When Carrie Quinn was training to be a pediatrician, she dutifully memorized the list of symptoms for meningitis. She learned the right antibiotics for pneumonia. But when she got into the clinic, she found herself unprepared for what really concerned parents.
“What I was actually faced with wasn’t seriously sick children,” Quinn, who’s now the executive director of the Mount Sinai Parenting Center, said on a panel at Aspen Ideas: Health, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic. More often, it was parents anxious over what to do about their kids’ behavior issues or language delays.
Ben Danielson, another panelist and the medical director of the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, in Seattle, jumped in: “You made the joke the other day that, so often, a [doctor] who finishes pediatric residency would way rather intubate a baby than talk about breastfeeding.” Talking about how to parent might be one of the hardest parts of being a pediatrician.
And yet, what parents do in the privacy of their own homes has an enormous impact on their babies’ health, especially when it comes to the developing brain. Research has tallied the benefits of talking directly and repeatedly to babies. The idea has gotten so popular that even playgrounds have put up panels encouraging caregivers to talk to kids.