As with many things in life, mom groups on social media have both an upside and a downside. On the positive side, these online communities are a great forum for moms to communicate with one another and get support on a wide range of everyday issues. Being a new or stay-at-home mom can be isolating so to virtually connect with a group of women who “get” you can be a real sanity-saver!
The downside, however, is that a lot of misinformation gets spread in these social media groups, especially when it comes to health matters. I say this not only as a pediatrician, but also as a mom and a member of several of these groups.
For example, I’ve seen a mom post a photo of her child’s rash and ask others what it is and what to do. Chances are, that mom is going to get a wide range of opinions and conflicting advice — none of which may be accurate.
I’m also aware of a situation where a mom was advised by another mom to give her infant goat’s milk instead of formula. This is extremely dangerous because it can lead to a life-threatening condition called megaloblastic anemia.
So, when is it appropriate to turn to other moms for guidance, and when should you rely on your doctor? Here’s my advice:
- If you’re looking for recommendations on over-the-counter products like lice shampoo, the best humidifier, or even the name of a pediatrician — other moms can be an excellent source of information to help you make a decision based on their real-life experiences.
- But if your child has symptoms like a fever, or vomiting and diarrhea, it’s always best to call your doctor — or your doctor’s office — for guidance. The nurses are available to field questions, and if they need more medical direction, they’ll ask the doctors on their team.
- Similarly, online groups are a valuable social outlet for moms where you can form playgroups, vent frustrations, talk about lack of sleep or share discipline problems you may be struggling with (Terrible Twos, anyone?).
- However, if your child shows signs of a serious behavioral issue like anxiety, ADHD or depression, always seek professional help as soon as possible.
- And even when your child isn’t ill and you have questions about vaccines, what medications to give your child or other health-related questions, it’s always best to seek your pediatrician’s advice
This underscores why it’s so important to have an established relationship with a pediatrician from the time your child is born. In fact, ideally, you’ll choose a pediatrician before your child is born so that this relationship is in place when your baby arrives.
And when you have a medical question, you know exactly who to call for an answer you can trust.
Join the conversation. What do you think? Are you a member of an online mom group? What kind of health advice have you received — or given — there? Share in the comments below.
This blog post is part of our Simply Women initiative that caters to the unique health care needs of women and their families.