After daughter Cora (3) was born, doctor Castelli says his pediatric practice changed more than he could have imagined. To get a closer look at the man behind the stethoscope, Castelli talks us through some of his most challenging experiences to date.
Castelli has been working with Cora on constipation, lately. “The initial measure is dietary,” he says. “You focus on preventing constipation and increasing fiber, making sure she is hydrated, and so on.” Juice is one of his go-tos, and he prefers the ones that start with P: prune, peach, pear, and papaya. To him, the benefits outweigh the issue of sugar content. And if that does not work, they turn to Miralax.
“You also have to be attuned to the fact that there are stressors at every stage of development. College application stress is not the same as middle school stress, or a three year old who has a new baby sibling. It is tricky to recognize stress because it is so variable through the ages.” This attention to the mind/body connection is one of many things we love about Castelli.
“When stress or anxiety is a component, the patient feels like they are being told it is all in your kid’s head. Here is how I counter that: you feel it in your stomach if you get pulled over by a cop. This feeling is not caused by your stomach, it is caused by the situation. In kids that experience is even more pronounced.”
When his wife was pregnant, Castelli asked her what she wanted in a pediatrician. She said she needed to feel heard and taken seriously, that they would find someone who would never blow them off. Her words stuck with Castelli, who emphasises making patients feel heard
“Before I had a child I used to think I understood. There are many thing I did not know before. A family with a fifteen month old was struggling with getting him to go to sleep. I asked about the sleep environment, how dark and quiet it was. I was able to share Cora’s story. She used to sleep through everything! And you have to change as your child develops. They have more fear of missing out, so you need to make it quiet now, more than when they were a baby.” This is one way Castelli makes empathy more important than sympathy.
“What I know about parenting advice is it is easier said than done. ‘Just let them skip dinner if the food stays on the plate, they will eat again tomorrow’. That kind of thing is hard to do as a dad, I get that now!”
To keep his sanity as a doctor and family man, Castelli makes time for his relationship whenever possible. “Doing things that will keep the family unit solid and enjoying each other is good for the kid.” As for what he recommends to new parents? Self-care is a big component. “When you have a child there is often satisfaction in self sacrifice. I tell parents, especially brand new moms, taking care of yourself is taking care of your child. It is best for a child to have a parent who is sane and present rather than someone who is physically going through the motions but feels frustrated and depleted!”
Dr. Jon-Michael Castelli is a board-certified pediatrician with over 10 years of experience practicing pediatric medicine in the Bay Area.