Find the right pediatrician for your baby with these tips.
Choosing a pediatrician is likely a high priority on your pregnancy to-do list. Use these simple steps to help you find a pediatrician for your baby.
Lots of time during pregnancy is spent planning for what comes next: holding your baby in your arms and nourishing her growth and development. A very important partner in that nourishment: your baby’s doctor. In fact, your pediatrician is often there right from the start, examining your baby in the hospital after delivery. So it makes sense to start connecting with the right doctor for you and your baby early. The recommended amount of time is at least three months before your due date. Here’s how to find a pediatrician.
Gather a Pediatrician List
- Check with friends, family, and co-workers for referrals. Word-of-mouth recommendations are often the best standard to go by.
- Ask your obstetrician for the name of the pediatrician she uses (if she has young children) or for a recommendation. A doctor’s doctor is usually a good bet.
- Consider whether you feel more comfortable with a male or female pediatrician—or whether it doesn’t matter. As your child gets older, he or she may feel more comfortable talking to someone of the same gender. (Of course, making a decision based on gender assumes you’ve decided to find out your baby’s sex before birth.)
- Once you gather names, call to make sure those pediatricians are accepting new patients and that they accept your insurance. You may also want to ask a few basic questions about standard office hours and location(s) to make sure they meet your needs.
Meet with Baby Doctors
Once you narrow down the list, set up office appointments to speak with each pediatrician. (Ask about fees—most practices will charge, but it’s worth it if you’ll be more comfortable in the long run.) Face-to-face meetings will help you in choosing a pediatrician as you can gauge whether a doctor’s personality and approach to medicine fits with yours. If possible, both mother and father should attend, since you may both be bringing your baby to appointments. It also helps to have another listener and potential note-taker there.
While at the offices:
- Observe the helpfulness of the office staff—they will also be part of your baby’s care team.
- Survey the waiting room too: Is it clean, with adequate space? Are there separate areas for children waiting for checkups versus those who are sick? Are many families waiting? Are they waiting long? At the appointments, feel free to ask any and all questions—even if they may seem embarrassing. You’ll be working very closely with your child’s pediatrician during the first few years of your baby’s life, and you want to make sure you have a trusting, open relationship with this doctor. And be sure to jot down notes based on the doctor’s answers, so you can revisit later and compare to others’ answers.
Some questions to ask when interviewing pediatricians:
- Which hospital is the pediatrician associated with?
- How soon after birth will she check on your baby?
- What is her view on breast-feeding and bottle-feeding? Vaccines? Circumcision? Antibiotics? (Consider how these fit with your views.)
- How does the doctor deal with calls after hours or on weekends if your baby is sick? Is she on call, or is there a backup practice you can contact?
- What happens in an emergency? Is there always someone available 24/7?
- Who oversees the office when your pediatrician is away?
- Is she part of a team? If so, can you see any of the pediatricians in her office? Can you meet with them as well?
- What’s an average wait time—in the waiting room and the exam room?
- Is the doctor available via phone or email?
- How often will you see the doctor once your baby is born?
- Are lab tests available at the office? If not, where will they be done?
- Does the practice offer nutritional support?
- Does the practice offer any forms of parenting education?
- What are the costs for office visits?
- Does the practice handle insurance on its end, or do you need to submit bills to your provider?
- Are payments due at the time of service or are they billed later?
Getting your questions answered and interacting with a doctor one-on-one will help you find a pediatrician that you’ll be comfortable with for years to come.