The Baby that Barfed on My Beautiful Brown Chair: A Lesson in Flow

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One of the things I talk a lot about in pediatrics is going with the child’s flow. When you connect with a child where they are at (not where the parents are) it makes treatment easy and fun.  Sometimes this means you’re treating the child while they read a book or down on the floor while they’re building a block tower. It’s important to tune into what the child needs to make the treatment fun and easy.  Most of the time I’m pretty good at reading what the child by watching their body language, interest level in office toys or energy level (especially after school).  Once I have a sense for what the child needs to make the treatment flow I gently encourage it.

A Memorable Lesson in Flow

Recently I had a mom bring in her nine month old son for treatment.  She felt strongly that the treatment would go best if her son nursed, had a bottle or a cracker to munch on.  Usually babies this young are super easy to treat but in this case he seemed rather fussy and the treatments weren’t calm or quick. The problem was that sitting still in Mom’s lap was not the baby’s flow.  On some level I knew this, but it I couldn’t put my finger on what wasn’t working.  It didn’t fully hit me what the problem was until I was cleaning up baby barf off of my beautiful brown chair. On the day that the barfing incident occurred the baby had a mild cold and a phlegmy cough. Mom was trying to make him sit still in her lap while I treated him, but on this day he was absolutely NOT having it. Just as I stepped back to give them some space and take a new approach he began crying which quickly turned into coughing. Then as if in slow motion he let out a heightened cry and heaved up all 3 ounces of the milk he just drank.  It traveled down his Mom’s back pooling on the seat of my brown chair.  Three ounces may not seem like much but when it’s milky spit up it’s A LOT! After hastily cleaning up Mom, baby and chair we regrouped and sat on the floor.  Instead of holding him still we played with toys.  We took breaks instead of trying to do all the needles at once.  The treatment flowed and was easy for everyone.  We could all see that this was a better strategy. Later I realized I was allowing Mom to control the flow of the treatment and it wasn’t working for the baby.  Even at nine months old he was trying to let us know what he needed.  He wanted to crawl, walk and play in the office rather than be held in Mom’s lap during treatment. Since then we’ve done treatments following the baby’s flow and it’s so easy.  I can’t think of a more dramatic lesson in going with the flow than this little baby who barfed on my brown chair. Going with the child’s flow is a lesson we can all learn.  Hopefully, you can learn from my experience and not have to clean baby barf up in your office!

1 comment

Love this post, Robin, about treatment flow dynamics with kids. Great and memorable example. thank you.
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