Interacting with Infants in the Clinic Setting

A clinic environment can be a scary place for infants or toddlers. Following are a few tips that you can use to help the child feel more comfortable in the clinic setting.

  • Take off your white coat. Many children get upset when they see the white coat and associate the coat with a painful medical procedure. This is especially true for the premature child, who commonly has frequent trips to the medical office. Trade in the white coat for a more colorful uniform coat. While the clinician in our interactive case did wear a white coat, remember that this is not always the best way to establish rapport with infants and toddlers!
  • Take a few minutes to build rapport. Let the child see you talking to the caregiver. Often times, the child will socially reference the caregiver and this warm-up will help everyone to relax. Where possible, work at getting the caregiver to smile or laugh before starting; everyone will then feel better about the visit.
  • Let the parent or caregiver do the handling, except when medically necessary. If the child needs to be on the exam table, have the caregiver place the child and then invite the caregiver to stand close to the infant as you do the exam.
  • If you hear the infant make a sound, make the same sound back to the child.
  • Interact with the child using shared regard. Shared regard is when you watch for the child to look at, touch or even point to something, and then just join in the interaction by doing the same activity. For example, if the child looks at a dog on the wallpaper and touches it, you can join in by also touching the dog and talking in short phases like "Oh, it's a big dog." Just watch carefully for opportunities to share the joy.
  • Even if the child does not yet understand, talk in a soft voice to the child and caregiver throughout the examination. Tell the child and caregiver about what is happening and why you are doing it.
  • Ask questions about the child's typical performance in the home and around other new people.
  • Enjoy the delights of childhood as you interact with the family, and let it show that you enjoy the interaction and value their participation.