Do You Have To See A Health Visitor? No You Don’t
“No, no, no – if you haven’t got enough milk then you need to drop one breastfeed entirely and feed with a bottle. How do you expect to make milk if you are constantly feeding? And make sure you use a carton of ready made milk for that feed as it’s closer to breast milk than powdered” – The Health Visitor when my daughter was ten days old and I was struggling with breastfeeding.
It was at that point that I reiterated that I was opting out of the health visiting service all together and I expected my child’s name to be taken off their database.
Then I phoned my (thankfully) lovely midwife and dissolved into snotty, heaving tears. Having been struggling with breast feeding a baby who wasn’t gaining weight, the last thing I needed was terrible advice which would make my milk supply worse, not better. Thankfully, it was my second baby, so I knew she was talking rubbish. The midwife was absolutely appalled and phoned the Health Visitor and blasted her for giving ridiculous advice to a new mother and for turning up unannounced when I had stated during pregnancy that I would not be using their services.
I have never been a fan of Health Visitors since I encountered a particularly dangerous one when my son was born.
I had heard of her before during my brief stint of working in Child Protection. Social Workers would groan every time she was put through to them as she had form for reporting parents for all kinds of perceived mis-demenours. She even used to boast about how many parents she had reported to Social Services for the slightest thing under the guise of never letting anyone slip though her net. In reality, she liked having power over people and she was extremily disliked for the Social Worlers who would have to have a meeting about each referral, no matter how outlandish it was, before they could contact the distressed family and tell them that no action would be taken.
When my son was born, I was terrified when I found out she was to be my Health Visitor.
I didn’t know then that the service was optional and that you are under no obligation at all to have contact with the service.
For the first four weeks of his life, my son was in special care, having been born premature with a lung probem, and on the day he came home, the Health Visitor came to my house unannounced and pushed past me into my living room.
She then berated me because I wasn’t depressed. How could I not be depressed, she kept asking, seeing as my baby had almost died? I was much younger then and I was slightly intimidated and shocked by her. For the next two months, she kept contacting me, my GP and even my baby’s father demanding to know if I was actually depressed and hiding it. She would turn up to my house unannounced and demand to see my baby.
The madness only stopped when we had our review with the pediatrician at the hospital and I asked if this behavior was normal was normal for a Health Visitor, because at that point, it had started to get me down and I was becoming quite scared.
He was completely shocked, asked for her name and phoned my GP there and then, telling them to take my name off the Health Visiting service for the practice. He said it wasn’t the first time he had to do that with various Health Visitors, and told me my rights regarding my child’s healthcare options.
I didn’t have to see a Health Visitor or attend their clinics at all. It’s only a service offered to parents, it’s not mandatory like it sometimes appears to be.
Too many parent’s have been told that refusing to see a Health Visitor is a concern which they could be reported for – something which is very wrong indeed. You have the right to chose which healthcare you want for your family and you are under no obligation at all to use the services of a Health Visitor if you don’t want to.
She never contacted me again after that, but I continued to hear more stories about her and other Health Visitors that horrified me.
When I had my daughter years later, I made it clear from the start that I would not be engaging with the Health Visiting service. My midwife was arranging collection of the Red Book (the child health record for immunisations etc.) , when the Health Visitor knocked on my door when my daughter was ten days old.
Thankfully, apart from the awful advice, this one listened when I said thank you, but I will not be using your services. She gave her crap advice, told me off for having two cats (“don’t ever let them near the baby, cats are dangerous”), and left.
I find it disgusting that new parents aren’t told that they can opt out of the Health Visiting service if they wish to. I have heard countless stories of Health Visitors giving potentially dangerous advice over the years.
I continue to see a GP for my daughter, or a practice nurse if needs be, but thankfully, I haven’t crossed paths with a Health Visitor since I asked the last one to leave.