Fighting the Information Overload in Pediatric Health Care

For new parents, finding accurate, trustworthy information online can be overwhelming. This Cincinnati pediatrician is here to help.
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Illustration by Kiki Ljung

Pediatrician Nicole Baldwin, M.D., fills her days with stuffy noses, routine exams, questions from parents, and the occasional broken arm. But these days, the doctor has another task on her plate: Combatting medical misinformation in-person and on social media, where her nearly 45,000 TikTok followers are watching, listening, and asking questions. Her mission? To bust medical myths, educate parents, and serve as a rock amid a sea of misinformation.

Q: It used to be the case that as a new parent, you’re getting advice from your parents, your in-laws, maybe your friends who have kids. But these days, it seems like you’re getting so much information from all these different sources. It’s information overload. Have you found that to be the case? 

A: Oh, 100 percent. And back before social media was so huge, sources were vetted. Maybe it was a book that somebody was reading. Maybe it was a magazine. Now, anybody can say that they’re a quote, unquote “parenting expert.” And I think that the way that the algorithms feed information to parents—I mean, it’s kind of scary. So these new parents are constantly shown information about parenting. And people are pushing products in their faces. I can’t even imagine. My kids are older, and I’m so thankful for that. I can’t imagine how challenging it is for parents these days to wade through all the information that’s thrown in their faces.

Q: It’s overwhelming out there! What are some of your tips then, particularly for first time parents, when it comes to discerning what to trust?

A: First and foremost, it’s important that they know the source. Who’s saying this? Is it backed by medical professionals? Is it backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics? I think that’s really important. Because anybody can say they’re an expert, right? So first and foremost, know your source. Parents have to be really careful about if someone is saying that something’s a miracle cure, or if something sounds too good to be true. If a necklace really took away teething pain, I would be recommending those in my office every day. I think it’s important for parents to feel comfortable asking their pediatrician if they see something that they’re just not sure about, or if something seems a little out of left field.

Photograph courtesy Nicole Baldwin

Parents should be cautious of all-or-nothing language. There’s very little in our lives that’s absolute. And as a parent and a pediatrician, I can tell you there’s pretty much nothing absolute in pediatrics and raising kids. So if somebody tells you that something will always do something, or it will never do something, I would be very cautious of that.

I think it’s also important to think about whether someone’s trying to sell you something. Is someone trying to sell you a supplement or a necklace? Because in print and in news and marketing, there’s a set of rules for what people can and cannot claim. There is not that on social media. People can claim anything they want, and unless it’s super outrageous, it’s not going to get taken down. So you have to be very careful about people trying to sell you things.

Q: Can you share some trusted online resources for parents? 

A: I really like for parents to go to healthychildren.org, which is the American Academy of Pediatrics parenting website. The information on there is vetted and there’s tons of stuff parents can search for about a lot of different questions. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has amazing information on their website and on their social media. Most pediatricians have social media, so if you can find your pediatric practice, your local children’s hospital, or the American Academy of Pediatrics, you’re going to get quality information from those sources.

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