Babies: Valencia pediatrician releases DVD to answer the most common questions about newborns
By Melissa Gasca – Signal Staff Writer
Palmdale residents Tim and Rachel Burhans had attended Lamaze classes for about five weeks, as they prepared to give birth to their first child. But preparation was cut short when Rachel Burhans went into labor seven and a half weeks early.
“We hadn’t even finished all of our Lamaze classes,” Tim Burhans said. “We hadn’t gotten to the point where they teach you proper technique for pushing.”
Luckily, Burhans and his wife had watched “Newborn Care 101,” a 70-minute DVD, just a few weeks before the birth. “The information was actually more useful than what we’d learned in five weeks of Lamaze,” he said. “If we would have gone into the birth without watching the DVD, we would have been as unprepared as possible.”
“Newborn Care 101” is the creation of Valencia pediatrician Dr. Michael Schoenwetter. The DVD is designed to answer the frequently asked questions that Schoen-wetter receives on a daily basis.
“Babies don’t come with an instruction booklet,” he said. “We’re trying to make it as close to an instruction booklet for the newborn period as possible.”
In doing some research on similar products before his DVD’s 2009 launch, Schoenwetter said most of the informational resources on newborns he came across were from a nurse’s perspective, not from a pediatrician’s view. Schoenwetter of Valencia Pediatric Associates sees close to 40 newborns a month. That rate of care, combined with a 10-year practice, adds up to a wealth of experience. And those dozens of newborns visiting his office are brought by their stressed parents.
“Every single family seems to ask me the same questions,” Schoenwetter said. “A lot of these families are a little bit on edge and a little bit nervous.”
With any “first” comes a slew of unknowns. But when the “first” is a child, it takes on an entirely different realm of fears. “Even as a pediatrician, my experience wasn’t so smooth sailing,” Schoenwetter said.
But the end of pregnancy and newborn period doesn’t have to carry the stress that it often does, Schoenwetter said, and it shouldn’t.
“You want to be able to look back at that time with fond memories,” Schoenwetter said. “Parents are so stressed out that they forget this is supposed to be a happy, fun time. By watching the DVD even once they’re a little more relaxed, and they can actually enjoy the experience.”
Newborn Care 101
In “Newborn Care 101,” Schoenwetter starts out by addressing issues of the late-pregnancy period and subsequent birth, such as what to bring to the hospital and what to expect in the hospital after the baby is born.
Schoenwetter takes his audience through questions frequently posed to pediatricians. He discusses common symptoms, what items to have at home, how to pick a pediatrician and conducts an examination of a real newborn on screen. Scaly rash on the scalp? Normal. Hiccups in the womb? Normal.
“We get a lot of (calls about) hiccups,” Schoenwetter said. “It’s a completely normal characteristic. In fact, most moms would even report that their baby was hiccupping in the womb.”
The majority of the calls Schoenwetter receives from panicked parents of newborns often end with some simple advice: “It’s normal.” That’s not to say that parents shouldn’t be concerned if they notice something is wrong, Schoenwetter said, but education can minimize those concerns. The DVD comes with an easy-to-read reference guide highlighting normal characteristics versus when to call a pediatrician. The packet was authored by Dr. Loraine Stern, a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles and private practitioner since 1971.
“I think we have to be concerned with health care dollars; we shouldn’t be running to the doctor for every little thing,” he said. “If we can educate young parents, especially first-timers, that’s going to go a long way.”
Enjoying their newborn
The Burhans’ daughter is now eight months old. The couple never had to take the baby to the doctor for any other reason beyond the regular check-ups, Tim Burhans said. When signs came up, they were expected not worrisome.
“One specific thing was her inconsistent breathing; she’d start breathing rapidly, calm and then rapidly again,” Burhans said. “That’s something (Dr. Schoenwetter) addressed as very common.”
“Newborn Care 101” helped transform a typically stressful process into an enjoyable parenting experience for the Burhans.
The DVD may not be the know-all, end-all on newborn care, but it conveyed enough information to the Burhans to keep them aware of their newborn daughter’s health and happiness.
“Obviously, there’s still stuff that comes up that you won’t know until you experience it, but it definitely minimized the anxiety,” Tim Burhans said. “The DVD answered a lot questions before we even asked them.”