As a pediatrician, Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann has answered every baby and toddler-related health question imaginable. Over and over again. So Dr. Tanya, who is on the editorial board of the American Academy of Pediatrics, decided to write Mommy Calls, (AAP, $12.95) a must-read compendium of 101 of the most often-asked questions about babies and toddlers. Celebrity Parents recently spoke to Dr. Tanya about Mommy Calls, her child health expert spots on The Today Show, and when parents should really call their pediatrician.
How did Mommy Calls come to be?
The idea came to me in the middle of the night during my residency. I and Dr. Michelle Shuffett were residents at Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). As part of our training, we gave telephone advice to parents. One night, we answered call after call, and realized many of these questions were the same. It was another diarrhea question, another fever question! We called them the “mommy calls”. I thought, “They should make a manual for parents to look at first, and then if the answer isn’t there, they can go ahead and give their pediatrician a call.” That’s how Mommy Calls was born.
Do you find that more parents are going online and doing their research before they’ll call you?
Yes, more parents are using the Internet to get information. There’s a lot of great information on the internet, and there’s some not so great info! Parents need to be careful about what sites they look at. A lot of the calls I get begin with, “I was reading on the internet…”
And then they say, “I think my child has African Sleeping Sickness!”
Honestly, how many calls do you get that are unnecessary?
[Laughs] There are a lot of informative parenting books out there. Some patients look things up, and some don’t. That’s fine, because as pediatricians, that’s what we’re here for. Sometimes, though, the child’s condition is not that serious, and while it may have been something the parent could have looked up in my book, they will call anyway, often in the middle of the night.
Especially for new parents, any health issue from fever to diarrhea can be scary. And yes, there are parents who call every day. In some cases, a pediatrician might tell you it’s treatable at home, or they might want you to come in. The idea is that if you are ever in doubt, make the call. You know your child best. If you think something is wrong, and you need to speak to your pediatrician, you should absolutely call.
What I enjoyed about the book is that it is full of information but it is written in a very personable, non-clinical way.
I wrote the book exactly how I speak to my patients. I also filled it with tips and fun facts that I learned from my years talking to parents and from my own mommy experiences.
What has the response been to the book?
It’s been great! Parents from all over as well as many parenting magazines have thanked me for writing Mommy Calls. They like that Mommy Calls is written directly to them and answers the most common questions they have now and ones the will have tomorrow night.
I like that if you’re a frazzled, sleep-deprived new parent, you can find your question easily.
I thought that people would just read the question and answer that pertained to them. Many moms have told me that they’ve read the book cover to cover! I didn’t write it thinking that people would read it straight through. I think it’s wonderful that my book has helped parents all over the country every day and every night.
More and more parents are getting to know you from your guest appearances on The Today Show.
I’ve been on The Today Show many times. It’s a lot of fun. The first time I went on the show, my second son was only 3 weeks-old. My husband said, “If you can take your pump with you, I’ll watch the kids.” So I took my pump, thinking that I was only going to be in NYC for 24 hours. Right before I got on the plane, the producers called me and said, “We’re changing the topic on you. There’s a new study about food additives causing hyperactivity in children. Can you talk about that?” I hadn’t read the study yet, but I said, “Of course!”
I got on the plane, and there was no Internet, no way for me to research. I landed at midnight, researched the study the whole night, and went on the show the next morning! I did well on the show, and I came home with 30 ounces of breast milk!
That’s a true multi-tasking mom! Now, between your practice, your family, your media appearances and the book, how do you balance it all?
It’s not easy, and some days are more challenging than others. My husband is great and he helps a lot. Our family is in the area, and that’s a huge help. Our sons Avrick, 4, and Collen, 2, love playing with Grammy and going to her house. We do carve out family time and some days my schedule is busier than others. I’ve learned how to say no to a lot of things. Whether it’s my patients or my family, I want them to have the best of me.