosphere with lots of toys. It’s not just tables and chairs like adult clinics. Being with children is always playful and destressing. With every new patient, you get an opportunity to learn many new things that we adults may never imagine. These are amazing as well as very amusing. 

The world through the eyes of a child is always beautiful, with no malice and vengeance, and I get the privilege to dwell in it every day. Apart from all this what I like most is to see the laughter and joy when a child recovers from an illness,  which is the biggest reward for my profession. 

Image Source: Dr Ninad Hebbalkar

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