Choosing a Pediatrician

Selecting your baby’s doctor is one of many decisions you will make as a new parent, but it often isn’t the easiest choice. How to do you know which doctor to go with? How do you know if one doctor is better qualified to care for your baby then another, and where do you go seeking to find one? It is recommended that new parents select their pediatrician about 6 weeks before their due date. This way the hospital is prepared, you are prepared, and the physician is prepared for your newest arrival. Most pediatric offices do “Get to Know” appointments that are free to you and your family. This is a time where you can sit down with the pediatrician, figure out what their personal methods of practice are, and find out if you feel they would be a good fit for your new family.  Some pediatric offices are beginning to schedule open houses for their practice since really as a new parent, you will want to get to know every doctor. Pediatricians work as a team. You will select a primary doctor, however when your baby gets sick, your specific doctor may not be available and therefore the child may not be seen by the primary care doctor you choose. If the office is busy your child may be seen by another doctor. This is why it is very important you feel comfortable with every doctor there.

Your baby must be examined by a pediatrician before your baby is released from the hospital to ensure the baby is healthy and growing safely. Your baby will then most likely have a well baby check up at 5 days of life, then again at 2 weeks of life. At this time your pediatrician will set your baby’s growth chart, discuss well baby habits, and give you a schedule of when the baby should come in for well check ups. In the first year of life, your baby will be seen by your pediatrician at:

  • 5 days
  • 2 weeks
  • 6 weeks
  • 2 months
  • 4 moths
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • 12 months
  • Annually till they are 18yrs old

This is just when they are healthy! When they are sick, that is a totally different scenario. So how does a new parent go about choosing a pediatrician? Referrals can certainly be made by your obstetrician or by your insurance company. However I recommend asking other new parents. Other medical professionals deal with these doctors in a professional setting, other parents are the ones dealing with the doctors on a one on one daily basis. Once you get a list of names, meet and interview the pediatrician in advance to make sure you are comfortable in entrusting this doctor with your baby’s medical care. Remember you can always change doctors if you feel the one you previously chose is not a good fit. Ask as many people and as many questions as you can. Here is a list of some areas to consider when making your selection:

  1. Do they have a well entrance vs. a sick entrance? You certainly do not want to be bringing in a brand new baby into a waiting room where there is another kid with a runny nose, one with a rash, and one who is vomiting. Also make sure they have well exam rooms vs sick exam rooms. You can have the most sterile waiting area in the world, but it wont do you or your baby any good if they are taking you back into a room that was previously being used by a sick kid.
  2. What are the doctor’s medical credentials? Is he/she a board certified pediatrician or a family practitioner doing pediatrics? Do they belong to the AAP?
  3. How long have they been in practice? If they have been in practice a long time, then you know they have a lot of experience under their belt. If they are new to pediatrics, they will have the latest and greatest in research?
  4. Do they keep up with the latest research? Do they attend conferences and are they open to expanding their education?
  5. Where does this doctor have and use hospital privileges?
  6. Is the office conveniently located?
  7. On your regular “Well Baby Care” visits, how often will the baby be seen? What is routine at these visits?
  8. Is it important to you whether or not the doctor has kids? Can they relate?
  9. Can my baby be examined in my lap/arms or is this done in another area?
  10. What is the average wait time? How much time is allotted for each visit? Will there be time for questions and discussions?
  11. What are the office hours? Emergency hours? Weekend hours? Where do I go if my baby gets sick after hours? Is there an urgent care or “kids doc” I can go to or do I have to go to the ER?
  12. Is this a solo or group practice? Does the doctor have partners that rotate “on call” nights and weekends? DO their philosophies compliment each other? How so?
  13. Does the practice include nurses and nurse practitioners?
  14. May you call anytime, day or night, and speak directly to the doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner?
  15. Is the front office staff warm, sincere and personable to both adults and young children?
  16. Is the office pleasant to visit? Does it appear clean? Is the waiting room inviting and comfortable for the children?
  17. Do other parents seem comfortable and relaxed while visiting there?
  18. What is the usual waiting time to get an appointment or see the doctor after you arrive at the office? If the doctor takes a call while you are there, how does he/she handle it?
  19. Is the doctor receptive and respectful of your questions or is he/she defensive and patronizing?
  20. What are the fees for well checks, sick visits, immunization, hospital visits, and additional treatments? How are fees handled?
  21. What insurance plans are accepted?
  22. What is the doctors views and policies on immunizations, circumcision, jaundice protocol?
  23. If you plan to breastfeed is the doctor supportive? Do they have resources for breastfeeding support? Do they have a board certified lactation consultant in their office or a clinic they can refer you to? What is their view on supplementation if necessary?
  24. Do they routinely supplement breastfed babies in the hospital with formula or only for specific medical reasons as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP?
  25. What is the usual time table for introduction of solids?
  26. Do you feel safe and comfortable with their view of tests? Do they take a more conservative approach? Are they extremely thorough or do they take a wait and see approach?

Choosing your baby’s doctor may seem overwhelming. Keep in mind that the care of your new baby is a partnership between you and their doctor. Trust your instincts, take your time in your selection. Best of luck during your selection process.

Copyright© 2011 Danielle Gauss,IBCLC – All Rights Reserved.

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