This is a topic I definitely wasn’t thinking about when I was pregnant.
I was so focused on taking care of myself and stocking the nursery that I didn’t consider who my baby’s doctor would be. Why is finding a pediatrician for your baby so important? You will be very busy once your baby arrives and this is a decision that can – and should – be made during your pregnancy.
Whether your child is perfectly healthy at birth or in need of extra care, you’ll want the pediatrician you’ve selected after careful consideration examining your baby while you’re in the hospital and once you go home. In our case, the hospital pediatricians were taking care of Brett initially, but, well, we didn’t like them very much. So we quickly began our search.
Finding a pediatrician for your baby can be overwhelming. There’s lots of things to consider and questions to ask. Read on for useful information to keep handy during your search.
How do I find a pediatrician for my baby?
Ask the Moms and Dads in your neighborhood. They will have great advice on the doctors they’ve used for their kids, good and bad. We are fortunate to have a Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine practice close to our home and solicited feedback from our friends on their experiences there. This helped narrow down our search pretty quickly. Keep in mind you’ll want something close to your house, given the amount of time you’ll spend there in baby’s younger months.
Surf the web. Conducting a google search of pediatricians in our city provided many results. There were also reviews associated with the pediatricians that came up in our search. Read reviews, but take into consideration that reviews may be biased. If you’re interested in meeting a doctor based on word of mouth, don’t let bad reviews turn you away.
Check with your insurance company. Most insurance companies have a feature on their website to help you search for a doctor by specialty and review information about expertise and certifications. This is helpful because insurance companies will only list doctors who participate in their network. Networks do change however, so if the pediatrician you’re interested in isn’t listed, call your insurance company to be sure.
What should I find out initially?
Visit the pediatrician’s website or use your insurance company’s doctor search tool online to find out the following information.
Certifications and Affiliations. There are three key certifications and affiliations that you’ll want your doctor to have:
- Certification by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) – in order to be certified, doctors must pass an exam specific to pediatrics.
- Membership in the AAP – this ensures your doctor adheres to the organization’s guidelines and standards for care.
- FAAP listing – this means your doctor is board certified and a member of the AAP. Many doctors will list this credential after their name.
Length of time in practice. It’s helpful to know how long your doctor has been practicing medicine.
Solo or group practice. If your doctor is part of a group practice, you may not see your doctor of choice when you come in for a sick visit. We always make appointments well in advance for check-ups to ensure our boys see their regular pediatrician. He usually isn’t available for last-minute sick visits, so it’s good to know we’re comfortable with the other doctors in the practice.
Doctor gender vs. child gender. As a child, I was taken to a male pediatrician. Somewhere around the age of 11 or 12, I started to feel uncomfortable around him, solely because I was a developing young girl and didn’t want a man looking at me, even if he was a doctor. I can assure you that he never acted inappropriately, it’s just comes with the onset of puberty. I told myself I wouldn’t put my child in that situation and sought out a male doctor for our boys as a result.
Other information to collect:
- Office hours
- Participating insurance companies
- Hospital affiliations
Now it’s time to meet your contenders…
Once you’ve narrowed it down to two or three doctors, make an appointment to meet with each pediatrician individually to discuss topics more in depth and assess your level of comfort before making your final decision. Here are some topics and things to consider when conducting your on-site visit.
Assess the environment. Look around the office. Does it look well-kept? Are there clean toys and child-appropriate areas? Is there a separate waiting area for sick children? Is the front office staff kind to patients and families? How long are people waiting before they are seen by a doctor? These are all factors that may influence your decision.
Childcare philosophy. You likely already have opinions on topics like breastfeeding, vaccinations and circumcision. It’s important that your pediatrician shares your views. I felt strongly about breastfeeding our children and our pediatrician is a proponent of breastfeeding. I was encouraged to breastfeed if my child was hungry or fussy during a visit. Ask about lactation consultants – our practice has them onsite.
Vaccinations are a hot-button topic for many people. If you are anti-vax, you are not going to be comfortable going to a doctor that is urging you to vaccinate. Similarly, if you are comfortable with vaccinating, you won’t want to go to a practice that highlights problems with vaccinations.
Some pediatricians will perform circumcisions while others may not. In some cases the OB will perform the circumcision. This seemed odd to me – since your OB is not the one who will be examining your baby in the future. If your pediatrician performs the circumcision, you have the added comfort of knowing that your baby’s doctor will be doing the follow-up to be sure the procedure is healing well.
Opinions on discipline, sleep habits and nutrition. Our boys’ pediatrician is vegan. While we are not, we appreciate that our doctor provides suggestions on nutrition from a plant-based diet. Some things we try and some we don’t, but I welcome the alternative perspective. Regarding sleep habits, if you’re a proponent of co-sleeping or attachment parenting for example, these are discussions you should have with your pediatrician as they may come up at future visits.
Extended hours for sick visits. Our practice offers a clinic on Monday mornings where they will see sick children on a first-come, first-served basis. This is extremely useful if your child has been sick over the weekend and you want to get them seen quickly without an appointment. They also offer sick appointments on Saturday mornings as well as in the evenings during the week.
Nurse advice (call in) line. We can call 24-hours a day for advice on common ailments and whether or not our child should be seen by the doctor for a particular illness. There is a charge for this, but it has come in handy for more routine questions. The lactation consultants also have an advice line at our pediatrician’s office.
Other questions you can ask your doctor include:
- How long does a typical visit last?
- How do you handle emergencies?
- Do you make house-calls? (Yeah, right, not likely in this day and age but it doesn’t hurt to ask).
Whoa, this is a LOT of information, right? Information is power. You will have a long relationship with your child’s pediatrician, so it’s vitally important that you are comfortable and confident with your choice. Good luck on your search!