After your baby is born, you will visit the pediatrician often. In the first year, your baby will likely have seven well visits with one study showing that first-time parents may visit their child’s pediatrician up to 16 times before their baby’s first birthday.
Your child’s doctor plays an important role in their life and, therefore, you will need to find one that is a good fit for the parents and the child. It can be challenging to find a pediatrician that is right for your family.
Here are some tips to get you started on your search.
Start with recommendations
As a first-time parent or a family who has just relocated, it's hard to know where to begin your search for a pediatrician.
“I asked other moms for a recommendation. It’s a great way to see what names came up repeatedly,” says Jill Miller of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stacy Cook, a nurse and mom of three, suggests asking your OB-GYN for a recommendation.
“I figured if they were good enough for my doctor’s kids then they were good enough for mine,” she says.
Some parents, like Nathan and Wendy Hladky of Overland Park, Kansas, chose the same primary care doctor for the whole family. “All four of us use the same doctor. It's super convenient,” says Nathan.
Another great way to narrow your search in a new area is to call the local NICU and ask the nurses who they would recommend. “The nurses are more likely to give unbiased feedback,” says Rodganna Avery, a mom of three.
Cover the basics
First, compare your list of candidates with your insurance policy, if you have one. “I look to see what providers are in our network, and then start looking for reviews of those doctors online. I was able to find a doctor that was better than we ever expected,” says Stephanie Beaurdry, a mom of two who lives in Texas.
Check if the doctor is certified by The American Board of Pediatrics. If you choose a family doctor, ask if the doctor is certified in the American Board of Family Medicine. Family doctors are trained to treat patients of all ages, including children, but they don't have a specialty in pediatrics.
Next, consider the basic office information that can be found online or with a quick phone call. What are the office hours? Do they have walk-in hours? Will the doctor visit the hospital where you will deliver your baby? What hospital will your child be admitted to if needed? Is the office location convenient to your home, work, school and daycare?
Take these things into consideration as you narrow down your list.
Visit the office
To find out if you feel comfortable in the pediatrician's office, you'll have to take a tour. Call the office and ask if they have times set up for potential patients to come and visit the office or if you would need to make an appointment and ask if you can interview the doctor at the same time.
Remember to ask if there is a charge for visiting. As applicable, verify with your insurance company to see if the cost would be covered or if you would be responsible for the fees.
When visiting the office be aware of what the overall environment feels like. Take into consideration if the office staff is courteous, polite and willing to help. Is the office clean and inviting? Was parking convenient? Do they have separate sick and well waiting areas?
Take all of these things into consideration in your decision. If you plan to visit more than one office, be sure to take notes for later consideration.
Ask some questions
After you have decided that the office environment is a good fit, you'll need to interview the pediatrician. Pharmacists Darcy and Phil King recommend this: “After collecting recommendations, I scoured their websites, set up appointments and interviewed them. After the visits, it was very clear which was a good fit.”
Start by asking how sick appointments work. How long would it take for a sick child to be seen? Is there a good chance the child will be seen by his own doctor? Do you have similar views on health and wellness such as circumcision, breastfeeding and immunizations?
It's also important to consider what your preferences are. Do you want a doctor who offers choices and lets you decide which one works best for you, or would you be more comfortable with one who gives a lot of directions? Overall, does the doctor seem genuinely interested in your child or does he seem distracted or rushed?
Take your overall impression into account when making your decision.
Consider bedside manner
How the doctor interacts with your child will have a lot of impact on the decision to choose a pediatrician. Do you feel comfortable around the doctor? Does your child? Are they willing to take the time to listen to your questions and concerns? A good bedside manner can go a long way in making you and your child feel comfortable.
Finding the right pediatrician can be overwhelming, but realize your decision doesn't have to be permanent.
“It’s important to recognize that you are not stuck with your decision. You see your pediatrician a lot in those first months and if there is something really bothering you, it’s okay to switch,” says Becky Baldridge, a mom from Kansas.
The parent’s goal is the same as the pediatrician: a happy and healthy child. When you find a doctor that is a good fit for your family, you can all work together to reach this goal.
When is it time to find a new pediatrician?
- If your child cries the whole appointment it isn't enough cause to switch doctors. However, if the doctor doesn’t seem to care or make an effort to soothe your child, you may have a problem.
- If you’re unclear why a certain medication is prescribed or why a test is done
- If you can’t come to an agreement, or at least a middle ground, on most issues
- If the location and hours no longer work for your family
- If the doctor often seems inaccessible when your child is sick
- If the doctor is making you feel bad or consistently reproaching you for parenting choices
- If you feel the doctor is not listening to your concerns
Before switching, discuss your concerns with the doctor. If a compromise cannot be made, it’s time to look elsewhere. Your child’s health is, of course, the top priority.