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Choosing a family pediatrician is an exciting (and sometimes daunting) milestone as a new parent. It can be difficult enough to find a doctor for yourself, but deciding on a pediatric physician for your new baby is monumental. It’s one of those “a-ha” moments during pregnancy when you realize that you will soon be a mother, entirely responsible for the health and wellness of a new human being.
So in the midst of an existential epiphany, how exactly do you go about choosing a pediatrician for your new baby? There are many factors that you should consider including family logistics, years of pediatric expertise, and if you need your doctor to be well-versed in various specialties of children’s health care. This process can be overwhelming at first, so here are some ideas and suggestions to help guide you towards finding a pediatrician who will be a great fit with your family.
Family, friends, co-workers, maybe your obstetrician – ask your most trusted, experienced sources about the pediatricians they take their kids to. Some great questions to ask right off the bat:
These questions may help you generate a list of children's pediatric practices to investigate further and (perhaps more importantly) which ones to skip. Online forums and websites can be great sources of information as well, but don’t believe everything you read. Pediatrician recommendations from people that you know and trust are likely to be much more reliable.
One of the best questions to ask yourself before even considering a pediatrician is whether or not the pediatric office is logistically convenient for your new family. Assuming all goes well and according to plan with your new journey into motherhood, you can expect to take your healthy baby for a pediatrician visit about eight times in the first year! Ask yourself: Is it crucial that you see a children’s doctor with an pediatric office in your neighborhood, or are you willing to drive across town for the right pediatrician? There’s no right or wrong answer here – it’s just vital to know what your tolerance is for an extended commute to see your pediatrician. It might make sense to choose a pediatric practice with multiple office locations in the region so you won’t have to change doctors if you change counties.
What if you have a pressing question for the doctor outside of a regularly scheduled visit or your baby needs to be seen after hours? Learn the logistics of this process before choosing your pediatrician. If you call the doctor’s office for advice, who calls you back (and how quickly will they call) during business hours and beyond? Some pediatric offices have a specific nurse available by phone but require an appointment in order to speak with your pediatrician directly. Other children’s healthcare practices will have your doctor respond to non-urgent medical questions during the day but have an after-hours advice line staffed by trained nurses who relay messages to an on-call doctor as needed. Some pediatricians take their own calls after hours, and if this is important to you, make sure you learn the answer before making a decision.
Much of your choice in selecting a pediatrician for your child will come down to finding the right fit that matches your parenting style. This may also be the hardest piece of the puzzle to figure out. Answers to your logistical questions can often be found on the web and from other parents with personal experience with pediatricians. However, knowing whether or not your baby’s soon-to-be doctor will work well for you usually requires a conversation with the pediatrician. Some parents prefer an open dialogue with their doctor about various health care treatment options – others prefer to have a pediatrician who calls the shots.
It may be a good idea to come up with several questions that are important to your personally and asking them either by phone or in person. Examples could include asking a pediatrician’s advice on sleep training an infant, how they support breastfeeding, or what their take is on circumcision. The content of the answer can actually be less important than how they answer your questions. When they respond to your inquiries, ask yourself - Is this a pediatrician you can trust to guide you through the newborn years and beyond?
You’ve asked other parents you trust, considered logistics, and tried to find the perfect fit in your new pediatrician. Here are some final questions to consider before making this critical decision:
Think about your specific needs when choosing a pediatrician and make sure that the pediatric office is set up to provide your child’s health care in a way that works well for you. No parent should feel left alone to worry about their baby without support from a highly qualified, caring pediatrician.
Good luck – and welcome to parenthood!
This is an updated version of the article “Choosing a Pediatrician” by Diana Montgomery, M.D. in the March/April issue of Lane Fertility Magazine.
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