On Twitter, @mrsroth mentioned how a nurse handed her 18-month-old a cup and spoon. The little girl started to “stir” with the spoon, but failed that developmental task because she was supposed to pretend to eat from the bowl.
Everyone loves to complain about Tipat Chalav, the network of well-baby clinics run by Israel’s health ministry. Sometimes the staff gives silly suggestions, or even dangerous ones. And nothing is more upsetting to an anxious new mother than having her baby “fail” one of Tipat Chalav’s many tests.
Overall, Tipat Chalav does its job very well. It’s important for new parents to understand Tipat Chalav’s strengths and limitations.
Tipat Chalav has several key roles:
- Weigh, measure and examine the baby. This is to ensure that baby is getting enough to eat and has no underlying health issues. Even educated and experienced parents don’t pick up every problem. And if your baby has never been weighed, you won’t have a baseline to tell the doctor if something comes up later.
- Give immunizations.
- Share updated health and safety guidelines. These include vitamins, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding information, when to start solids, safety recommendations, and more. The Israel Health Ministry writes up the guidelines, many of which come via the World Health Organization. Many Tipat Chalav nurses have even taken courses in breastfeeding, but the quality of their advice varies.
- Test the baby’s development. This includes physical and cognitive ability, communication, hearing, and eyesight.
- Schedule regular appointments with the resident pediatrician.
In addition, Tipat Chalav provides services for women during pregnancy and in the post-partum period, including birth control.
Tipat Chalav’s goal is to prevent babies and their families from falling though the cracks. That’s why there’s one in nearly every neighborhood. In addition to spotting medical concerns, they involve social services when they suspect abuse or neglect. This is a good thing, even though it means some parents will be falsely accused.
One problem with Tipat Chalav is that the nurses administer standard tests, and they expect standard answers. If your baby starts to drop in the weight percentiles, some nurses are alarmed even when everything else is fine.
New mothers can be sensitive to the slightest criticism. If the nurse finds something “wrong” with the baby, you don’t have to act on it. But because they see so many children of the same age, they may pick up on things a mother might not notice.
If you’re not sure whether the concern is justified, you can say that you will check it out with your doctor. If you report that your doctor said the the baby is fine, there isn’t much more the nurse can say. You can also try to see a different nurse in the future.
The most important thing a Tipat Chalav nurse can do is to make parents feel good about their children. This is doubly true with mothers of new babies. I’ll never forget the time I took my son for a blood test, when he was about 11 months old. He was flirting and “joking” with the nurse. She was so enchanted she called over another nurse to see. There’s a huge difference when you walk into the clinic and are greeted by someone happy to see you and your baby, not looking down a checklist expecting to find something wrong.
Are you satisfied with your Tipat Chalav? Do they accomplish what they are supposed to, or do they just make parents overly anxious? What tips can you give to new parents?