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I have only been involved with SE for less than a year, and so was not involved in any of the earlier discussions about questions that are closed because they are asking about health issues. I have read through a number of the earlier discussions, but I didn't see anything that specifically addressed my question/comment, so I thought it was worth posting here.

I wonder if the site is losing a major opportunity to fulfill its stated mission:

to build a library of detailed answers to every question about parenting. with many of the questions that are closed.

Let me explain my thinking here: I think that Parenting SE has an unusual audience that is more likely to be anxious when they post a question. I think most first time parents suffer from a bit of imposter syndrome; the idea of being responsible for a new human life can be pretty overwhelming when you are first faced with that reality. I have a distinct memory of getting ready to leave the hospital with my first son and thinking "They can't send him home with me--I haven't had enough practice changing diapers."

When her daughter was about 6 weeks old, my good friend actually flew me 3,000 miles, from California to Florida, because she was feeling so much anxiety, she was having trouble sleeping. She had gotten it into her head that she wasn't providing sufficient "quality stimulation/interaction," and, since she considered me a "successful" parent (her description-because I had two teenage sons were "smart, kind and good"), she wanted me to show her how I would provide her daughter with sufficient quality stimulation/interaction. Her pediatrician had already reassured her that she was doing fine, as had her mother and a number of other friends, but she couldn't relax until she saw how I interacted with her newborn daughter.

So, back to my question/comment, it seems to me that there is an opportunity to offer reassurance for anxious parents like my friend. The most recent example is this one: Milk supply fluctuating. The OP states that her son is gaining well and mentions his weight percentile--which suggests that she has taken him to the doctor and there are no issues.

If I could post an answer, it would be something like:

The best thing to do when you are worried about something like this is to call your pediatrician, who knows your baby's specific situation. But many references [I would include some links here] explain that a breastfed baby will often suddenly begin feeding more frequently if they are starting a growth spurt. The increased frequency of feeding actually stimulates the mother's body to increase milk production, so that she can provide more milk to support the baby's increased nutritional needs. This may be what is happening with your son, and if so, he will probably go back to longer periods between feedings in a couple of days once your body adjusts.

I know that this particular question has not been closed, just put on hold at this point, but I think the OP's negative reaction to the hold is a good example of why I think it is worth discussing this further.

At the same time, I also completely understand genuine concerns about providing medical advice through this site, and I support that 100%. I just wonder if there might not be a specific set of circumstances unique to new parents that could warrant taking a different approach, maybe something as simple as allowing additional time for potential answers before a question is placed on hold or closed. It seems to me that there is something like a precedent already in place on Parenting SE, because it seems as if answers based on anecdotal experience are much more welcome here than they are on other SE sites that I frequent.

Lastly, I am not asking as a way to challenge prior decisions or the actions of the moderators. I am genuinely hoping to spark a discussion about whether/how closing "medical" questions might be actually limiting the value of the site for its intended audience.

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    Since this is a meta site, and I am specifically hoping for some discussion, I would really appreciate some feedback about downvotes. Is my suggestion invalid--and if so, why? I am not suggesting the site includes answers to medical questions...I am asking whether there might be a better way to assist people who have already checked with a doctor but still have questions...without putting all of the burden on the OP to know exactly how to rephrase the question to make it clear that they aren't asking for medical advice. – magerber Sep 22 '17 at 21:51
  • If the downvote was based solely on the fact that this site does not answer medical questions, that suggests to me that the downvoter did not actually read, or at least didn't understand my question--and I would appreciate the opportunity to clarify. – magerber Sep 22 '17 at 22:47
  • As you probably know, voting on meta is very different from voting on the main site. A downvote on meta means, "I don't agree", meaning, I don't think we should give medical advice. It does not mean the question is bad or that someone disapproves of it. (I am not the DVer, btw.) – anongoodnurse Sep 23 '17 at 0:43
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    Actually, I wasn't aware of that difference about voting on meta. Thanks for the clarification, because In the past I have become really irritable when people downvoted without commenting on meta. I always figured people on meta should know that comments can really help an OP. But it makes a lot more sense to me now! – magerber Sep 23 '17 at 1:01
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@magerber, I am sympathetic to your position. And I, too, freaked out about two weeks into parenting my first baby because he cried so much. I just broke down, thinking I was doing something wrong and that was why he was crying. Now here's the interesting part: I was a Family Practitioner who delivered babies, had a healthy number of infants and toddlers in my practice, and was giving competent advice. It was just (and continued for a number of years) that I simply could not be objective when it came to my own child. So, you have my sincere sympathy. I understand.

Now to answer the question.

Personally, and as a user (not as a moderator), I think we are missing a lot of opportunities by not answering the easy medical questions. We used to. When I joined the site, I answered a lot of the "there's an obvious answer" type medical questions. I feel pretty comfortable with my advice (from decades of experience.) And I always provided sources to support my answers. And, even though I was answering medical questions, when the request came up for new mods, I volunteered and was accepted.

However, not everyone in the community is comfortable with this. Now that there is a site (Health.SE) devoted to answering medical questions (they just need to be depersonalized, which is really very easy to do), we don't need to answer these anymore. As a moderator, if a user or two or three vote to close for that reason, I'll do what the community wants. That's my job. I did fall down on the job this time, as I didn't leave an encouraging comment (I thought the comment that was there was sufficient) and I didn't migrate to Health (they would have closed it.)

It really isn't an answerable question to me, as a physician:

Yesterday like some days I woke up bursting with milk and he feeds easily. Today and like some days I've woke up feeling empty and it takes him alot longer to get his fill. Its different every day. I drink 3litres of fluids daily and eat oats for breakfast. And make sure I eat plenty calories. I'm just so confused as to why each day is so different? (emphasis mine)

The answer you give above doesn't really answer the question either. In addition to nursing all my children, I've answered a ton of nursing mothers' questions. This one isn't quite based in reality. If she's doing what she says she's doing, her milk supply should be pretty stable; yes, it changes with the needs of the infant, but not on a day to day basis.

It's better closed.

I'm sorry if this disappoints you. I want what's best for this site, and I want to respect the community's decisions. If the community is for answering such questions (though I don't think this one is a good candidate for answering), I hope they express that by answering and voting.

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There are some very good reasons to not provide medical advice. The main one is that it is exceedingly dangerous and irresponsible to provide medical guidance over the internet!

There is no replacement for going to visit the doctor. For any of those questions we will close and say, "go to your GP/paediatrician/doctor" because we should not encourage people to take advice from strangers, most of whom have no medical qualifications, who cannot even examine the child.

There are some online sites specifically aiming to do this sort of thing, and there are often stories about how well/badly that goes - let's leave it up to them.

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  • I understand that completely--I am not suggesting posting answers to medical questions. But, what if the first mod--who now places the question on hold or flags it for closure--instead posts a comment asking, "Have you spoken to the doctor about this?" If the answer is no, then the response can be "we can't answer medical questions," and the question can be closed. But, if the OP answers affirmatively, then the question can remain open and allow others to post answers that don't rely on medical knowledge--like the example I gave in my question. – magerber Sep 22 '17 at 21:40

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